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Old ~ockaway, 


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The Rockaways comprise the western end of the long 
barrier beach on the south shore of Long Island, New 
York. The eighty-mile strand extends all the way from 
Southampton, in Suffolk County, on the east to 
Breezy Point, in Queens County, on the west. For 
thousands of years powerful storms have roared in 
from the ocean and cut .channels through the barrier at 
various points. Still, the beach today constitutes an 
essentially continuous strip that protects the Long 
Island mainland from tides and storms. The 
Rockaway peninsula is part of this land formation, 
beginning at what is now Hewlett and Woodmere and 
steadily narrowing through Cedarhurst and Hewlett 
to Far Rockaway. From here a sandy strip barely a 
quarter-mile wide continues about nine miles before 
ending at Rockaway Inlet. 

Primeval Rockaway was an area of sandy hillocks, 
swampy tracts, and cedar trees. Its dimensions were 
continually altered by nature, its outli"nes regularly 
reshaped by hurricanes and the constant littoral drift 
that has pushed the tip ever westward with deposits of 
sand. Long ago, Native Americans settled in and 
around what is now Far Rockaway, where woodland, 
fresh water, and meadowland . supported a pastoral 
way of life. These first settlers were Canarsees, a 
Mohican tribe that was part of the great Mohawk 
nation. The modern name for the peninsula has been 
attributed to many sources, but most likely it derives 
from the Indian word Rechqu.arkie, spelled in various 
ways and connoting "the sand place." The Europeans 
came early in the seventeenth century. By 1642 the 
Dutch had begun farming the Long Island plain, and 
two years later the town of Hempstead was settled by 
English colonists moving down from New England. 
Over the next decades a sprinkling of these settlers 
arrived at the head of the Rockaway peninsula. 

In 1684 Phillip Welles surveyed Rockaway neck on 

behalf of a potential purchaser, Capt. John Palmer. 
Because of Welles's inexact demarcation and failure to 
indicate his baseline with visible markers in the shift-
ing sands, property boundaries were often the subject 
of disputes. Litigation continued through the years, 
most recently in 1908. In any case Palmer signed a 
treaty with the local Indians in 0 tober 1685 to pur-
chase all of Rockaway Neck and beach from the 
Welles baseline to the peninsula's western tip, then 
located at present-day Wavecrest. The price was 31 
pounds, 2 pence. The governor of New York, Thomas 
Dongan, who was a friend of Palmer's, approved the 
deed, which is still held at the state capital, Albany. 
Palmer proved to be a short-term investor, selling 

Rockaway to Richard Cornell (also spelled Cornwell 
and Cornhill), an ironmaster from Flushing, in 1687. 
He moved his family to Rockaway in 1690 and built a 
large frame house on what is now B.20th Street. 
Evidence exists that he kept slaves to farm his land. 
Over the years he added to his property, and several 
other families settled in the area, causing the town of 
Hempstead to apportion more lands in 1723. Titles 
and boundaries became confused during the eigh-
teenth century, and in 1809 the Cornell family brought 
a partition suit to court. As a result, the land was split 
into a western division with sixteen plots and an east-
ern division with fifteen plots. Again, however, a firm 
baseline was not fixed, and surveyors disagreed over 
how this could be done to satisfy all sides. 
Nevertheless, the Cornells held on to Division 1, and 
John L. Norton purchased Division 2. Both Norton 
and the Cornells later sold expanses of land to people 
who became important in the real estate development 
of the Rockaway peninsula: Garret Eldert, James 
Remsen, Michael Holland, Louis Hammel, and 
Remington Vernam. 
At first, what building there was proceeded gener-


ally from east to west. The first commercial hotel on 
the peninsula, the renowned Marine Pavilion, opened 
in 1833. Other establishments followed. By the 1860s 
Far Rockaway was not only a thriving summer resort 
but was also on its way to becoming a desirable resi -
dential suburb of New York City. Between 1855 and 
1860 the Seaside, Hammels, and Holland sections saw 
the construction of hotels, bathhouses, and other 
recreational enterprises. In these early days the 
Jamaica Bay side of Rockaway was the focus of com-
mercial activity, chiefly because the steamboats from 
the city landed there. Not until the late 1880s and 
early '90s did the oceanfront come into its own; that 
area has remained the primary tourist destination ever 
The coming of the South Side Railroad in 1872 

opened the area to still more tourists, and when the 
cross-bay railroad bridge opened in 1880, daily sum-
mer patronage at the beach reached heights never 
thought possible. Thus began what has been termed 
Rockaway's "golden age," an accolade that has also 
been used to describe other times using different cri-
teria. Bathhouses capable of renting 10,000 bathing 
suits a day were built, a long with restaurants, food 
stands, and fun palaces. The latter consisted of 
carousels, scenic rai lways (soon to become roller 
coasters), other rides, shooting galleries, saloons, 
dancehalls, games of chance, exhibition halls, shows, 
and whatever else might attract the public's money. 
Seaside, where the steamboats landed at the foot of 
what is now B.103rd Street, was the early amusement 
center, with activity spreading east to Hammels 
(B.85th Street). The peninsula's only east-west thor-
oughfare, Rockaway Beach Boulevard, was a lso its 
main street. By 1885 it ran from the western "frontier" 
to the heart of Far Rockaway, but its width of fifty to 
sixty feet left little room for the traffic that soon came. 

Politically, all of Rockaway remained an unincorpo-
rated district of Hempstead town. Taxes went to 
Hempstead, and police protection and other municipal 
services were administered from a town hall that was 
some miles distant. A groundswell for home rule 
brought about the incorporation of the villages of Far 
Rockaway (1888), Arverne-by-the-Sea (1895), and 
Rockaway Beach (1897). The big change came in 
1898, with the consolidation of New York City. The 
Rockaway villages were detached from Hempstead 
and Nassau County to become part Queens County, 
one of the five boroughs of the newly established City 
of New York. At first the residents of Rockaway were 
little affected by the new affiliation, but as the twenti-
eth century unfolded, the changes would be profound. 

A minor urbanization was the numbering of most 
Rockaway streets in 1916. Signs with names like 
Jarvis Lane and Hudson Avenue were tossed aside as 
a ll the north-south streets on the peninsula were given 
numbers, starting with Beach 1st Street on the Nassau 
County border and ending at that time with Beach 
149th Street in western Neponsit. As additional 
streets were built to the west, the numbering system 
was extended to B.222nd Street. (In the text and cap-
tions in this book, we have generally cited streets by 
their numbers even when referring to events before 
1916, consistently abbreviating Beach to 8., as in 
B. l 03rd Street.) East-west streets either kept their 
original names or were retitled at the request of local 
leaders. Some of the railroad (today, subway) stations 
retained their names, such as Straiton Avenue and 
Gaston Avenue, even though no thoroughfares actual-
ly carry those names. 
With the dawn of the new century more and more 

people became attracted to Rockaway as a p lace to 
stay for more than just a day. To accommodate vaca-
tionists on a limited budget entrepreneurs established 
tent cities on or near the beach. The first appeared in 
1901, near 8.108th Street, and others soon fo llowed. 
These open-air colonies were quite large, each accom-
modating 1600 to 2000 people. Costs were relatively 
low: Rental of a tent for the summer season ran about 
$300. Families tended to return each year for the cool 
ocean breezes as well as the informality of tent life. 
At the same time as tent colonies were sprouting at 

the beach, the year-round community at Rockaway 
was increasing in size. This deve lopment came despite 
some drawbacks, including the long commute to jobs 
on the "mainland" and the dangers posed to property 
by storms. No less destructive, and in a way more dan-
gerous, were the fires that have ravaged the communi-
ty from the beginning and up to the present day. Many 
of the buildings in the area were of flimsy construc-
tion, almost entirely of wood, baked by intense sun-
light and squeezed together on the narrow peninsula. 
A small blaze, fanned by the ocean wind, always had 
the potential to escalate into a major conflagration. 
Large fires swept through Seaside in 1892, wiping out 
a large section of the amusement area from ocean to 
bay, and Arverne in l922, destroying eighty-two hous-
es, fifty-three bungalows, and ten hotels. Countless 
hotels and other buildings have been destroyed by 
smaller fires. 
These and other problems were offset by the gener-

ally healthful climate, the relative proximity to 
Manhattan, the beautiful beach, and the amenities that 
gradually came because of affiliation with New York 


City. The boardwalk, begun by private enterprise in 
Rockaway Park in 1889, continued to expand . Over 
time the city rebuilt parts of this structure on concrete 
foundations until , by 1926, a stretch of oceanfront 
walkway stretched from B .9th Street to B.126th 
Street, about six miles, just shy of being the longest 
boardwalk in the world, a title claimed by Atla ntic 
City, New Jersey. 
For years many of Rockaway's business people had 

craved a bridge and causeway across Jamaica Bay 
that would give automobiles straight-line access to the 
peninsula. Few motorists chose to take the long, cir-
cuitous drive east through Queens to Nassau County, 
then south and back west to the Rockaway beaches. 
Private interests had begun construction on a direct 
route in 1901, but high costs together w ith opposition 
from the th en-politically powerful Long Is la nd 
Railroad forced abandonment of the proj ect. But as 
more voters bought Model Ts and other automobiles, 
the city leaders' interest in the cross-bay project 
revived. After many legal and engineering diffi culties, 
Cross Bay Boulevard was extended from Howard 
Beach in Queens to B.94th-95th Streets in Rockaway 
Beach. Many small islands we re joined for the 
roadbed, w ith drawbridges at Broad Channel and 
North Channel. The 100-foot-wide thoroughfare 
ope ned to traffic on October 3 1, 1925. It cost 
$6,935,970, expensive for the time, but it is generally 
regarded as one of the most important public works 
projects in the hi sto ry of Rockaway. To provide for the 
increased traffic on the pe~insula, the edge of J amaica 
Bay was filled in, a nd Beach Channel Drive was built, 
eventually extending from B.35th Street in Edgemere 
to B.169th Street in Riis Park. 
Another long-desired improvement to Rockaway's 

transportation did not come to fruition until the early 
1940s. Efforts to e liminate the many dangerous g rade 
crossings on the Long lsland Railroad had begun in 
1916. Delay after delay occurre~ as the city, the rail-
road, and civ ic leaders argued over the apportionment 
of costs to improve the four-mile-long stretch of track. 
F ina lly, in July 1939 an understanding was reached 
among the interested parties that a two-track con-
crete-and-steel viaduct would be built with a roadway 
beneath. Work began in 1940 a nd continued for two 
years, resulting in the elimination of forty grade cross-
ings at a cost of $11,650,000. The safety of railroad 
passengers and of drivers crossing the tracks was vast-
ly improved, but the roadway beneath the e levated 
roadbed turned out to be a major hazard. The pillars 
holding up the stru cture proved to be a labyrinth for 
the a utomobiles zig-zagging along the street. 

Another problem w ith the railroad finally came to a 
head in 1950. For years fires had plagued the wooden 
trestle that carried the railroad over Jamaica Bay 
from the mainland to Rockaway. A fire on May 7, 
1950, damaged the timbers so extensively that the 
Long Isla nd Railroad, then in bankruptcy, refused to 
pay for the necessary repairs. The LIRR ran trains to 
Rockaway through Valley Stream, but on November 
2, 1955, the trains ceased running down the peninsu-
la. The city fin ally paid $8.5 million for the cross-bay 
line in 1953, rebuilt the trestle in steel and concrete, 
a nd connected it to the Fulton Street line of the IND 
subway. Service began in time for the 1956 summer 
Another important event related to the 1898 consol-

idation was the transfer of a large tract of open land 
west of Neponsit from New York State to the New 
York City D epartment of Parks. Not much happened 
at first, since it was difficult to get to the area except 
by boat. Initia lly named Seaside Park, then Telewana 
Park, the large, ocean-to-bay tract got its present 
name, Riis Park, in 1914, in honor of Jacob Riis, w ho 
died that year. Riis was a D anish-American journalist 
w ho had brought to public attention the horrors of 
New York City slum life in the 1890s. The purpose of 
the Board of Aldermen in estab li shing Riis Park may 
have been to give the masses of c ity residents free 
access to a n unspoiled beach, but t hi s did not happen 
immediately. During World War I the U.S. Navy 
estab li shed a small a irfi eld in the northwest corner of 
the t ract. It was from this insignificant and, even 
today, neglected spot that the historic first fli ght over 
the Atla nti c O cean took off in 1919. Naval aviators in 
three NC-4 seaplanes attempted the crossing, stop-
ping first at Newfoundland. Three weeks later, afte r 
many mishaps a nd failures but w ithout a ny loss of li fe, 
one of the planes made a triumphant entrance to the 
harbor at Lisbon, Portugal-the first to fly all the way 
across the Atla nti c, eight years before Charles 
Lindbergh made hi s histori c so lo flight from New 
York to Paris. 
The U.S. military a lso took over about 300 acres 

west of Riis Park during World War r to install big 
coastal artillery weapons to defend against any attack 
from the sea. The guns were eventually removed, but 
Fort Tilden, as it was called, remained under control 
of the federal government. After a brief recall to active 
du ty in World War II, the fort was "mothba ll ed" until 
1974, when most of the acreage was turned over to the 
Department of t he Interior as part of the new 
Gateway National Park. 
Meanwhile, Riis Park did not become a true haven 


for beachgoe rs until the 1930s, w hen Parks 
Commissioner Robert Moses built bathhouses along 
with many other amenities and, most importa nt, the 
Marine Parkway Bridge across Jamaica Bay. This 
opened the western part of the Rockaways to the mil-
lions of people who lived in Brooklyn. Only a few 
di ehard fishermen and beachcombers criti cized Moses 
and his builders for coming in with their heavy 
machinery to make Riis Park a true city park. This 
was not the case with the commissioner's other activi-
ties on the Rockaway Peninsula. In 1935 there was 
major opposition to his decision to destroy acres of 
buildings just behind the boardwalk from B.73rd to 
B. l 08th Street in order to build a major new road, the 
Shorefront Parkway. Construction went forward, 
destroying some of the better-known rides in 
Seas ide -the Tornado, the Thriller, and N unley's 
Carousel-along w ith dozens of rooming houses, 
hotels, bathhouses, and other buildings. Locals scoffed 
at w hat they called "the road to nowhere," unaware 
that the parkway was but one link in a road Moses 
wanted to build from Rockaway through Atlantic 
Beach, Jones Beach, and F ire Is land, ending in the 
Hamptons. This grand design was never fulfill ed, but 
the Shorefront Parkway is still there, a six:-lane high-
way that separates Rockaway's residents a nd tourists 
from the beach. 

Like many parts of the United States, Rockaway 
experienced enormous change after World War II. 
First was the great migration to the suburbs. Nassau 
County, just to the east of New York City, saw its pop-
ulation double between 1950 and 1960. Many of the 
city's working people were moving out of the old 
densely populated districts marked by rai lroad fla ts 
and airless walk-ups that were especially uncom-
fortable in the summer heat. Developments like 

Levittown, together with low-inte rest mortgages 
available under the Gl Bill of Rights, made it possible 
for millions to own their own homes complete with a 
sma ll garden. For others, air conditioning made the 
city less uncomfortab le in the summer. In add it ion , the 
vacation needs and desires of New Yorkers were no 
longer fulfilled by the simple pleasures avail ab le in 
Rockaway. With the increasing availa bili ty of re lative-
ly inexpensive a ir travel, the postwar tourists had 
access to distant destinations. For many, Rockaway 
was no longer the place to go for recreation. 
At the same time the year-round resident popula-

tion was increasing. High-rise, city-style apartment 
houses replaced many of the old rooming-houses and 
bungalows. Nursing homes a nd other public health 
facili ties predominated in oceanfront sections of Far 
Rockaway. And some of the old buildings were con-
verted into overcrowded tenement-type dwellings or 
single-room-occupancy housing. Especia lly in eastern 
Rockaway, vacant lots, often strewn with rubbish, 
replaced buildings that burned down or were declared 
unfit for occupancy. Most of the structures in Arve rne 
and Edgemere, between the subway viaduct a nd the 
boardwalk, were bulldozed into the sand during the 
turbulent 1960s. 
At the dawn of the twenty- first century civic leade rs 

have proclaimed the coming of a new Rockaway, a 
place where people can live in safety and comfort in 
close proximity to the wide Atlantic. As they were a 
century ago, constru ction crews are building homes, 
developers are formulating grand plans, a nd politi-
cia ns are procla iming that the future looks brighter 
than ever. Whatever happens on the peninsula, the 
Rockaway expe ri ence continues to be cheri shed in 
t he affections of those who experienced its unique 
offeri ng. 









INDEX ~ 114 


:Far rf\_ockaway 

Far Rockaway is the oldest part of the peninsula and 
has traditionally been the most built-up area-
m many ways the peninsula's focal point. 
Geographically, it occupies the point where the nar-
rowing southern coast of Nassau County tapers to a 
barrier beach. This connection gave the early Native 
Americans easy access to the meadows, sand dunes, 
and cedar clumps of the unspoiled landscape, as well 
as to abundant seafood at the ocean's edge. Although 
the Native Americans had mostly moved away by the 
18th century, traces of their presence occasionally 
crop up, mainly in the form of burial grounds that con-
struction crews have stumbled upon while working on 
streets or putting down foundations for new buildings. 
Although the Dutch were the first Europeans to 

colonize Long Island, it was the English- many of 
whom were moving down from New England-to 
survey the mostly barren area by the sea. Among the 
early settlers were people bearing names that are still 
familiar today from the street signs m Far 
Rockaway-Mott, Norton, Smith, and Hicks. The 
first formal settlement by an Englishman in the 
Rockaway area was that of Richard Cornell, who 
around 1690 built his farmhouse on the west side of 
what is today B.l9th Street, midway between Seagirt 
and Plainview Avenues. An oil painting of the house 
by his granddaughter has survived. The Cornell heirs 
continued to farm their extensive acres until 1833, 
when the old homestead was torn down. 
In 1832 an outbreak of cholera in New York City 

provided the spur for the first large influx of people to 
Far Rockaway. The panic generated by the plague 


caused hundreds of families to seek a safe haven in this 
isolated community by the sea. John Leake Norton, 
well connected politically through his marriage to a 
sister of Governor George Clinton, had already set up 
his homestead two years earlier. With his entrepre-
neurial abilities, he persuaded a group of New York 
businessmen to form the Rockaway Association. This 
group grew to include a former governor, John Alsop 
King, and an ex-mayor of New York City, Philip 
Hone. (Hone remains well known today for his exten-
sive diaries, which give an insider's account of life in 
old New York.) The Rockaway Association pur-
chased the Cornell holdings and began construction 
on a large hotel on the oceanfront, to be known as the 
Marine Pavilion. 
The elite of New York society soon made the pavil-

ion one of their favorite summer places. Among the 
names on the hotel's register were Astor, 
Schermerhorn, Morris, Gillette, Langdon, and King. 
Hone's diary gives his account of lavish dinners, grand 
balls, trotting matches, clambakes, and other upper-
class events. In the 1840s General Winfield Scott, 
hero of the Mexican War, came for a visit, and at other 
times writers Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and 
Washington Irving and the painter John Trumbull 
were in residence at the Marine Pavilion. 
Sea bathing, considered a novelty by most 

Americans, was, according to legend, first introduced 
to high society by two Far Rockaway men, Benjamin 
C. Lockwood and the aforementioned John Norton. 
They provided wooden bathhouses on wheels in 
which bathers changed their garments and were 

pulled into the surf by horses . After getting into four 
or five feet of water, the horses were unhooked and 
taken ashore, whil e the little house in the ocean stayed 
in place until the bather chose to be hauled back to the 
beach. This arrangement was especially favored for 
women, whose presumed Victorian modesty required 
such seclusion while bathing in public areas. 
When the summer of 1835 turned out to be cold and 

stormy at Rockaway, New York society folk looked 
for pleasure elsewhere. Within a year the nervous 
management of the Marine sold out. This tendency for 
property to change hands frequently has been a char-
acteristic of Rockaway, as investors learned how 
changing weather conditions could determin e profit or 
loss. A succession of managements ran the hotel 
through the 1840s and '50s, still attracting a group of 
affluent guests. The end came in June 1864, when a 
fire destroyed the wooden hotel. Indeed, fire periodi-
cally revisited the Rockaways over the years, laying 
waste to hundreds of buildings. The Marine Pavilion, 
like many of its descendants, was not rebuilt, but its 
importance to Rockaway lingered for decades. For it 
was the Marine that first brought nationwide publici -
ty to the area. The success of this early hostelry 
encouraged other investors and developers to come to 
the seaside resort that was so close to the premier 
American city. From this time forwa1"d, well into the 
20th century, Rockaway was known as one of . the 
nation's great coastal resorts. 
Even as the Marine Pavilion catered to the rich, 

other more modest establishments began to appear on 
the Rockaway peninsula. As early as 1833, along 
B.19th and B.20th Streets could be found John 
Kavanagh's modest New York Hotel, James Caffrey's 
Transatlantic Hotel (1843), a nd Roche's Surf Hotel 
(1848). The latter continued, in one form or another, 
for the next hundred-odd years. Caffrey also opened a 
shop on B.20th Street in 1843, initiating a trend that 
led to the street eventually being named Central 
Avenue-in the hub of an u rbanized Far Rockaway . 
The oldest map of Far Rockaway that exists, printed 
by M . Dibbs in 1853, locates the early buildings and 
property holdings. There were twenty-four houses 
and inns then, but only five main thoroughfares -
Cornaga Avenue, Greenport Road, New Haven 
Avenue, Plainview Avenue, and Seagirt Avenue. 
North of the tiny village the map depicts a large forest, 
and to the east a broad tract of meadow and bogland. 
The first of the many great mansions to be built in 

Far Rockaway was the beachfront residence of 
Horace F. Clark, a judge from Manhattan. Clark was 
Commodore Vanderbilt's son-in-law and a future U.S. 


congressman (1859-61). His house was built on a 
hillock facing the ocean and was surrounded by a 
broad lawn with colorful flowerbeds. It survived well 
into the 1890s. Otherwise, most of the construction in 
Far Rockaway in the mid-19th century was commer-
cial, especially hotels . The Walling map of 1859 
showed remarkable growth, including the earliest reli-
gious structure, St. Mary Help of Christians, built in 
1851. New streets included Mott and Augustana 
Avenues. It was around this time that the village was 
first called Far Rockaway, to distinguish it from Near 
(soon to be called East) Rockaway, and that building 
began to pick up in Rockaway Beach, to the west. 
Much of the latter area's business came from day 
excursionists, who came by steamboat from the city. 
The South Side Railroad came to Rockaway in July 
1869. The line extended from Valley Stream to Far 
Rockaway, where a terminal was built on land donat-
ed by Benjamin B. Mott. The Long Island Railroad 
built its own branch from Hillside, just east of 
Jamaica, to Cedarhurst and beyond, opening service 
to Rockaway on May 14, 1872. The Long Island man-
agement wanted to extend their line to the water's 
edge, but Judge Clark used his considerable influence 
to keep the tourists away from his stately summer 
home. Instead, the tracks were laid closer to the 
Jamaica Bay side of the peninsula, terminating at 
Benjamin C. Lockwood's picnic grove at Brookhaven 
Avenue and B.21 and B.22 Streets. After 1876 both 
railroads used the Mott Avenue station. 
The coming of the trains finally put an end to the 

arduous journey from Jamaica in a four-horse stage-
coach jolting along the ten miles of unpaved 
Rockaway Turnpike, a road that was subject to flood-
ing at high tide. Now the trip from Long Island City 
(after a short ferry ride across the East River) took 
about an hour. Its relative speed (about five minutes 
longer than today's time) served to put an end to the 
isolation of Far Rockaway, and the subsequent real 
estate boom and increase in summer visitors perma-
nently altered the rural character of the village. 
Wave Crest, a development in the western section 

of Far Rockaway, was built on land assembled in 1878 
from the now-defunct Marine Pavilion as well as part 
of Judge Clark's private estate. No less than eighty 
acres were set aside for expensive homes, the con-
struction of which began in 1880. Set in a residential 
park with lodges, a gated entrance, and a rustic fence, 
the community offered plots of a quarter-acre and 
more . Soon two dozen houses had been built to reflect 
the wealth and status of the residents. A fine turf lawn 
covered the bluffs and slopes of the original terrain, 

watered by thirty-feet-deep wells. All the streets 
curved irregularly, creating a pleasant rural ambiance 
as well as discouraging through traffic. A single fine 
hotel in the development had a short life, burning 
down in February 1889. 
The next district to be developed in Far Rockaway 

was Bayswater. Facing Jamaica Bay-more specifi-
cally, basins named for Norton and Mott-it was the 
creation of William Trist Bailey, who purchased the 
half-upland, half-swamp tract from the Cornell family 
in 1878. Bailey first laid out Mott and Bayswater 
Avenues as the main thoroughfares and then added 
side streets gradually as new owners bought homes. 
Not quite as ritzy as Wave Crest, Bayswater was 
nonetheless home to many fine mansions on the 
bayfront, in addition to a hotel of brick construction, 
somewhat of a rarity in the area. To enhance the sta-
tus of his development, Bailey founded the Bayswater 
Yacht Club in 1889 and soon began sponsoring regat-
tas. In 1891 additional land just south of Bayswater 
was acquired from Richard Mott in order to erect a 
clubhouse; members, now numbering 100, were asked 
to subscribe a total of $5, 000. This was one of the hey-
days of aristocratic prete.nsions, including the mount-
ing of the fi1-st hunt with hounds in Bayswater. 
The success of real estate investments in Far 

Rockaway led developers to build in other parts of the 
community. Ocean Crest, the creation of the Norton 
family, was built slightly west of Wave Crest, on the 
site of a large timber tract facing the bay. Beginning in 
the early 1880s modest summer homes were built 
along newly laid-out streets. The section remained 
only lightly settled until well after 1900, however, as 
was the case with two new developments in the east-
ern part of Far Rockaway, Cedar Lawn and Cedar 
Hill. Samuel Althause, Jr., started the former in 1888-
89, and Cassius Reed and Ed Stokes developed the 
latter around the same time. 
Construction of all types in Far Rockaway contin-

ued apace until around 1910, when most of the desir-
able land within easy reach of public transportation 
had been built up. This period also saw the appear-
ance of one public convenience after another, con-
tributing to the community's quality of life. As early as 
1886 the Far Rockaway Village Railroad began oper-
ating horse cars during summers from the Mott 
Avenue terminal to the beach at the foot of B.19th 
Street. In 1898 an electric trolley line began running 
between the terminal and Rockaway Park. The year 
before, in June 1897, a trolley line along Rockaway 
Turnpike from Jamaica had opened, with regular ser-
vice to a terminal at Mott and Redfern Avenues. 

Despite its increasingly residential character, Far 
Rockaway had many seafront enterprises catering to 
the summer visitor. The largest of these resorts was 
Ostend Beach, at B.13th- l 4th Streets. Built in l 908 
and named for the famous resort in Belgium, it held a 
hotel, a casino, and a multitude of bathhouses. The big 
hotel was destroyed by fire in 1941, but the bathhous-
es continued in operation for a short time afterward, 
as did their main competitor, Roche's. 
Other turn-of-the-century improvements revealed 

the growth of a year-round community. In July 1890 
Rockaway got its first bank, as the Far Rockaway 
Bank opened at the corner of B.20th Street and 
Cornaga Avenue. The First National Bank came to 
town eighteen years later. There had been an old-fash-
ioned one-room school in Rockaway as far back as 
1861, but not until the 1890s did educational facilities 
begin a period of rapid growth. A high school began 
operating with twenty students in 1897 on the site of 
what later became P.S. 39. The present-day Far 
Rockaway High School, located in Wavecrest and 
built in 1929, provided a sound education as well as 
being a unifYing force for the entire peninsula. The 
U.S. Post Office finally authorized Free home delivery 
of mail in Rockaway on August 5, 1901. Four letter 
carriers were on the permanent staff, with an extra 
delivere1- added for summers. Telephone service came 
the same year, when the Leek Building opened at 
Cornaga Avenue and B.20th Street; at the time there 
we1-e 120 Bell subscribers in the village. Nearby, a 
public library was erected at the corner of B.20th 
Street and Mott Avenue in 1904, donated by Andrew 
Carnegie. The library is still on the same site, in a new 
The Long Island Railroad electrified its Rockaway 

line in 1905, first for trains coming to the peninsula, 
then for local service as well. Tourists made their sum-
mertime jaunts in increasing numbers, but many yea1--
round residents came as well. The year 1914 saw a 
record total of 429 houses built in Far Rockaway, 
mostly on plots of modest size. World War I put a hold 
on most development, but construction resumed its 
active pace in the 1920s. The focus had shifted to mul-
tiple dwellings, however, as city-style apartment build-
ings came into Favor. The first large house of this kind 
was the five-story Crossways, with fifty-five apart-
ments at the corner of Mott Avenue and Greenpoint 
Road.Within a year four other buildings opened: the 
Gold Central, the Morris, the Roanoke, and the 
Ocean Country. More and more of the stately man-
sions disappeared as the village became increasingly 


By the 1930s, when the population was about 
15, 000, there were twenty-five apartment houses as 
well as some 370 stores in Far Rockaway. Central 
Avenue continued its growth as the town hub, w ith 
most residents shopping there regularly. Just after the 
war, in 1919, the Strand Theatre had opened on the 
Avenue with a progam that offered both silent films 
a nd vaudevill e. The theatre was on the main New 
York City circuit, and Al Jolson and other famous 
performers of the day played t he house. 
Starting as early as the 1870s local newspapers 

began to be published in Rockaway. The first two, 
Rocka111ay NewJ and Rockaway RamMer; lasted only a 
short time. The Rockaway Ratt!e1; soon renamed the 
Rockaway Jouma4 lasted almost twenty years, part of 
that time owned by the developer Remington Vernam. 
The name was picked up for a subsequent newspaper, 
which continued publishing until the 1990s. Th e Argw 
was in circulation from 1914 until 1942, the year 
before the Rockaway Newa ceased publication. The most 


durable local newspaper, The Wa1,e, is still in print over 
100 years after its founding in 1893. It has established 
itself as a Rockaway institution. 
The years after World War II were not kind to la rge 

pa rts of Far Rockaway. Although the famous board -
walk was extended eleven blocks east from B.20th 
Street, the day-trippers and vacationists tu rned their 
attention to farther shores. Business migrated else-
w here as well. The sites of O stend Beach a nd Roche's, 
dere li ct for many years, were converted to a green 
oasis by the sea, O 'Donoghue 's Park. The rest of Far 
Rockaway's beachfront area is characte ri zed by high-
rise apartment complexes and nursing homes. In 
Bayswater and some other developments, we ll-main-
ta ined homes still line the suburba n-type streets . 
Nearby, the center of town has become an urban 
hodgepodge of a bandoned bui ldings, closeout stores, 
vacant lots, and a n occasional new or renovated build-
ing that holds out some hope for the future. 

~ IA & B. Earliest known street views of Far Rockway, from an Albertype 
a lbum of 1880. Look ing east (JA) from Seagirt Avenue (B. l 9th Street), sizab le 
boarding houses and hote ls like the U nited States Hotel (at right) have a lready 
begun to fill the open land . Looking inland (JB) toward Wave Crest, stroll ers 
gained access to the shore by way of the sma ll bridge from B.20th Street. (Queen.• 
Borough Puhlic Library) 

I A 


""-' 2. Several large hotels dominated 
the bayfront at B.19th Street in 1904. At 
the right, with its four flags flying, is the 
Ku loff Hotel. Behind the Kuloff is the 
Tack-a-pou-sha House, and to the left, 
close to the water, is the Dolphin Road 
House. The Tack-a-pou-sha was named 
for the Indian chief who signed his mark 
to the 1685 deed that ceded the 
Rockaway peninsu la to the Engl ish. 
(Detroit Pubfilhing Co.) 
""-' 3. Detail from one of the earliest 
maps of Far Rockaway, from BeerJ Afl(k! of 
Long f..J!and (1873). The full map is repro-
duced on page vi. 
""-' 4. Walking over the narrow inlet to 
Hog Island in 1904. The trolley car in the 
background ran from the railroad station 
along B. l 9th Street all the way to the 
footbridge. At left is the M. H . Beers 
mansion and the Ocean View Hotel. The 
United States Hotel is behind the bowling 
alleys. (Library of CongreJJ) 
""-' 5. Family picnic on the beach at 
Rockaway early in the 20th century. 
Three of the ladies are in proper bathing 
attire, the fourth is keeping cool in white 
lace under the umbrella. The boy is per-
mitted slightly more exposure to the sun. 
(Quwu Borollgh Public Library) 




--- -·----· 

H-'.Cul'Fre_ .',.-

R 0 U ti D 
H l L L 



C"'-' 6. In many areas of Long Island lakes a nd ponds were formed in 
depressions scoured out of the outwash plain that forms so much of 
the local topography. Wave Crest Lake, near the ocean, made an 
attractive setting for the houses on its shores until it was filled in by 
C"'-' 7. The Richard Cornell family cemetery was opened in 1693 and 
was last used in 1820, with twenty-nine graves known. The property 
was neglected for many years but is now a New York City landmark 
and is being restored. On the south side of Greenport Avenue, oppo-
site Everdale Avenue, the old burial ground measures 70 by 75 feet. 
(Photo by Stanley Cogan) 

8 '""'-' FAR ROCKAWAY 

C"'-' 8. The famous Marine Pavilion was 
the first major resort hotel in Rockaway. 
Built in 1833, the three-story Greek 
Revival building was on the west side of 
B.20th Street, south of Plainview Avenue, 
and had a 250-foot-long oceanfront piaz-
za. With two wings, the Marine had 160 
rooms. New York society made the resort 
one of the most fashionable in the U. S., 
and prominent men such as Henry 
Wadsworth Longfellow, Washington 
Irving, and Gen. Winfield Scott (hero of 
the Mexican War) were among the 
Marine Pavilion's guests. In 1854 the 
hotel's front was extended to 450 feet; ten 
years later the wooden building was 
destroyed by fire. (Thomp.:1on) 
C"'-' 9. The only building to survive the 
Marine ·Pavilion fire was the hotel kitchen. 
After it became a private residence, the 
owner added Victorian gingerbread to the 
exterior, a long with a peaked roof with 
ornate dormers. The original board and 
batten construction of the building, on the 
west side of B.20th Street 200 feet north of 
South Street, survived on the first floor. 



x~ ' 


"'--' 10-13. Central Avenue, probably the 
oldest street in the Rockaways, has also been 
the busiest ever since the Marine Pavilion 
became a fashionable watering place. 
Originally called Catharine Street, after an 
early resident, the street was renamed Central 
Avenue in July 1889, then B.20th Street in 
1916, following the numerical system devised 
by city planners. The boardinghouses and 
small hotels that lined its sidewalks in the mid-
l 9th century soon gave way to stores and 
other businesses. Many of the old buildings 
are still standing today. Three of these post-
card views date from around the turn of the 
century. The fourth view (JJ), looking west 
from Mott Avenue, shows that Central 
Avenue was still the main shopping street of 
Far Rockaway in 1940. Two well-known 
chainstores of the day, Cushman's Bakery and 
Whelan Drugs, anchored corners on the busy 
intersection. (PoJtcardd from the Vincent F. 
Seyfried CoLlectwn) 

10 ~ 

~ 14. The famous arch over Jarvis Lane (B.9th Street), created by training cedar 
trees into an overhead arbor. (Po.:Jtcard.fimn the Vincent E Seyfri£d Cof!ection) 
~ 15. The oldest known photograph of Far Rockaway. Engine #17 of the South 
Side Railroad of Long Island looks like something out of a Hollywood Western as it 
sits in the Far Rockaway station . The signs announce "Southern R.R. ticket office for 
Brooklyn and New York" and "Western Union Telegraph Office." (Ron Zi£!) 

« .... 
% ... . ,}'!,'.•':"" 

. :;: 

.. ~; :~~»:-



~ 16. On this Decoration (Memorial) Day weekend 
in 19 14, the Far Rockaway station of the Long Island 
Railroad attracted a stunning coll ection of vehicles, 
including a horse-and-carriage (center). The sig n barely 
visibl e at t he left directs travelers to t he "trolley car fo r 
Rockaway Beach," seen at t he rig.kt side of the photo. 
(Predbrey Photo) frFT 

~ 17. Only known p icture of the original Bayswater 
Hotel, w hi ch was on a large plot of land at Mott and 
Westbourne Avenues and Waterloo Place. T he hotel was 
built in 1880 by William Trist Bailey, developer of the 
Bayswater communi ty, but failed to attract enough 
guests to make a profit. The structure was finally torn 
down in 1907 and replaced by the small er E lstone Park 
Hotel. (Queend Borough Public Library) 
~ 18. Wave Crest was an excl usive community estab-


li shed for wealthy New Yorkers in the 19th centu ry. The 
first houses were built in 1880 on land from the former 
C lark Estate and the Marine Pavilion. The serpentine 
roads west of B.20th Street and south of New Haven 
Avenue still reAect the ample estates of the origina l own-
ers. (PoJtcard from the Vincent E Seyfried Cof!ecti.on) 
~ 19. Far Rockaway was home to some of the most 
interesting domestic architectu re on Long Island. The 
1770 farmhouse at t he corner of Mott Avenue and 
Eggert P lace was the oldest building on the Rockaway 
peninsula unti l its demolition sometime after 1923, when 
this photograph was taken. Built by John Mott, it was 
known as t he Aunt Sally Mott Homestead for many 
years before its occupancy by a . Seaman. Note, at 
t he left side of the photo, how successive generations 
en larged the house. (Armbrudter} 


_, / 
' / ~ ·•""./ , / 


~ 20. The Mott House would have flt into one co rner of "Broad Lawn, " one of the fin e 
summer "cottages" built in Bayswater and Wave Crest around the turn of the century. The 
ma ny w indows and turrets and the open porches offered cross venti latio n a nd cool sea 
breezes in those days before air condi tioning. 
~ 21. Facing Jamaica Bay, between Bessemund and Gansevoort Avenues, was a wood-
en castle built for Louis H. Solomon, prominent chemist a nd inventor. The s ite was owned 
by John Cornaga in th e 18th century, when it was the largest of the lndian she ll banks. With 
its twin towers and eccentric roof embelli shed with crenella tion s, merlons, a nd embrasures, 
the Solomon redoubt was a tourist attraction in its own right. The wooden structure burned 
to the ground in 1921. (Po,1tcarJ ji·om the Vincent F. Seyfrier) CoLLectio11) 
~ 22. A marbl e and gran ite mansion worthy of Newport was built on Breezy Point, 
overlooking Jamaica Bay, in 1908 for New York banker Louis A. Heinsheimer. To build his 
dream home he tore down an impressive mansion on the s ite that had been owned by 
Brooklyn hotel owner Louis Bossert. Heinsheimer's interiors were a ll finished in heavy 
woodwork and carvings. After most of New York society had followed the w inds of fas hion 
away from Rockaway, the big house was taken over by the Maimonides Institute for 
Exceptiona l Children. The building burned down in the 1980s, leaving only the conserva-
tory (seen at th e extreme right) still sta nding. On October 30, 1991, the site was dedicated 
as Bayswater Point State Park, w ith the conservatory servi ng as the park rangers' head-
quarters. (·om the Vincent F. SeyfrieJ CoL!ection) 




C"-' 23. As late as the 1920s handsome summer homes set in parklike settings were still being built 
in Far Rockaway. Typical of these summer houses, which o~en had tile roofs, is the Aaron Levy 
residence, at the corner of Healey (formerly Bayview) Avenue and B.28th Street. (PoJtcard from the 
Vincent E Seyfried CoLLection) 
C"-' 24. Another of the many striking residences in Far Rockaway was the Japanese Cottage on 
Jarvis Lane (B.9th Street), seen in this postcard view. Little bells were hung on each side of the 
upturned roof corners and even the chimney. The porch railing and other architectural features 
continued the Asian motif. (PoJtcard from the Vincent E Seyfried CoL!ectwn) 



""--' 25. What came to be called Hog Island 
was a good-sized sandbar that rose above the 
sea off Rockaway in the winter of 1858. It was 
washed over in Apri I J 870, then recovered 
enough by 1875 to encourage renewed building 
of bathhouses and even restaurants and pavil-
ions, as seen in this historic print. (The bridges 
over "Far Rockaway Bay" are at present-day 
B.17th, B.19th, and B.20th Streets.) Most of 
the buildings were washed away in the storms of 
1886 and 1889, as the island rose and fell with 
the elements for many years. By 1905 the sand-
bar was closer to the shore and seemed to be on 
a firmer footing, so the builders got busy again. 
The mini-resort lasted until the tides washed it 
away in the 1920s. Not even a shoal remains 
today. (Queen.1 Borough Public Library) 
""--' 26. Family bathing on Hog Island around 
the turn of the century. The ladies' bathing attire 
closely resembled dresses, and kerchiefs and 
bonnets kept their hair in place. The men's suits 
were skirted to avoid any tell-tale outlines. 
(Qu.een.1 Borough Pubfi.c Library) 



The Ostend, Far Rockaway, k. Y. 

~ 27. The Ostend Hotel and Casino was built on part of the old Caffrey estate at the foot of B. l 4th 
Street, beginning in 1908. By the 1920s, with 2,000 wooden bathhouses it was the largest bathing pavil-
ion in Far Rockaway. The Ostend was destroyed by fire on April 8, 1941. (PoJtcard.fiwn the Vincent E 
Seyfried Collection) 
~ 28. It was the custom before World War I for people to put on their holiday finery, including shoes 
and stockings, for an outing to the beach -even on days when the wind was not blowing the flags 
straight out, as in this photo. Kaiser's Restaurant, specializing in multicourse shore dinners, was a con-
cession in the Ostend complex. (PoJtcarJ from the Vincent R Seyfried Collection) 

"'-' 29. An important hotel not far from the Ostend was the Ku loff, built at B .1 7th Street 
by James Caffrey about 1898. The two-and-one-half-story building w ith four cupol as was 
a beachfront landmark for many years. In 1919 the hotel was renamed Chateau-Thierry in 
honor of the World War I battle, but the signs we re changed to Traymore in the 1920s. 
The hotel was eventually demolished. (Podtcaro from the Vti1cent F Seyfrieo Collection) 
"'-' 30. A rare back-door photog raph of the kitchen s taff at the Ku I off and Tack-a-pou-
sha hotels around 1905. Then , as now, most of the work in the back of the house was done 
by recent immigrants. (Queen,1 Borough Public Library) 



C"'-> 31. One of the Atlantic cab les made landfa ll in 
the Rockaways. To process telegrams to and from 
E urope, rn 1912 the Mackay-Bennett Cable 
Company built a large, impressive station on B.17th 
Street just in front of the old Cornell Cemetery. The 
cab le business fell off in the 1930s, and the building 
was converted for use as a yeshi va. In 1985, as the 
Jewish population of Far Rockaway declined, the 
building was torn down. The land, sti ll vacant, is slat-
ed to become a parkllke access to the la ndmark bury-
ing ground. (Robert StonehilL) 
C"'-> 32. The Roman Catholic Church of St. Mary 
Star of the Sea began as a mission and moved into a 
sma ll wooden chu rch in 1851. Thirty-four years later, 
on August 16, 1885, this impressive building, seating 
over 600, was dedicated. The church bui ldings, on a 
large p lot at B.20th Street and New Haven Avenue, 
included a parish house and rectory. The complex 
was destroyed by fire on August 16, 1974. (C.H.) 
C"'-> 33. As the year-round population of Far 
Rockaway increased, a parochial schoo l for St. 
Mary's parish was opened in the Lyceum, a brick and 
terra-cotta-trimmed building that was opened in 
1909. In add ition to the schoo l the Lyceum was home 
to a public auditorium seating 900. (P0.1tcaro from the 
Vincent E Seyfrieo Collection) 

C"'-> 34. The Catholic Church was a lso active in pro-
viding health care for the Far Rockaway communi ty. 
St. Joseph's Hospital was opened around 1901 in a 
cottage on B.20th Street. The large hospital shown 
here was opened December 15, 1912, next to the old 
building. The hospita l was virtua lly two units, one fo r 
men and the other for women, and had large solar i-
ums where patients, especially those suffer ing from 
tubercu losis, cou ld take advantage of the fresh sea a ir. 
(PoJtcaro from the Vincent E Seyfrieo Collection) 


~ 35A & B. One of the noted Protestant churches in the Rockaways was the F irst 
P1-esbyte ri an Church (55A) , organized in J anuary 1888. (The old building, much 
altered, still stands at Central and Neilson Avenues.) The railroad tycoon and phil-
anthropist Russell Sage was a summer wo rshipper there, and after his death . 
Sage decided to build a community ch urch in his memory. She engaged the noted 
firm of Cram, Goodhue & Ferguson, architects w ho later designed St. T homas 
Episcopa l and other churches in Manhattan, to build the Sage Memorial Church. 
The site was a large plot on Central Avenue between B.12th Street and Sage P lace. 
The most striking features of the Gothi c Revival church are twelve stained g lass w in-
dows, especially the large w indow at the sou t h end of the nave (J5B) . Designed by 
Louis Comfort Tiffany in a purely American style, at 25 by 21 feet "The Tree of Life " 
is the la rgest Tiffany landscape in existence. Sage Memoria l Church was placed on 
the Nationa l Register of Historic Places in 1986. 



~ 36. Rockaway also benefited 
from the philanthropy of a nothe r 
multimillionaire, Andrew Carnegie. 
Of the five public libraries he built 
a nd equipped in Queens County, one 
was in Far Rockaway . T he b1-ick 
structure was built in 1904 on land 
donated by Benjami n Mott at the 
corner of B.20th Street and Mott 
Avenue. A federally fund ed addition 
to the library was opened in 1936. A 
new library building now occupies 
the site. 




22 ""-' F AR ROCKAWAY 

~ 37. Rare informal view of a beach party around 1908. Bathing in the surf was not 
on the agenda as these c ity -dwell ers enjoyed the day on Hog Island , opposite B. l 9th 
Street. In the background is the M. H. Beers mansion, subsequently known as the 
Wheeler Cottage. (Queen.1 Boi'Ol~qh Public Library) 
~ 38. Roche's Pavilion, as seen in this 1915 photo, was built c lose to the waterline . 
The establishment was at the foot of B. l9th Street and drew many of its patrons from 
the trolley cars that ran from the railroad station directly into the back end of the pavil-
ion. The building held refreshment bars and souven ir stands in addition to one of the 
largest bathhouses in Far Rockaway. In the days when few Americans cou ld swim, 
clinging to the ropes was a safe way to cool off in the ocean waters. (Po.:1tcardfro111 the 
Vincent E Seyfried Colfect1on) 
~ 39. World War I and its aftermath brought great changes to American life. This 
photo of Roche's Beach, taken around 1925, shows how the more informal style of the 
1920s influenced the bathing attire and customs of New Yorkers. Bare legs, bare heads, 
and even a few male bare backs are in evidence. The waterside pavilion has been 
washed away, leaving a much w ider strand for sunbathing and other beach activities. 
Even a lifeguard tower can be observed above the sea of beach umbrellas. (Po.itcard 
.fimn the Vincent E Seyfried Co!lectwn) 


"'-' 40. The beach was less than ten blocks away from the intersection of Mott 
Avenue w ith the Long Is land Railroad crossing. This photo was taken on October 7, 
l 930, and shows the year-round business district of Far Rockaway still active even 
though most vacationers have gone back home. Soon the stock market 's 1929 Crash 
wou ld begin to have its depressing effects on Rockaway and throughout the U.S. 
(Queen" Borough Pub!U: Library) 
"'-' 41. Not far from the railroad station was the famed Stran,d Theatre, on the east 
side of Central Avenue south of Cornaga Avenue, shown here during its grand open-
ing in 1919. Silent films and vaudevllle were the featured att ract ions. Far Rockaway 
was on the prime Keith Albee circuit, especially in the summer, and star performers 
such as Al Jolson and Sophie Tucker appeared on the Strand's stage. (Emil Lucei•) 
"'-' 42. Far Rockaway High School was opened in 1929 on B.25th Street, 
Wavecrest, in 1929. By that time the year-round population of the Rockaways had 
grown large enough to support a large, centra li zed institution. Far Rockaway was an 
outstanding city high school, the only one in the Rockaways until 1971. Among its 
graduates is the American gen ius Richard Feynman, a Nobel laureate in physics. 




In 1890 Edgemere did not exist. The area immediate-
ly west of what is today B.32nd Street consisted of 
sand and sparse vegetation, with an artificial water-
way called Norton's Creek running down the middle, 
connecting Jamaica Bay with the ocean. This canal 
went through a neck of land that had been known as 
Hog Island before its disappearance under the shifting 
tides . The existence of t his once-thriving resort has 

been virtually forgotten. 
In 1892 the heirs of Samuel L. B. Norton, w ho held 

title to all the land in the general vicinity, sold out to a 
syndicate that included Frederick J. Lancaster of 
Hempstead and investo rs connected with the Arverne 
Hotel. The area had become suitable for development 
with the opening in 1886 of Rockaway Beach 
Boulevard, which provided through access up and 
down the peninsula. The syndicate had fanciful ideas 
of turning the area into a development called New 
Venice, complete with canals and gondoliers. This was 
not the only such scheme in Rockaway. The Vernam 

family had planned a similar project for Arverne, mod-
eled on the canals in Amsterdam, Holland. Neither of 

these grandiose plans came to fruition . The Edgemere 
scheme ended in disaster for some investors when the 
contractor absconded with a considerable sum of 
money in 1893. Undaunted, the next year Frederick 
Lancaster set up the Lancaster Sea Beach 

Improvement Company fo,- the purpose of building a 
substantial seaside colony along conventional lines. 
The name he chose for the development, Edgemere, 
came to be the permanent one, though many residents 
derided its pretensions of aristocracy. 


As part of his development Lancaster built a large, 
luxurious beachfront hotel, the Edgemere, which 
opened in 1895 with accommodations for about 500 
guests. Mother Nature failed to cooperate in the ven-
ture, however, and the violent storm that struck the 
coast in 1896 inundated the structure with tons of 
sand and washed away the outlying bathhouses and 
the oceanfront boardwalk. The turbu lent waters bur-
rowed under the hotel and widened Norton's Creek, 

threatening to undermine all the buildings in the 
neighborhood. Fortunately for the investors, the fed-

eral government was persuaded to repair the damage 
to the beach by building two stout bulkheads on either 
side of the creek and filling the space between them 
with sand pumped from the sea. The creek was effec-
tively closed, making it possible to rebuild the hotel 
and continue with development of the land. Further 
impetus to construction came in 1895, when the 
Edgemere station of the Long Island Railroad was 
The rebuilt Edgemere Hotel was the major summer 

attraction in the community, along with a few smaller 
establishments such as the Edgemere Crest Inn, the 
Holmeshurst Inn, and the Half-Way House. There 
were fewer hostelries in Edgemere compared with the 
rest of Rockaway. In fact, there seems to have been a 
tendency to downplay Edgemere as a summer resort 
and to promote it as a year-round residential commu-
nity. In August 1912 some 290 building lots were sold 
at auction, and the next year 140 were so ld , a ll in the 
area between B.32nd and B.38th Streets. These lots 
were restricted to the construction of detached private 

homes costing at least $2,500. The owners of the 
Edgemere Crest Inn owners also liquidated their hold-
ings, including sixty houses and 407 lots. 
After World War l many of the other hote ls were 

either disposed of or sold outright, including the great 
Lancaster establishment and the more modest 
Shelbourne a nd Palace . Just before the war most of 
the tent colonies that had sprung up in th e western 
section of Edgmere, from B.35th Street to the Arverne 
boundary, had gone out of bu siness . About this time 
developers filled in land on the bayside to Conch 

Basin and Norton Basin and la id ou t streets between 
B.4Ist and B.Slst Streets. In this area they bui lt sma ll 
frame houses for year-rou nd use. The 1920s saw the 
construction of summer bungalows in the area, mostly 
on the ocean side of the railroad tracks. 
Edgemere saw little structural change during the 

1930s, but the year-round population grew stead ily in 
number. Old-time residents, summer a nd winter, s ti ll 
reminisce about the matchless knishes they bought at 
Jerry's and the sil ent films that continu ed to be shown 
by a boardwalk theater until the late 1940s. 

Eoc EMERE "" 27 

28 l"-' E DGEMERE 

""-' 43. The Edgemere Hotel opened in 1895 on the ocean between B.35th and B.36th 
Streets. This prominent landmark had 182 rooms, sixty w ith private bath, a nd electric ele-
vators. In 1906 the hotel changed its name to the Edgemere Club. From 1919 a series of 
different new owners operated the aging hotel. which was finally demolished in 1935. 
""-' 44. As Edgemere became more and more popular with New Yorkers, the beach 
became quite crowded, especially on weekends and holidays. Day-trippers from the city 
cou ld change into beach attire at one of the many bathhouses in the area. Piers were pop-
ular attract ions, even if they were washed away by storms every few years. 
""-' 45. A 1914 view of the railroad stop at Edgemere, between B.35th and B.36th 
Streets. The station was bu il t around 1895 and was used by both electric trains and trol-
ley cars. The tree like pillars supporting the canopy closely resemb le those of the still-exist-
ing East Hampton station. (Robert Stonehi!Lj 



~ 46. Noland's Half-Way House was built in 1886 at the western end of Edgemere, 
on Rockaway Beach Boulevard and B.44th Street. Originally it was a good stopping 
place in the sand dunes between Far Rockaway and Rockaway Beach. Unlike most 
hostelries on the Rockaway peninsula, the Half-Way House was open a ll year. Its 
Summer Garden was a popular meeting-place in season. The Ocean Electric trolley cars 
stopped at the door, and the Long Island Railroad later estab li shed a small station there 
(Frank Avenue). (Vincent F. Sey.friend Coffection) 
~ 47, 48. The Hotel Lorraine (47) was built in 1908 on the east side of B.32nd Street 
at Spray View Avenue, a short block from the oceanfront. An early advert isement 
promised a te lephone in every room, a restaurant with orchestra, and lawn tennis a nd 
golf. The hotel was still serving its middle-class cl ientele when this photo was taken, in 
1935. The long verandah, seen in this 1925 view (48), was a breezy, relaxing haven From 
the summer sun. (Rohcrt Stonehi!L) 




49A 49B 

" j ~· 
:. . . . . ' 

••• 0 ~ I ..... , 


.. ! 

C'-' 49A-E. During the first half 
of the 20th century, there were 
hundreds of hotels and rooming 
houses near the beach in Edge-
mere. Among the best-known 
medium-size establishments were 
the Belvedere and the Frontenac 
(49A), the Coronado (49B), the 
Shelbourne (49C), the Strand and 
the Breakers (49D), and the New 
Linderman (49E). The latter was 
owned by the Linderman family, 
which had extensive hotel interests 
in Edgemere until the 1940s. And 
on oceanfront streets like Grand 
View Avenue (B.35th Street) were 
dozens of "cottages" designed pri-
marily to accommodate summer 
boarders. (Robert StonehiLL) 

EDGEMERE "'--' 33 

.. <~:~----

~ 50. Newly built houses on B.44th Street, looking north from the ocean beach, in October 
1916. The Rockaway hallmarks, open porches and plentiful windows, are much in evidence. 
Most of the building lots in Edgemere were generous-SO or l 00 by 100 feet-allowing room 
for large homes and w ide lawns or landscaped areas . (Quee11<1 Borough Pub!i.c Lihrary) 
~ 51. Another way to take the sea air at Rockaway was to camp right on the beach, either 
in a tarpaper shack or a tent colony . By the early 1920s, as the beach eroded and the dwellings 
proliferated, there wasn't much open sand left in this section oF Edgemere. Bathing su its 
reflected an enduring Victorian modesty. 

"'-' 52. Summer bungalows were an attractive option for summer visitors who 
preferred to do their own housekeeping indoors. Many small dwellings like those in 
this row along B.40th Street were built between 1912 a nd 1919. 
"'-' 53. Iceboxes remained in many bungalows and tents in Rockaway through 
World War I I. This 1921 photograph shows Mate Lucev, a Czech immigrant w ho 
ran his ice business under the name Mike Louis, making the rounds in Edgemere. 
When the horse died in 1927, Mate and his partner Sam Ortulan bought a truck 
and continued delivering ice until 1951. (Emil Luce<') 

EDC8MERE "'-' 35 


The earliest commercia l penetration of the area now 
known as Arverne occurred when the Far Rockaway 
Branch Railroad, a subsidiary of the South Side Rail 
Road, built a line down the peninsula in the spring of 
1872. This railroad had arrived in Far Rockaway in 
July 1869 and seemed destined to keep its terminal 
there, until it became clear that the rival Long Island 
Railroad intended to lay track to Rockaway Beach. 
On July 4, 1872, South Side trains began running all 
the way to Seaside House at B. l 03rd Street. Although 
there were no stops in the sand dunes en route, the iso-
lation of this part of the peninsula had been broken 
The first arrivals in the Arverne were fishermen, 

who often built primitive shacks for themselves. In 
1875 William Scheer put up the first house, on what is 
now B.73rd Street. Others came along, including a 
successfu l New York attorney, Remington Vernam, 
who enjoyed hiking through the pristine sands and 
breathing the clear ocean air. Vernam was a lso stirred 
by the prospects for real estate development in 
Rockaway. He learned that William H. Amerman 
owned a sizable tract of land running from the beach 
to the bay, which had originally been bought by his 
father during the New York cholera epidemic of 1837. 
In addition, the Corne ll heirs still held on to their 
ancient claim, and so no one could secure a clear title 
to the land without settling accounts with them. 
Vernam persisted, aided by his wife Florence, and 
after several years was able to acquire the land that 
now makes up the section they named Arverne. 
According to legend it was Mrs. Vernam who sug-


gested this name w hen she observed her husband's 
signature, "R.Vern," with the last letters, "am," trailing 
off in illegibility. F lorence Vernam a lso had a vision for 
how she wanted the v illage to develop. On a trip to the 
Netherlands she had become enchanted with the 
canals of Amsterdam, and plans were drawn up for a 
waterway simi lar to the Amstel Canal. A right of way 
for the cana l was cleared, but cost estimates were 
high, and eventua lly remnants of the canal were filled 
in and Amstel Boulevard (wh ich is now part of Beach 
Channel Drive) was la id out in its place. 

In 1884, w ith four other investors, Vernam incorpo-
rated the Ocean Front Improvement Company, with 
capital stock of $500,000 . Among the problems 
Vernam and hi s partners had to solve was the lack of 
access to their property. Early on, they pushed 
through completion of Rockaway Beach Boulevard in 
l 886. At the same ti me their work gangs leveled sand 
dunes, filled in low-lying areas, and marked out the 
first streets. Vernam then took on the Long Island 
Railroad, wh ich had absorbed the old South Side 
Railroad in 1881. The existing tracks ran close to the 
oceanfront and thus cut through what would other-
wise be prime beach resort property. In March 1887 
the railroad agreed to build a new roadbed closer to 
Jamaica Bay, between B.55th and B. l 07th Streets. By 
the next spring 1.6 miles of the new route were com-
pleted, just in time for Vernam's grand opening of his 
new vacation vi ll age. His development company erect-
ed a station at B.66th Street and labeled it Arverne-
Essential to Vernam's plans was the construction of 

a large hote l, which was completed in tim e to open on 
July 1, 1888. Tha t summer fifty building lots were 
so ld fo r an average of $600 each. Gaston Avenue 
(B.66th S treet) a nd La rkin Avenue we re the first ma in 
streets, and it was a round their intersection tha t some 
fin e homes were built. Impressed w ith the potentia l of' 
Rockaway, in 1889 the St raiton family, who gave th eir 
name to what is now B.60th Stree t, incorpora ted 
another real estate venture, the Arverne Improvement 
Company . All during the 1890s lively building activ ity 
continued in Arverne, particula rly in th e western sec-
tions. In September 1895 a proposition to incorpora te 
the vill age was unanimously a pproved by the proper-
ty owners, a nd the name Arve rne-by -t he-Sea was offi-
cia lly adopted. Boundaries for the community, w hich 
held 1,800 res idents, we re desig nated as Edgemere on 
the east a nd B.75th Street on the west. A sma ll loca l 
government was put in place, but thi s vestige of sma ll-
town life was soon swept away. In 1898 the consoli-
dation of New York City saw the entire Rockaway 
peninsula detached from the tow n of H empstead to 
become pa rt of the Fifth Ward of the new borough o f 
The years from 1898 to 19 16 saw Arverne at the 

peak of its prosp eri ty a nd reputa tion . Its promoters 
pointed out the area's proximi ty to t he heart of N ew 
York City, w ith frequent a nd ra pid train se rvice. 
N umerous resor t hotels were buil t, incl uding the 
Colonial (B.64th S treet), Bilbo's Hotel (B.62nd), 
Ave ry 's Inn (B.67th), Hotel M ajestic (B.69th), the 
A tl anti c (B.75th), a nd the S hanley a nd the N autilus, 
both on B.59th Street. The oceanfront boardwalk ra n 
fo r two mil es, te rminating a t B. 59th Stree t, a nd build-
ings we re permitted on only a small section of it. There 
we re a number of restaurants and rec reational fac ili-
ties. The fi rs t theater was built in 1904, on the new 
150-foot pie r opposite B.67th Street. 
D espite a good sta rt the Vernams' hotel did not 

s ha re in the genera l success of the community . 
F inancia l di fficulti es came early on, a nd in M a rch 
1896 a fo reclosure suit led to the appointment of a 
receiver for the hotel a nd t he twelve building lots on 
w hich it stood. Subsequent hearings revealed not only 
that the mortgages exceeded the value of the hote l but 
a lso that the property's income did not cove r payment 
of inte rest a nd fi xed cha rges. In J a nua ry 1899 
Remington Vernam fil ed for bankruptcy, reporting 
lia bilities of $728,040. The approximately 5, 000 build-
ing lots the Ve rnams still owned were used to cover hi s 
debts. In 1903 a N ew York investor, Ig na tz Rosenfe ld , 
bought the hotel a nd spent thousands of dollars to 
improve it. His exp ressed desire was to create in 

Rockaway a strong rival to Atla nt ic C ity, complete 
w it h boa rdwalk and (nongambling) cas ino. He got off 
to a fa irly good sta rt, bu t in 19 11 was forced to fo llow 
Ve rnam into ba nkruptcy. The hote l came closest to 
reali zing the ambitions of its fi1·st two owners after 
Henry Prince boug ht the prope1·ty in 19 15 a nd 
re named it for himself. T he Pri nce attracted ce lebri ties 
such as L illi a n Russe ll , Sophie Tucker, Be ll e Baker, 
th e Dolly Sisters, a nd Mae West. Isadora Duncan a nd 
her famou s dance rs perfo rmed on the beach in fro nt of 
Bilbo's in 1915. O ve ra ll business was good for the 
next two decades, bu t in 1935 th e big old hote l burned 
to the g round . 
Meanw hil e, Remington Ve rnam had not gone qui-

etly from the Rockaway scene. In 1904, w ith fres h 
fin a ncing, he began reclamati on of the la rge tract of 
la nd in Arve rne between t he ra ilroad t racks a nd 
J ama ica Bay. H e named hi s new town Ve rnam Pa rk. 
As was cu stomaiy in Rockaway there we re dispu tes 
over titl e to the land , especia lly around B.5 l st Street. 
Conflicting cla ims pu t fo rward by the Vernams a nd 
the Norton heirs came to a head in 1905, w hen a rmed 
gua rds on both sides dest royed bui ldings a nd fe nces 
on the p roper ty. Court injunctions were issued, but 
both sides resisted a fin a l ,settlement. Then in J uly 
1907, the sixty-fi ve-year-old Ve rnam di ed unexpected -
ly. His son C la rence was more di sposed to come to a n 
agreement, but four years passed before the Nortons 
we re paid $53, 000 fo r their inte rests a nd deve lopment 
cou ld proceed unimpeded. M eantime a Brook ly n 
businessman named Loui s J . Somerv ill e had ta ken 
ove r Vernam Park, cha ng ing its name to Somervi lle 
Pa rk. His company proceeded to grade a nd pave 
streets, install sidewalks, a nd build other ameniti es. 
Before long a communi ty of small to medium-sized 
homes began to esta bli sh itself in t he a rea. In 1920 the 
Somervill e company decided to put up fo r sale a ll the 
p roperty it still held. They subdiv ided the tract o f la nd 
between Amstel Boulevard a nd Banfie ld Street into 
324 building lots a nd a uc ti oned them o ff in July 1920. 
O ver t he years c ity ameniti es we re in sta lled , and 
today the community of one- and two-family homes 
con ti nues to be known as Some rv ill e. 
The Vernam name continued to be important in t he 

life of Arve rne. In October 1916 C lare nce Ve rnam 
sold the last sizable open t ract of la nd in Arve rne-
359 acres on t he bay side - t o a syndicate of investors 
w ho incorporated as t he New York C ity Water front 
Company . They subdivided t he p roperty, some of 
which was fill ed in w ith sand d redged from Jamaica 
Bay, into ove r 6,000 lots . Beginning in 19 17, w ith 
streets laid out a nd sewers install ed, the area became 

ARVERNE "'--' 37 

the site of a number of moderate-cost bunga lows for 
the middle class . 
In the weste rn section of Arve rne there were a lso 

problems over title to the la nd. Between B.53rd a nd 
B.59th Streets was a large tract that in the 1880s had 
been g iven by Judge Donohue of Rockaway to the 
Rev. John C. Drumgoole, founder of the Mission of 
the Immaculate Virgin, a n orphanage on Staten 
Island. Father Drumgoole later added to these hold-
ings . so that the Mission's property extended from 
ocean to bay . Disputes over title to this land reached 
the courts more than once, and each time the decision 
came down in favor of the Mission. Finally, in July 
1899 the Working Boys' Summer Home was dedicat-
ed, occupying a large plot on what is today B.56th 
Street. The home provided a two-week summer vaca-
tion for about fifty boys at a time. This program was 
discontinued du ring World War I, and in the postwar 
real estate boom the land was converted into tracts of 
beach bungalows. 
The battles over real estate in Arverne also involved 

the Long Island Railroad. Because of a dispute with 
Vernam over ownership a nd use of the station that he 
had built on Gaston Ave nue (B.66th Street), begin-
ning in 1892 the rai lroad refused to have its trains stop 
there. Instead, the LIRR built its own station six 
blocks to the east, at Straiton Avenue (B.60th Street). 
The courts finally rendered a decision that required 
trains to stop at both locations. An attempt in 1908 to 
bypass the Gaston Avenue station led to another court 
injunction. That same year a new brick station opened 


at the site, with an island platform accommodating 
both trolley cars a nd railroad trains . 
Fire played a major role in shaping Arve rne as it did 

in other communities on the Rockaway peninsula. 
Among the hotels burned to the ground was Bilbo's, 
on March 27, 1916. One of the most spectacula r 
blazes occurred on June 15, 1922, w hen roughly 150 
structures were destroyed, including te n hotels, a n 
orphanage, and a Coast Guard station. Over 3, 000 
persons became homeless overnight. Yet, Arverne was 
soon rebuilt, reaching another peak in its hi story in 
the years just afte r World War II. A number of 
smaller apartment houses were built for the g rowing 
permanent community -the largest, next to Far 
Rockaway's-i n the postwar period. Two six -story 
structures were particularly prominent. One, on 
B.68th Street, was of Art Deco design, and the other, 
on B.66th Street, was more utilitarian in appearance. 
Arverne's small stores and its many hou ses of worship 
gave an important sense of cohesiveness to the com-
munity. One of the most interesting buildings, Derech 
Emunoh, which followed the design of the Famous 
Touro Synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island,. was at 
its height a spiritua l home to over 2,000 worshippers. 
Along with a large part of Rockaway, especia lly the 

eastern sections, Arverne began to decline in the 
1950s. By the 1970s most of the buildings in Arverne 
between Rockaway Beach Boulevard a nd the board-
walk had been leve led. Amazingly, Derech Emunoh 
still sta nds, symboli zing the spirit of a vib rant Jewish 
communi ty that continues to exist in memory. 

"'-'· 54. In 1888 Remington Vernam published a booklet promoting his 
brand-new vacation development, A.rverne-by-the-Sea. He featured the 
Arverne Hotel in a somewhat ideali zed eng raving, a big, impressive place to 
w hi ch he wanted to attract guests. The booklet a lso promoted the purchase 
of the building lots Vernam a nd his partners were offering for sale in the 
new development. (Emil Luce") 
"'-' 55. Arverne became a successful seas ide resort, as seen in this 1907 
view of Remington Street (B.69th Street), with the Arverne Hotel in the 
right background . At the left, on the corner of Rockaway Beach Boulevard, 
is the Majestic Hotel. Arches have been erected in the middle of the street 
for the coming Baby Parade, a popular event at many resorts in this era. 
(Robert Stonehilf) 



~ 56. Transportation was in p lace for t he new development from its earli est stages. In 
add ition to Long Island Railroad trai ns, trolley cars ran from Far Rockaway through 
Arverne to Hammels and on to Neponsit. On nice days the open cars offered a pleasant 
ride. There were six open trolleys on the line, and they remained in service until 1928. 
However, improvements made in 1910 converted them into something closer to conven-
tional c losed tro ll eys. (Vincent F. Seyfried) 
~ 57. Vernam built a ra ilroad station at B.66th Street in Arverne that defied conven-
tion in its distinct configuration. As it looked in 1908, the building was set diagonally to 
the track, with a square first floor and two dormers attached to a tower that was topped 
by two more dormers. (Vincent F. Seyfried) 


""-' 58. This 1900 photo of the boardwalk looking east from B.69th Street offers a good 
look at turn-of-the-century summer fashions. As usual for th e time, only a few people were 
in bathing suits, a nd fewer st ill were in the water. The hotel at the l e ~ is the Avery, and 
the shadowy bulk in the distance is the Edgemere Hotel. (LV,,be1~ 
""-' 59. Among the first hotels built in Arverne was the oceanfront Germania, opened in 
the 1890s by the proprietor, Herman Mertens. For many prosperous German-American 
families, a vacation stay at this hotel was an important part of their lives . In 1904 the 
Germania burned down, as did the nearby Columbia and Waldorf hotels. (Robert StonehiLL) 

t)otcl ~l·nnnnilt b12 tl1e !:.irn, 

Arverne, N. Y . 

I l · j 
I .. 





r.u 60. The Arverne Pier Theatre was built at the foot of Vernam Avenue (B.67th 
Street) in 1904. The pier itself was about 150 feet long, with room for an indoor theater 
and an outdoor cafe. The entertainment included vaudevi ll e acts as well as short sil ent 
films. This photo was taken in 1911, three years before the entire structure was washed 
away by a storm. 
r.u 61. On the north side of the boardwalk at B.67th Street was the Arverne Pier Danse 
movie palace. The architecture was turn-of-the-century ornate, with classical pilasters and 
a1-ches. (Robert Stonehi!I) 


~ 62. One of the grandest hotels in Rockaway was Colonial Hall, on the ocean at 
B.64th Street. The 30-foot-high pillars added to the imposing look of the exte ri or in this 
1905 photograph . A fire in 1922 damaged part of the building, and in April 1929 the entire 
building burned to the ground. 
~ 63. Colonial Hall is in the left background of this beach and boardwalk postcard 
view, looking east from B.69th Street around 1906. At the time this section of the board-
walk extended only from B.74th Street to B.62nd Street. 


ARVERNE ""-' 43 



~ 64. This rare 1905 photograph of a typical interior of a Rockaway hotel shows the 
Colonial Hall staff gathered in one of the many public rooms. Wicker chairs, wooden 
benches, ornate rugs, and potted palms dominated the decor of th is and most other resort 
hotels. (Robert Stonehi!!) 
~ 65. Another landmark hotel in Arverne was the JVlajestic, built around 1908 at the 
corner of Rockaway Beach Boulevard and B.69th Street. A wrap-around porch and col-
orful awn ings did much to protect the guests from the hot summer sun. A rathskeller was 
in the hotel's basement. (Collection of Vincent E Seyfried) 

r....., 66. A Fourth of July excursion on a horse-drawn carriage was one of the diversions 
offered by hotel managers to thei r g uests. Other amusemen ts included dances, picnics, a nd 
other events considered old fashioned by today's standards. (Vincent F. Seyfried) 
r....., 67. Typical of smaller hotels was the Piermont, on Larkin Place . In this 19 10 photo-
graph the columned entrance overwhelms the modest hote l. The porch is well furnis hed 
with rocking chairs. (CharfeJ H11tte11e11) 




~ 68, 69. After Remington Vernam died in 1907, his 
fam ily sold off much of his property. A tract of 
reclaimed land between Jamaica Bay and the railroad, 
from B.67th Street west to what is now known as 
Vernam Basin, was bought by a developer from 

~ 78. Looking east in thi s turn-of-the-century view from B.68th Street, w here a fo rk 
in the road div ides Larkin Avenue, at right, and Rockaway Beach Boulevard. at leFt. The 
la rge building in the foreground was P.S. 42; afte r World War II the building housed the 
Far Rockaway High School Annex. It remains today as the Addabo Health Center. 
~ 79. The Shore Front Parkway, bui lt in the mid-1930s under the adm inistration of 
New York City Parks Commissioner Robert Moses, ra n from B.73rd Street, as seen in the 
photograph, to B. l 08th Street. Called "the road to nowhere" by local residents, the wide 
highway soon became a barrier between the beachfront and most of the residents . 




Seaside Station 
Rockaway Beach, 


l'orular Priced Hotel 
American & European 


St,·uks, Ch1Jf>R and s,,,, 
FotJ- . ALW~~,.eOO~J :: ,;:; .t~~r~ "'to "11~ th~ ~:p:tite -~C.lll°d ~: t!u 1;•g01-

E y~~r ·y Convenience Provided for Family P n rti cs. 
ltO'la( Yo e1:1A.C~,•lfln4R.R. l.._J.-su, .... FootE+o t .u1bSL.1'~ .. v~ ..... ,.<1Ft.tb~;.;;.:;:::-;,,:~;;;:;:::.;;;; 
a.~c.11:4 w~'T'k"t-A~c" =~~;,:,:_.')~ ~~r,~.r;; ~t";;t,:'-S(>;· :.~·~·. ~~~ k~!~=~.~~;~~~~~ ... ~.~~~~~~~i~ by p .• 1.11 . , '' ' ~"'" 

~ 86, 87. The first school in Rockaway Beach (86) was opened at the northwest corner 
of Rockaway Beach Boulevard and B.94th Street in 1881. The town's first schoolmistress 
was Julia Holland, wife of developer Michael Holland. She had been hired by the Union 
Free School District of the Town of Hempstead in 1878, then taught pupil s in her home for 
her first three years. One of the first New York City schools built in the borough of Queens 
(87) a~er the 1898 consolidation was P.S. 44. Located across the Boulevard from the first 
schoolhouse, it opened in 1901 with 551 pupils. The old building was used a 
magistrate's court and a police station before it was torn down to make way for a new build-
ing for the lOOth police precinct. (FirJt Jchool: QueenJ Boro1~9h Public Lwrary; Courte.Jy 
Rock.away Chamber of Commerce. P.S. 4-1: pootcard view) 

Academy Ave., showing Public School, 
Rockawa}"Beach, N. Y. 





"'-' 88. Rockaway Beach Boulevard, looking east from B.84th Street a round 1908. The 
ocean is one block to the right. Th is is th e heart of the business district, w ith two- a nd 
three-story fram e buildings, mostly stores, offices, restaurants, a nd hoste lri es. At the right 
is Yokel's , one of th e many hotels in the area. (Robert Stonehi!!) 
"'-' 89. Along the Bowery, old O cean Avenue, now the Boardwalk, in 1900. This is the 
old-time Rockaway that lingered in the memori es of those who escaped their small city 
dwellings to catch some of the resort 's fresh a ir and excitement -the beach, the shows, the 
barkers, t he food stands, bathhouses, and of course all the people. Some of these build-
ings were destroyed in a fire that swept through the a rea on May 13, 19 l l. (Queen" 
Borou,9h Puh!ic Library; W'eber photo) 
"'-' 90. Investors in the Rockaway Improvement Company had g ra ndiose pla ns for 
their Rockaway Beach Hotel, also know n as the Imperi a l, w hen they commissioned t hi s 
drawing for th eir le tterhead in 1879 . Construction proceeded on the oceanfro nt from 
B.110th to B.116th Street, but the project was undercapita li zed a nd had financia l prob-
lems from the sta rt. Only a small part of "the biggest hote l in the wo rld " - l , 184 feet long 
and 250 feet wide-was opened to the publi c in 1881. The dereli ct building was finally 
torn down for its lumber in 1889. (Q11ee11d Borough Puh!i.c Library) 






'*" i, 63 

~ 94, 95. The Atlantic Park Hotel at B.75th Street and Rockaway Beach Boulevard 
(94) billed itself as a "wheelmen's rest," to attract bicycle riders to its doors. Cycling 
became a national fad in the 1890s, the decade when this photo was taken. The Atlantic's 
bar (95) was a popular stop in pre-Prohibition Rockaway. Typical of the time was the ele-
gantly carved black walnut bar, with the back-bar mirror and the overhead kerosene 
lamp. (E-x:terwr: Robert StonehiLL. lnterwr: Queend Borough Pubfic Library) 
~ 96. The staff at the Atlantic Park took time from their work to pose for this photo in 
1896. Child labor laws were virtually nonexistent at the time, so cheerful young faces are 
in evidence among the more careworn adults. (Queend Borough PubLic Libra1y) 






~ 97. Another favorite stopping place in turn-of-the-century Rockaway was Charles 
Schilling's Roadhouse at Henry Street (B.102nd Street) and Rockaway Beach Boulevard. The 
building, remodeled but still recognizable, now houses the Irish Circle, a pub. 
~ 98. The Bowery around B.102nd Street, in 1910. In high season this area was packed 
with day-trippers looking for amusement. With fewer people in this photo, probably takene 
early in the morning, the buildings and their signs are more readily visible. The post prices were 
low but so were wages; at this time in the U.S. factory workers earned $11 per week, on aver-
age. The entrance to Morrison's Theatre is on the left side, center. (Robert Sto11ehiLL) 
~ 99. Summer promenaders on the Bowery in 1900, looking west from B.103rd Street. 
Murray's Pavilion can be seen at the far left, and the northwest edge of Wainwright & Smith is 
in the right foreground. (Vincent E Seyji·ieo Collectwn) 


"'-' 100. P hoto taken in 1887 of t he oceanfront at B. l 03rd Street. T hi s is the only 
know n picture of this section before th e great fire of September 20, 1892, wiped out 
a lmost a ll t hese buildings. The long, low building a t th e right is Wainwright & Smith 's 
original bathing pavilion. (Emil Lucell} 
"'-' 101. The aftermath of th e great fire of 1892. Fanned by a stiff b1-eeze from the north-
east a nd fed by th e mostly wood construction in the area, the fire raged virtually out of 
control for days. T n the area of devastation, between B. l 02nd a nd B. l 06th Street, th e 
blaze destroyed nineteen hotel s, three restaurants, a nd numerous casinos, concession 
sta nds, and amusements. (Emd LuccP) 


~ 102. The great fire a lso damaged the Iron Pier at the foot of B.105th Street. The 
pier was one of the longest in the U.S., about 1,300 feet long and 32 feet wide. Though 
its owners were quick to rebuild, the pier never recovered its former popularity. The 
fishing ground advertised at left was at the far end of the pier. At right, a s ign adver-
tised "Special Bill of Fare Today" at Baxter's Restaurant. (Robert Sto11ehdf) 
~ 103. This map s hows Rockaway Beach as it was in 1896. Most of the important 
places are labeled, w ith the heaviest concentration of hotels and sim ilar estab lishments 
on B.102nd and B.103rd Streets. Rockaway Beach Boulevard, the only east-west 
through street, is shown close to t he railroad tracks. The open sand dunes began at 
B.12lst Street. Like a nautical chart, this map has numbers indicating the depth of the 
water at mean low tide. (Queen.I Boro11.r;h Public Library) 

,--~~~~....,.,-------.,,....""'-:-;rr-;--:rnr~.-~~---,...,~~-,,,,,-~~~~--,--:;--..--.~-:n;;-.---,---,, 103 



35 8 


"'-' 104. One of the great boardwalk attractions at the turn of the century was Ye Olde 
M ill , just west of B. l 04th St1-eet. Behind the facade, seen in this 1903 photo, patrons 
stepped into a sma ll boat a nd were taken on a fast, lurching ride down a 2,500-feet- long 
twisting flume that was built to resemble an old-fashioned millrace. (Wehe1) 
"'-' 105, 106. Two postcard views of Seaside Avenue (B. l 03rd Street), around 1914. 
Looking south toward the ocean from Rockaway Beach Bou levard (105), the immigrant 
presence in this area of Rockaway Beach can be seen in the Deutscher BierGarten, in the 
right foreground, and in Healy's, an Irish establi shment, in the background. Beyond the 
Curtis sign, at l e~. is Wainwright & Smith's mammoth beachfront bathing pavi lion . 
Looking north toward Jamaica Bay, in t he distance (106), is a c loser view of the bathing 
pavi li on and its large sign, at right. l n the left foreground is the entrance to t he Au nley 
Carousel. ( view: Robert Stonehi!I. Second v1.ew: QueenJ Borou_qh Puh!ic Library) 
"'-' 107. Interior of Healy's restaurant, 19 l 0. The formal tone of the establi shment is set 
by the staid suits of the men and the extravagant hats of the ladies. The bentwood chairs 
and w hite tab lecloths are typical of turn-of-the-century restaurant decor. (Queen.1 Borough 
Public Li"hrary) 





r..., 108. Wolz's Thriller, at the foot of B. l 04th Street 
and the boardwalk in 1916. This "Always Sa fe " rid e was 
one of the longest-lasting amusements at Seaside, fin a lly 
being torn down in 1937 to make way for a project that 
many in Rockaway felt was a ruinous boondoggle, 
Robert Moses ' Shore Front Parkway. 
~ 109. Along the boardwalk east of B.lOlst Street 
a.roirnd the turn of the century were two favorite beach 
a1nusements, then and now, the carousel and the Ferris 
wheel. (Robert Stonehi!L) 
~ 110. Morrison's Theatre was on the northwest cor-
ner gf the boardwalk and B. l 02nd Street. ln its day, the 


theatre featured such great names as C har li e Chaplin, 
Mae West, and prizefighter-turned vaudeville performer 
James J. Corbett. This postcard view dates from 1912. 
r.._, 111. A 1912 view of the American Music Hall , 
wh ich was on the corner of the Bowery and B. l OS th 
Street and was managed by impresario William Morris. 
It was part ofDeimling's Pavilion, a n entertainment cen-
ter where, as the sign at the left said, "basket parti es" 
were welcome. These convi vial groups brought their 
own food in a pi cnic basket and generally bought drinks 
and other refreshments from the house. (Robert Stonehill) 



Wainwright & Smith 
Dancing Pavilion. 

Rockaway Beach. N. Y. 

11 2 

11 3 

t \~ 
!}_ ' I , 

~ 112, 113. Murray's Dancing Pavilion was part of the Wainwright & Smith com-
plex on the beach. This postcard view (112) around the turn of the century shows the 
ladies in their light-colored, long skirts and the gentlemen in jackets, ties, and straw 
hats. Inside the pavilion (115) , couples gather on the dance floor for the promenade, 
July 4, 1908. The orchestra is against the wall, in the background. (Robert StonehiLL) 

"'-' 114. The vast dining room and bar of Wainwright & Smith's was another great 
attraction. This was clearly a high-class establishment, with substan tial wooden tables 
and chairs that were a cut above those found in most other Rockaway restaurants. 
Among other features of this grand room were the tin ceiling, large mirrors behind the 
bar, and classic co lumns. A combination of gas-jet chandeli ers and electric g lobes sup-
plied the lighting. 
"'-' 115. Wainwright & Smith's Bathing Pavilion was built on pilings that went to 
the water's edge and beyond, depending on the tide. On this hot summer day in 1904, 
most of the people on the beach seem to have no intention of joining the bathers frol-
icking in the surf. Just visible slightly to the left of center is a capped hawker selling 
bananas and peanuts . 

11 4 

11 5 

El I I 

Wainrfgln & Smith's Life Saving Crew, 
Sea Side. Rockaway Beach. N. V. 

I i(Jlt//k\~ 
~.~.;. · ... !-;~· 
' ·1 


"'-' 116. Wainwright & Smith's staff of sturdy lifeguards stood ready to rescue anyone 
caught in the surf. As today, the guards att racted their share of bathing beauties. In fact, 
li feguards were rare at the turn of the century, and so were pictures of them. No lifeguard 
observation towers are in evidence here, but skiffs and life prese1-vers are ready for use. 
(Library of Co11_9reJJ) 
"'-' 117. Not an Olympic-size pool but a good place to cool off for those who chose to 
su it up. As at the beach, most customers were content to watch from the sidelines . 
Nevertheless, the open showers at left attracted many patrons, and Wainwright & Smith's 
"2700 Bath Houses" were steadily occupied on hot summer days. (Robert Stonehi!L) 
"'-' 118. The great storm of February 1920 devastated the Rockaways and toppled 
many buildings, including the Pasadena Hotel at B.86th Street. High tides and surging 
seas pounded the beaches for severa l days and caused major property damage. 
(Underwood;from the Nrn• York Herald) 
"'-' 119. Hammels Junction, 1921. The trolleys ran from the Far Rockaway railroad 
station to this point, where many of the passengers debarked to head for the boardwalk 
and other attractions. The cars then turned and ran on B.84th Street to Rockaway Beach 
Boulevard, where they turned again and headed west to the dunes of Neponsit. Most of 
the men were in their Sunday-best suits and straw skimmers, the ladi es in dresses, hats, 
and high heels. Most of the skirts were still long, but a few were in the latest short fash-
ion. The cars stopped running in 1928. (illfunicipa! ArchiPeJ) 



Roc kaway Beach, N. Y. 


f"'-' 120. George C. Tilyou and L.A. Thompson were 
rivals in Coney Island but became partners in a 
Rockaway Beach venture, a giant oceanfront amuse-
ment complex opened in 1902. At the right is the 
entrance to Tilyou 's Steeplechase Park, at the left is 
the entrance to Thompson's Scenic Railway. Ocean 
Parkway was a two-block- long thoroughfare to the 
boardwalk, with this we lcoming gate at Rockaway 
Beach Boulevard and B.98th Street. 
f"'-' 121, 122. The boardwalk end of Ocean Parkway 
was a busy place during the summer of 1910, the date of 
this postcard view (121). Note the classical bathing fig-


ures that decorated the roof. Inside the am usement cen-
ter, Thompson's scenic railway (122) was one of the main 
attractions. A bit rickety by today's high-tech standards, 
the coaster was decorated with a large mural of a Rocky 
Mountain scene, at left. 
f"'-' 123. The beachfront facade of Rockway's 
Steeplechase amusement complex was about 1,000 feet 
long. This 1919 photo shows three successive stages in 
men's bathing atti re: the long woolen suit to the knees, 
with apron; the somewhat shorter one-piece sui t without 
apron; and the latest fashion, a two-piece suit with belt, 
which gained favor during the 1920s. (Robert Stonehi!L) 



~ 124. The beach had a different look in June 1934, when 
well-known lifeguard "Taps" Cullen kept a sharp eye on 
ocean bathers from his umbrella-covered tower. Wearing one 
of the cut-out suits popular in the 1930s, Cu llen was ready to 
drop down the firehouse-type pole to help any swimmer in 
trouble. The boardwalk in the background, off B. l 02nd 
Street, has many Fewer tourist attractions than it did thirty 
years earlier. 
~ 125. For many summers Wi lliam E. Auer pitched the 
tents for his Steeplechase Camp on the sand at B.97th Street. 
The tents were leased by the month or by the season and 
could accommodate a fami ly. Many had wooden porches in 
front, with Fanciful names to identify one tent from the nel'..'i:. 
This 1912 photograph shows one side of the camp in the 
shadow of the scenic railway, "a spectacular ride." (Robert 
~ 126. Another campground , F. C. Chaffee's tent city off 
B. l 08th Street, opened in 1901 and continued in business 
until 1920. The rents ran from $ 18 to $64 per month and 
included city water and gas connections. Many fam ilies came 
back year after year a nd even planted littl e flower gardens in 
front oF their open-air vacation homes. (CharleJ Huttenen) 
~ 127. Browne's Court, on the boardwalk at B.95th 
Street, offe red eight rows of cottages for rent, each with two 
or three bedrooms, small sitting room, kitchen, and bath. The 
cottages offe1·ed more protection from the elements than the 
tents, but were stuffy and overheated in the summer sun . And 
there was a lways the danger oF fire. This postcard view dates 
from around 1915. 



Wm. E. Auer's Steeplech&!!e Cemp, Ward Ave .. 
Rockaway Beach, L. I. 

Brownes Court looking from the Boardwalk 
Rockaway Beach, N. Y. 


l'-' 128. Louise Court, part of the Hollywood Cottages 
development on Rockaway Beach Boulevard and 
B.lOlst Street, had twenty-eight rental units. The trees, 
shrubs, and other greenery gave the place a cool subur-
ban look. Judging from the length of the skirts, this 
photo was taken during the 1920s. The cottages are 
among the few still standing on the Rockaway peninsu-
la. (Robert Slonehdf) 
l'-' 129. This row of summer homes was built out into 
Jamaica Bay from Java Street, Hammels, around 1912. 
This postcard view shows the west side of the houses, 
with the common walkway giving access to each house . 
"-' 130. The Holland Avenue pier was the property of 


a private association of about thirty clubs and individual 
homeowners who shared the cost of maintaining the 
structure. Among the establishments on the pier were 
two boat clubs, Amity and Woodruff, the Jefferson 
Yacht Club, and the Bayview Hotel. The area was filled 
in during 1923, and the boardwalk is now B.92nd Street. 
l'-' 131. Nearby the Holland Pier was the Jamaica 
Bay Yacht Club, built in the middle of a long pier 
stretching out into Jamaica Bay from B.90th Street. 
The club was founded in 1892 and had a membership of 
about 250. This 1915 photo was taken from the north 
end of the pier, toward the shore. 


Jama.ie4· Bay Yacht Club. 
Holland Station, Rockaway Beach, .N. Y. 



r...., 132. The Monte Carlo, a nightclub built for the prosperous 1920s, was opened 
in 1930 on the bay at B.92nd Street. As the Depression deepen ed , the club was sold 
and renamed the Moulin Rouge by the new owners. The first juke box in the 
Rockaways was installed in the club . (Robert Stonehi!!) 
r...., 133, 134. The oceanside boardwalk at Holland (133) in 1918 was a pleasant 
p lace fo r a stroll or to "take the waters" at Dunn 's Lucerne Baths or t he Holland 
Baths. Just two blocks east, at B.9lst Street, thi s section of the boardwalk came to 
an end at t he Oriental Hotel (15-1), seen in this 1912 postcard view. (Robert StonehiL!) 





"'-' 135-137. Away from the boardwalk 
and other tourist areas, religious institutions 
played an important part in the life of 
Rockaway Beach. Temple Israel (135) was 
built in the shingle style in 1900, on B.84th 
Street just south of the Boulevard. Expanded 
to include a school and social center in 1905, 
the building burned to the ground in 1920. 
Also on B. 84th Street was St. Rose of Lima 
R.C. Church (136), built in 1907 to accom-
modate about 1,000 people.The parish had 
been organized in 1886 in a small wooden 
church. The First Congregational Church 
(137) was founded in 1881 and, after wor-
shipping in several smaller buildings, moved 
to this site on B.94th Street in 1899. 
"'-' 138. Midway between Temple Israel 
and St. Rose of Lima on B.84th Street was 
Magnolia Cottage. The windmill was a 
unique structure in the Rockaways, but the 
"cottage" itself was typical of the dozens 
of boardinghouses that opened in the 
Rockaways around the turn of the century. 
The Victorian look was enhanced by the scal-
loped shingles, decorative half-timbered 
detail in the roof triangles, steepled tower, 
and of course the wrap-around porch. The 
site is now occupied by the St. Rose of Lima 
parochial school. (Char!u Huttenen) 



Mai.:nola t.:ottage, Fair \'iew Ave., 
Hammels Rockllwe} Beach, L. I 





~ 139. Looking east a long Rockaway Beach Boulevard from B.85th Street, about 
1908. The thoroughfare was only about fifty feet wide, leaving little room for vehi-
cles to pass even in an era when automobiles were rare. Most people took the tro ll ey 
car or walked. The Boulevard's handsome red brick paving was ba1·ely able to hold 
up under the vehicu lar traffic that increased year after year. 
~ 140. Looking west along Rockaway Beach Boulevard from B.85th Street, in 
the off-season around 1905. Small stores of a ll kinds lined the street. At the right 
front is Mary Pachinger's Saloon, a favorite watering-hole. The telegraph and cable 
office at the left was a busy place in the days when telephones were relatively rare. 
(Rohert Stonehi!I) 
~ 141. With its private homes nestled beneath shade trees, Rockaway Beach 
Boulevard at B.96th Street in 1912 looked mo1·e like the main street of a small town 
than of a busy beach resort. Two blocks down, on the left, are the towers marking the 
Boulevard entrance to Steeplechase Parle 



~ 142. This view of Rockaways' 
Playland in 1945 also shows a good 
cross section of the heart of Rockaway 
Beach. At the top of the photo is the 
traffic interchange where Cross Bay 
Boulevard enters the peninsu la. The 
viad uct nearby, running from left to 
right, was built by the Long Island 
Railroad in the early 1940s and became 
part of the New York City subway sys-
tem in 1956. The three-story building in 
the upper right-hand corner, which 
looks like it belongs in Manhattan, is a 
New York City police station house . In 
the lower left-hand corner is a tightly 
packed old bungalow colony, and in the 
foreground 1s Shore Front Parkway, 
the highway that Robert Moses 
p lanned to connect the Rockaways with 
Atlantic Beach and points east. (Queerw 
Borough Public Library; courte.:1y Rockaway 

Chamber of Commerce) 
~ 143. Crowds were still enJoymg 
the scene on the midway inside 
Playland, August 3, 1956. The complex 
was the last surving amusement park in 
Rockaway. Increasing expenses and 
slowly dwindling patronage finally 
forced the park to close in 1987. The 
rides and buildings were destroyed or 
sold for salvage, and the large site was 
still vacant at the turn of the new centu-
ry. (Queeno Borough Pu6Lic Library; cour-
te.1y Rockaway Chamber of Commerce) 

~ 144. Keeping up with the times in 
the Nuclear Age, Playland renamed its 
roller coaster the Atom Smasher in the 
1950s. The movie camera in the front 
seat was not usually part of the ride, but 
the expressions on the faces of the rid-
ers were much the same as they had 
been m earlier decades at Playland, 
ranging from delight to terror to resig-
nation . (EmiLLucev) 
~ 145. One of the last Long Island 
Railroad trains out of the Rockaways 
enters the Hammels station in October 
1955. The New York City subway 
trains began running on these tracks in 
June 1956. (Vincent E Seyfried) 



~ 149, 150. The original ra ilroad sta tion on 8. l 16th Street (149) was built for the New 
York, Woodhaven & Rockaway Rail1-oad in 1882. The second floor held the offices of the 
superintendent, dispatcher, and telegrapher and a pri va te suite for the president. The 
evocative photog raph oF th e waiting room and ticket office on the ground fl oor (150) was 
taken in June 1916. This scene was replicated in thousands oF towns across the United 
Sta tes . The potbelly stove, iron and wood benches, and kerosene lamps were probab ly 
there from the beginning. The ceiling-hung electric bulb, phone booths, and newsstand 
belong to the 20th century. A new brick station was built in 19 17. (&r.:terior: Vincent F. 
Seyfl·ier) Collection. interior: PreJhrey photo} 




~ 151. This view of the Rockaway Park station platforms and rail yards - empty now 
but often crowded, especially on weekends and holidays-was taken in 1916 from the 
station window. The Long Island Railroad was enormously important to the growth of 
Rockaway in the resort's early days, as were trolleys like those laid up on tracks at the 
right. In the foreground are the tracks of a turnaround loop used by the Brooklyn Rapid 
Transit cars, w hich ran all the way to the Williamsburgh Bridge. (Pruhrey photo) 
~ 152. Early in the 20th century small gas stations appeared on America's main 
streets. This vintage photograph was taken on the commercial strip of B.116th Street, 
between Rockaway Beach Boulevard and Newport Avenue, around 1920. The curbside 
pump, the tire-filled display window, the uniformed attendant, the straw-hatted customer, 
and the capped truck driver were typical of the times. (Vincent F. Seyfried Collection) 


~ 153. Jamaica Bay was the site of many yacht clubs and other facilities not suited to 
exposure to the ocean. The Rockaway Park Yacht Club and Harbor Inn was at the foot 
of B.117th Street, off Beach Channel Drive. The club was founded in 1915 with ninety-
six members and remained in operation through the 1920s. 
~ 154. At roughly the midpoint of Rockaway Park, on Rockaway Beach Boulevard 
between B. I 20th and B.12lst Streets, is Washington Circle. Around 1900 the surround-
ing neighborhood was built up with substantial year-round houses. 





~ 155. The largest hotel in Rockaway Park 
was the Park Inn, on the boardwalk at B. l l 6th 
Street. This photograph was taken in 1905. 
~ 156. Typical of Rockaway Park's small er 
hote ls and boarding houses was the St. 
Anthony (formerly Mattern House), on 
B.l 13th Street. As pictured in 1916, the build-
ing was far from luxurious, but it served a prac-
tical and worthy purpose: providing a vacation 
at the beach for people of modest income. 
~ 157. The old-fashioned gas lamp at the 
r ight and the electric utility poles in the back-
ground suggest a time of transition between 
two different e ras . This postcard view of 
B. l l 9th Street, looking south toward the 
beach, dates from about ] 918. 
~ 158. The commercial center of Rockaway 
Park, B. l l 6th Street, in 1944. The marquee of 
the Park Theatre advertises a fi lm starring 
Jimmy Durante and the Harry James 
Orchestra, "2 Girls and a Sailor." After a 
decline that began in the 1960s, the street began 
to show signs of a revi val in the 1990s. 




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16 1 

B ELLE H ARBOR "'1 103 

~ 162. An important transporta-
tion link in the early 20th century was 
provided by the troll ey car. The 
Ocean E lectric Railroad ran cars 
from Far Rockaway west to 
Neponsit. Here passengers on 
Newport Avenue, Belle H arbor, 
boarded at the rear door, where the 
conductor collected the five-cent fare 
from each. The billboard at the right 
advertised an "absolute auction sale" 
of 700 Belle Harbor building lots. 
(Vincent R SeyjrieJ Coffecti.on) 
~ 163. New houses line this built-
up section of Newport Avenue in 
1915. Paved streets, wide sidewalks, 
and a ll public uti lities are in place. 
(Vincent R SeyfruiJ Collection) 
~ 164. Hotels were relatively rare l62 
in Belle Harbor because the develop-
ers' a im was to keep the communi ty 
primarily residentia l. T he Belle 
Harbor, seen here in a view from 
August 191 l, was a sma ll , family-
style residential inn that accommo-
dated a limi ted number of summer 
guests. What wou ld otherwise have 
been an ordinary roof lin e was 
enlivened by sets of bracket supports 
divided by arched dormers. (Robert 
~ 165. The stucco a nd tile Hotel 
Commodore was built in 1927, one of 
a few small , elegant establishments 
among the private homes of Belle 
Harbor. The hotel, at the corner of 
Rockaway Beach Bou levard and 
B.127th Street, was torn down in the 
1970s. (Robert StonehiL!) 
~ 166. The Belle Harbor Yacht 
Club on Jamaica Bay between 
B.126th and B.127th Streets was 
founded in 1905. Membership num-
bered 200 by 1908 and 500 by 1920. 
This promotional souvenir showed 
not only the long pier that provided 
dock space for members' boats but 
also views of the rooms inside the 
large clubhouse. The building and its 
pier were demolished during the con-
struction of Beach Channel Drive in 
the 1930s. (Robert StonehiL!) 






"'--' 167. St. Andrew's Protestant Episcopal Church, 
seen in this early postcard view, was established in 1906 
as a mission. In fact, the building bears more than a pass-
ing resemblance to the Spanish missions built in 
California during the 18th century. The land for the 
church, on Rockaway Beach Boulevard and B.l25th 
Street, was donated by the West Rockaway Land 
Company. An adult home now occupies this site. 
"'--' 168. Another religious institution established in 
1906 was the Roman Catholic Church of St. Francis de 
Sales. This building was opened on July 21, 1907, and a 
school and convent were added to the complex six years 
later. The large wooden structure burned to the ground 


106 "'-' BELLE HARBOR 

in 1935, and was replaced two years later by a church 
with brick walls. 
"'--' 169. Most of the homes built in Belle Harbor 
between 1906 and 1917 were large, rambling structures 
with spacious porches and many windows. These "cot-
tages" on Rockaway Beach Boulevard at B.13 lst Street 
are typical of the domestic architecture of the period. 
"'--' 170. By the 1930s Belle Harbor was an established 
year-round residential community. This view, looking 
north on B. l 27th Street from the beach, dates from 
1935. The house styles are as varied in design, height, 
and landscaping as the tastes of their owners. 

BELLE HARBOR ""-' 107 


"'-' 171. Bird's-eye view of Neponsit looking east from the roof of the Neponsit 
Hospital around 1920. Plenty of open land is sti ll available for building. The wide thor-
oughfare with center mall s is Rockaway Beach Boulevard. (Robert Stonehi/L) 
"'-' 172. In 1919 there were on ly two houses on this block of B. l45th Street, looking 
north from Rockaway Beach Boulevard. By the t ime this photo was taken, in 1927, most 
of the lots had been filled with substantial, year-round homes. 
"'-' 173. Small bungalows were the preferred style of building on this block of B. l 47th 
Street near the ocean beach. Th is photo was taken in the late 1920s. (Robert Stonehtlf) 


("'--> 109 NEPONSIT 




110 "'-' NEPONSIT 

~ 174. The Neponsit Realty Company built a number of houses on its property in the 
years before World War l, selling many of them through ads like this one, w hi ch dates 
from January 1913. Seeking the year-round market, the company stated that the 
Rockaway climate was "10 degrees warmer in winter, and 15 degrees cooler in summer 
than that of New York City itself." 
~ 175. The Rockaway climate was a major reason why the Neponsit Tuberculosis 
Hospital was built on the oceanfront in 1918. Like the mountains, the beach offered 
patients clean, cold air for their ravaged lungs. Note the large open balconies and the 
many beds in view. 
~ 176. As an incentive for prospective buyers of building lots in Neponsit, the devel-
opers built and equipped the Neponsit Club, a recreation center for residents of the new 
community. A pier 400 feet long extended into Jamaica Bay from the clubhouse, which 
was at the foot of B. l47th Street. 

NEPONSIT "'--' 111 


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