2001-04-14 / Columnists

Roche’s Beach, Far Rockaway 1908-1963

Roche’s Beach, Far Rockaway 1908-1963

Roche’s Beach, Far Rockaway 1908-1963

Roche’s Beach, Far Rockaway


By Emil Lucev

Roche’s Beach succeeded Caffrey’s Beach in 1908. Edward Roche was the son and heir of David Roche, a Far Rockaway pioneer with vast real estate holding and hotels (the Dolphin, the Tackapoosha) on Seagirt Boulevard (the old South Street) near Beach 17 Street—on the north side of South Street. Roche was also in the construction business (buildings and roads). Roche’s Beach, like Caffrey’s, was a private beach extending from about Beach 20 Street to Beach 16 Street. In the same year (1908), Ostend Beach was constructed to the East of that beach. Those joined with Simmis Beach, Coronada Beach, Tackapoosha Beach, Kaiser’s Beach and Berry Beach in the area East to Beach First Street along the Far Rockaway oceanfront.

The boardwalk that was built along the Rockaway oceanfront from 1926-1930 ended at Roche’s Beach. Roche and the owners of the beaches to the East did now want a public ocean promenade in front of their private beaches. The boardwalk was to end at Beach First Street nearby the Nassau County line. Roche and the other staunchly believed in their riparian rights, fought and won.

Edward Roche died without an heir and 1931 and his estate went to the state and city government. The city leased the premises as it did later on with Ostend Beach (Roche’s and Ostend Beaches were listed as late as 1945-46).

In the years after WW II, the many improvements along the seashore made until the late 1900’s – from Edgepierre’s East End down to Beach 3 Street –phased out most of the private beaches in Far Rockaway.

Since 1937, title to the beachfront has been vested in the City of New York, from Beach 9 Street to Beach 149 Street. Riis Park Beach became the property of the city before WW I.

Improvements made were Wavecrest Gardens Apartments, along Seagirt Boulevard – Edgemere to the Atlantic Beach Bridge, street changes all around, municipal parking lots near the beach, hi-rise apartment construction near the beachfront south of Seagirt Boulevard, new approaches to the Atlantic Beach Bridge, a concrete promenade from the boardwalk’s end to Beach 9 Street.

Fires also damaged Roche’s and Ostend Beaches at times, even under city ownership.

The remnants of Roche’s and Ostend Beaches were razed in 1963 to build the present O’Donohue Park.

Today’s historical view was taken from a picture post card mailed in 1936 and in a photo taken in 1927. The place looks basically the same in both pictures except for the jetty and groin construction done by Roche and later the city.

Besides a large beach, Roche’s had 2,000 bath houses, chair and umbrella rentals, refreshments and cigar booths, shower baths, a manicuring service, hot salt water baths, tennis and handball courts and a very large parking lot off South Street, which was several blocks long. Later, South Street became Seagirt Avenue and is now Seagirt Boulevard.

The Jamaica Bus Line also ran buses to Far Rockaway and Roche’s Beach from the subway at Jamaica at no extra fare.

There was fun for the kids, with slides, chutes, climbing towers and seesaws.

Under the direction of a athletic director, adults had volleyball, ping pong, beach tennis, calisthenics and baseball. Sports equipment was free. Individual and family dressing rooms were available for $7.50 for the season and up.

Roche’s Beach also featured the exclusive Colony Club and the membership was $30 per season. The club was at the foot of Beach 19 Street, on the left in the photo. Beach 17 Street is on the right.

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