Rosendahl’s and Dorothy Alexander
A Pilates History Research Archive® First Find!
The oldest known gymnasium that incorporated the Pilates’ system and apparatus, other than Joe Pilates’ Studio: Rosendahl’s
I’m so excited to share my latest research that may change the collective understanding of the history of Pilates Studios that were opened during Joe’s lifetime.
This original 1939 letter from Joseph Pilates (shown in part here) refers to a recent trip he took to Atlanta, Georgia and he mentions his system was introduced.
Previous research elsewhere has suggested that he was visiting Dorothy Alexander (of the Atlanta Ballet) in Atlanta and that it was with her that his system was being introduced.
However, my research shows that Ms. Alexander did not actually start the Atlanta Ballet until 1941- a full three years after Joe wrote this letter.
As we can see here in this article:
Image first shared 11/20/23.
Also stated in the above article, Atlanta dancers visited Jacob’s Pillow in the summer of 1941- and likely experienced Joe Pilates and Contrology there since that’s when Joe was getting his start in that location.
Therefore, if the Atlanta Ballet did not yet exist then, where was Joe going in Atlanta to introduce his system in 1939?
Through my research, I was able to uncover this lost article that was published just a few weeks before Joe’s dated letter, describing an Atlanta Gym called Rosendahl’s which featured the Pilates System.
Image first shared 11/20/23.
This 1941 advertisement mentions a pilates studio in Atlanta in 1941- which was most likely Rosendahl’s, although it could also have been Dorothy Alexander at this point since it was the same year she likely met Joe in Massachusetts. Image first shared 11/20/23.
Here are a few more advertisements for Rosendahl’s, all very close to the 1939 year that Joe wrote his letter and that the article was published.
Photo taken during a Pilates Source® photoshoot using original apparatus from Joe Pilates, in his original 939 8th Avenue Studio space. What an honor it was to bring his equipment back to the very space it once resided in! Image first shared on 9/28/2022.
What was once Joe’s original NYC studio: Then and Now
April 9 and 10, 2022: Sean Gallagher and Elaine Ewing presented 2 Pilates Source® Pilates Historics™ workshops: “The Lost Art of Joe’s Hands-on Cuing™” and “The Lost Art of Joe’s Standing Matwork™: Part 1.” These workshops took place in the space that was once Joe’s original studio in NYC at 939 8th Ave.
This post will compare some details of the space that still exist today, compared to Joe’s time there.
Images first shared on 9/28/2022.
A careful Pilates Source®️ investigation throughout the space that was once Joe’s studio at 939 8th Ave in NYC, uncovered something incredible- evidence of Joe and his original colors that he had painted the walls and windowsills!
It’s crazy to imagine that these small samples from Joe himself still exist today.
As we can see in these research photos I took of Elaine Malbin in his studio, the colors Joe had painted the walls and window sills in his studio were teal and brown. Amazing!
Now, we have physical evidence of this exact paint- and the location of these paint chips verifies the areas of his studio, including the “back room.” Just WOW!!
One of our Pilates Source® discoveries was that the paneling that we always see in photos of Joe’s studio was actually a radiator cover. In the photo of me, you can see the radiator is still there today. Then in the photo of Joe’s studio, we can see that he had built a cover for the heater that acted as a ledge along the windows as well. Who knew?!
Look up, look down, look all around- words a pilates history nerd should live by!
Another Pilates Source® discovery this weekend was about the pillars behind Joe’s partition and the pipes that ran across the ceiling- and both still exist today.
The first photo I’m showing here is not actually the same exact pillar in the second photo depicting Joe and Elaine Malbin (more on that later), but it does show how the same pillars still exist today. We can see the same details, soffit, and water sprinkler pipes on the ceiling in both photos.
In the next set of photos, we can see that the floor plan today is cut differently than it was in Joe’s time, but the details still remain.
The first photo shows what were the 2 windows behind the reformers (we can see that today a wall cuts off the third window) but the pipes on the ceiling in front of the windows show us that these are in fact the same.
The pipes are clearly the same today as they were in Joe’s time, the details still remain!
Sean Gallagher, myself, and the attendees of our workshops this weekend had a lot of fun contemplating and discussing these things. These are small details but they inspire a deep connection to our work and Joe’s, too!!
The first photo is one that I took this past weekend of the front windows at 939 8th Avenue. If you carefully, you can see that the vertical molding between the windows ends before it hits the window sill.
Then check the second photo from 1956 during Joe’s time there and see why!
Fascinating that these small details still remain!
The first photo shows another space along the front of the building, and in the second photo we can see that this is the same space that Joe once had his reformers. The date of the second photo is unknown but we believe it was pre-1942. This is a different space than where he later had the reformers from the 1940’s-1960’s. We can see that some of the details still remain, such as the heater and pipes. Through Pilates Source® investigation, and other evidence, we believe this later became “the back room.”
These Wants Ads are from the late 1880’s from when the building was a carriage house. Images first shared on 9/28/2022.
Over the years, the building contained artists’ lofts and studios. Here are three ads from the early 1900’s in that regard. Images first shared on 9/28/2022.
In the late 1800’s, The Lesters owned the building at 939 8th Avenue. Mary and Andrew Lester’s sons owned a furniture business that was on the second floor of the building. Here are some articles about their business, “Andrew Lester’s Sons” and their time on the 2nd floor of 939 8th Ave. Images first shared on 9/28/2022.
An article about yet another fire at 939 8th Avenue. The details in the article are notable, in particular the drawing of the fire by one of the artists in residence, during the fire itself. Images first shared on 9/28/2022.
After a number of years, Andrew Lester’s Sons closed their business and rented the 2nd floor out to a bicycle company, Gormully and Jeffery Cycle Co. Images first shared on 9/28/2022.