An irregular shaped swimming pool, enclosed by a timber structure, supported by timber piles where it is above the harbour. The main swimming area is almost square with the southern side curved to follow the shore. In the south-west corner, a wedge-shaped children's pool has been made to fit in with the existing configuration. The entrance to the baths is marked by a squat tower, which separates two timber buildings following the curve of the foreshore and contain the changing rooms for men and women and the swimming pool office. The buildings on the harbour side house the Balmain Swimming Club including club change rooms and there is also a tiered stand for spectators. The room in the tower houses the archives of the swimming club, which go back to 1884 and also served as a club meeting rooms. The pool itself is surrounded by a timber deck used for access, watching swimming races and sunbaking. At low tides there is a small sandy beach alongside the entrance.
Nearby the baths, in Elkington Park, is a brick cottage for the manager of the baths. (Walker 1991)
1882 - original pool constructed
1904 - enlarged and manager's cottage built
1924 - enlarged
1956,1957, 1959 - repairs and alterations carried out
1961 - seating gallery installed
1962 - stone wall constructed around children's pool
Physcial condition is good.
Balmain Council acquired land at White Horse Point for public baths in 1880. A tender by James Reynolds was accepted in 1881 and the baths were in use by January 1882. They were open to men during daylight hours and at limited times for women. (EJE Landscape 1994)
The Balmain Swimming Club was founded in 1884 shortly after the baths were opened. When it celebrated its centenary, it was the first club to do so. The club is also thought to be the first swimming association in Australia and many of its members have achieved distinction in swimming, water polo, diving and life-saving. (Walker 1991)
In 1902 the original 1882 enclosure was replaced with one giving a width of 60 yards owing to pressure from the Club. A two storey changing and viewing pavilion (south) was added as well as two boardwalks extending out from the shore and one diagonal boardwalk. In 1904 a cottage was built in Elkington Park for the manager of the baths.
In 1924 the baths and structures were enlarged. Other main alterations were a north facing changing pavilion and grandstand, two springboards and a tower, a two storey entry pavilion in the south pavilion, changing boxes on the west and east boardwalks, and the Western Shed. Swimmers who used the baths included Tony Fenech, Frank Jordan and Dawn Fraser. Repairs and alterations were carried out in 1956, 1957, 1959; a seating gallery was installed in 1961 and a stone wall was built around the children's pool in 1962. (EJE Landscape 1994)
In 1964 the pool was renamed in honour of Dawn Fraser, local resident and Olympic Swimming Champion at three consecutive Olympic Games. Dawn Fraser learnt to swim at the baths and swam with the Leichhardt-Balmain League of Swimmers from age 8 to 13. She then had two seasons with the Balmain Ladies Club and won two New South Wales Championships. (Walker 1991)
In 1983 the complex was refurbished and at this time much of the fabric of the building was replaced, the lattice was rebuilt and reinstated and the exterior cladding around the edge of the baths above the water was changed from corrugated iron to timber. (Walker 1991)