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Two aspects of the Agincourt story are of special interest to me now, and both of them involve water. First (and possibly least enticing) is the question of the city’s water supply and how its sewage treatment complicates that need. My simplistic view of civil engineering reduces the issue to “down stream theory”: get your water upstream, eject your human waste downstream, and let the folks below you worry about it. The other is more alluring because it is more “architectural”: a municipal recreation facility to extend the summer swimming season from spring into the fall. In the 19th century, it would have been called a natatorium.

Roman Baths, Bath, England

Front and Thompson Public Bath, Philadelphia, PA / 1915

The Natatorium & Physical Institute for Scientific Instruction in the Improvement of the Physical Powers, Philadelphia, PA / 1858

Broadwater Natatorium, near Helena, Montana / built 1889, year of MT statehood

From the Roman Temple of Minerva at Bath, England (the baths gave the city its name) to one of its most elegant successors, the Gellert Baths in Budapest, Europe was blessed with these glorious facilities wherever there was a natural spring. Generically they were called spas, after the town of that name in Belgium, places where the well-to-do resorted for the healthful application of the mineral water in any way possible: bathing, drinking, and mud, but also the enema and douche. There were other less elegant places, of course, and priced accordingly.

Here in the United States they took that form — the spa as resort — but another in urban areas for the working classes who may not have enjoyed the blessings of indoor plumbing. For them, municipal baths were a matter of public health and safety. The picturesque Physical Institute and its humbler cousin, both in Philadelphia, represent that range. Two of the more renowned 19th century baths were the Broadwater Natatorium outside Helena, Montana, and the Sudro Baths, on the Pacific coast of San Francisco. Both of these are gone but hardly forgotten.


Agincourt could hardly have justified a facility like the Broadwater, with a main pool that measured 100 by 300 feet. It also lacked a ready and reliable source of fresh water requiring minimal filtering. There was the Mighty Muskrat, of course, but there was also spring-fed Crispin Creek, with its source northeast of the city near Grou. Somehow I should be able to make one of these work and add another facet to the Agincourt story.

Depending on its site and water source, this is also likely to be closely linked with the earlier question of water for drinking and flushing.


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