The entrance to Rockaways' Playland in the 1960s, one of the more nostalgic reminders of an era in the Rockaways gone by. (Image courtesy the blog Sand In Your Shoes)
PODCAST The Rockaways are a world unto its own, a former resort destination with miles of beach facing into the Atlantic Ocean, a collection of diverse neighborhoods and a truly quirky history.
Retaining a variant of its original Lenape name, the peninsula remained relatively peaceful in the early years of New York history, aland holding of the ancestral family of a famous upstate New York university.
The Marine Pavilion, a luxury spa-like lodging which arrived in 1833 featuring the new trend of 'sea bathing', opened up vast opportunities for recreation on the peninsula, and soon Rockaway Beach was dotted with dozens of hotels, thousands of daytrippers and a even a famous amusement park.
Not even the fiasco known as the Rockaway Beach Hotel could drive away those seeking recreation here, including a huge population of Irish immigrants who helped define the unique spirit of the Rockaways.
The 20th century brought Robert Moses and his usual brand of reinvention, setting up the Rockaways for an uncertain century of decreased tourism, urban blight and uncommon solutions to preserve its unique identity.
FEATURING: Pirate attacks, an inferno in Irishtown, the Cabaret de la Morte, and the legend of Hog Island, New York's very own Atlantis!
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The Bowery Boys: Rockaway Beach
Next Week: Some books, additional resources, a couple more pictures and some more stories left out of this week's podcast.
A zoning map of the Jamaica Bay region from 1937, featuring the Rockaway peninsula. A few interesting things to note about this, including: 1) no Idlewild Airport at this time, but Floyd Bennett Field was still in operation, 2) Rockaway Beach Improvement, 3) Everything west of Jacob Riis Park is basically ignored. [source]
The Marine Pavilion, the first significant resort destination in the Rockaways, introduced the notion of sea bathing to New Yorkers and attracted famous writers and actors to this peaceful area. [Courtesy Rockaway Memories]
This is not an image from the Rockaways, but 'bathing machines' like these were most certainly used in the early days of Rockaway Beach.
A couple examples of hotels that once filled the peninsula during the late 19th century, early 20th century, the Woodburgh House (at top) from 1870, the Kuloff (at bottom) from 1903.
The boardwalk from 1903 in front of or near a section of Steeplechase Park, I believe, judging from the mini-railroad tracks along the side. [source]
Along Seaside Avenue, possibly depicting an area of 'Irishtown', in 1903, rebuilt after a devastating fire the decade previous.
The bungalows of Rockaway. (Courtesy Library of Congress)
The 1950s began a long era of difficulties for the Rockaways, but you wouldn't know it from this summertime Life Magazine photo from 1956. Click into the image to inspect some of the interesting and long-vanished shops and amusements along the boardwalk.
This almost-ghostly skeleton of a high-rise housing development never built stood for years as the residents of neighboring Breezy Point successfully fought to kill that project and other intrusive plans by the city in the late 1960s. Picture courtesy Arthur Tress/US National Archives.
The mysterious remains of old Fort Tilden, now part of the Gateway Recreation Area and completely taken over by nature. For many more pictures of this area, please visit our Facebook page and check out my photo album on the ruins of Fort Tilden.
And, what posting about the Rockaways would be complete without: