the vintage bathroom

and interpretation at Callanwolde

I LOVE 1920s bathrooms. Those built-in closets, subway tile walls, hex tile floors, the way the sunlight filters across them, those heavy pedestal sinks with their original fixtures and matching round-edged 6-foot bathtubs… sitzbathBut I’d never seen a fixture like this until stepping into one of the original upstairs bathrooms (no longer used) at Callanwolde. Tour guides are not allowed to say it (it would seem that we are not supposed to know that members of a certain elite Atlanta family had ailments like anyone else) but it is a s-i-t-z bath, which basically explains it, it’s a bath for your sits. Also known as a “hip bath” it allows you to soak up to your hips whether you’ve just given birth, have hemorrhoids or other, [unspeakable?] ailments. Personally I think it sounds nice, at least, if you’re not ailing.

Actually, more research reveals that in the 1920s, this high tech bathroom was something of a status symbol. According to an article in Old House Journal:

“before 1910, bathrooms in and of themselves were often status symbols. In an era when houses with running water and waste piping were new and modern, a single bathroom with lavatory, flushing toilet, and fixed tub was a sign of progressive thinking and an essential step in the march toward better hygiene. What’s more, the bathrooms of the wealthy were not so much places of daily cleanup and dressing, but therapeutic laboratories akin to personal spas. The shower we now associate with a daily spritz was frequently a stand-alone cage of multiple sprays designed for skin or kidney stimulation [also at Callanwolde], while tubs were dispersed around the room for soaking one or more parts of the body.”

1914KOHLER2
So, the Candlers’ bathroom was just an extension of the 1920-high-tech systems found throughout the house including central heating, a whole-house vacuuming system (have yet to figure that one out), and a speaker system in multiple rooms connected to the Aeolian organ (wiki).

So I say get over it! Instead of leaving guests to wonder, conjecture, and come up with potentially rude comments, let’s take the mystery out of this fixture and teach people something new! This bathroom was personal therapeutic spa, we should be jealous.

Go soak your hips.

Exciting images of the upstairs bathrooms at Callanwolde, featuring a corner tub, built-in cabinets, a rib-cage shower, a tiny separate shaving sink and screens which cover the central heat system.

Exciting images of the upstairs bathrooms at Callanwolde, featuring a corner tub, built-in cabinets, a rib-cage shower, a tiny separate shaving sink and screens which cover the central heat system.

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