2003-04-19 / Columnists

Historical Views of the Rockaways

From The Rockaway Museum Dedicated To The Memory Of Leon S. Locke Picture From The Attic By Denise Brunner
By Emil Lucev, Curator
Historical Views of the Rockaways From The Rockaway Museum by Emil Lucev, Curator Dedicated To The Memory Of Leon S. Locke Picture From The Attic By Denise Brunner

Historical Views of the Rockaways
From The Rockaway Museum
Dedicated To The Memory Of Leon S. Locke
By Emil Lucev, Curator

Picture From The Attic By Denise Brunner


Today's Historical View is another 1894 photo of Seaside taken two years after the Great Fire(s) of September 1892.

It took about four years for the Seaside section to fully recover, but by 1894 it was well on its way back after the great holocaust, which claimed all the buildings except the Seaside house in the photo) between Beach 106 Street (Centre Avenue) and Beach 102 Street (Henry Street).

Seaside house had suffered it's own damaging fire several days before the great fire. During the fire, volunteer fire companies were coming to Rockaway by railroad, and using the Seaside house and railroad station as headquarters and rallying site!

That is why the two sites survived the fire, They were well watered down by all the responding firefighters!


The railroad tracks are to the right, and Jamaica Bay is to the left behind the trees. Beside the Seaside house is Seaside/Remsen Avenue (Beach 103 Street). The main Seaside docks are also behind the line of trees.

The plank roadway in the foreground is old Conway Street, now Pier Avenue (Beach 105 Street). At the left or bay end is the Canarsie Boat dock, and at the right or beach end is the great iron pier.

Around the camera (left rear right) 26 hotels had been rebuilt, one school, two Ferris wheels, two early roller coasters, several bathhouses along the beachfront and dozens of catch penny amusements.

The tubular framework shown is for one of the many canvas covered pavilions scattered throughout the Seaside section directly behind the camera is where the new Rockaway Beach electric company was built; for the new fangled thing called electricity!

Fire wreckage and burned/charred building foundations fill the lower middle portion of the photo, and workmen can be seen clearing the area at left center. They are doing the preparatory work for the construction of a mammoth water ride called "Shoot the Chutes" (see Historical Views of June 12, 1993).

On the left the foundation for a 78-foot high tower is being prepared by Beach 105 Street (Pier Avenue). Next to the Seaside hotel a 270-foot long lake was being dug out. To connect the two, a 290-foot down ramp was to be built. For the price of a nickel, riders were taken to the top of the tower where they were loaded into special chute boats (like military assault boats), and then they traveled down the watery chute into the manmade lake at high speed. The chutes opened for the 1896 season and were an instant success.

The Seaside Hotel, for the 1896 season, was rebuilt with five stories of height and "L" shaped - the added section on the east side facing the bay. At the crux of the "L" shape was a seven and one half story tower.

Seaside rose from its ashes to become better than ever. Another disastrous fire struck in 1902. But better water pressure and firefighting techniques averted a repetition of 1892.

An interesting revelation came up recently about several passenger streamers arriving in the New York bight with cholera (a most dreaded sickness in the old days) aboard! Efforts were underway to get these people off the boats, which were anchored in a spot today known as the cholera banks, outside of New York Harbor.

At Fire Island the boats were driven off by armed citizens who saturated the docks with guns pointed at the approaching boats. The well-to-do concerned citizens of New York City (concerned about their brethren on the boats) put pressure on officials to land the sick somewhere, but not in the city proper. The closest site to the cholera banks was the great iron pier at Seaside! The boats involved were the Moravia, the Scandia, the Rugia, and the Normannia.

The need for a landing site and a quarantine hospice was slowly becoming a desperate need. Mysteriously, the whole Seaside section went up in flames! Could it have been that the authorities were thinking of landing cholera boats at Seaside and turning the place into a quarantined area?

What a stigma that would have put on the following season for Seaside Hotel owners and others! There was, on average, 800 souls aboard each ship, with more vessels from Europe on the way - and Hoffman plus Swinburne Islands in the lower New York Bay, were not big enough quarantine stations to handle all the sick. Provisions were made at Sandy Hook, New Jersey for a quarantine camp. An old ship was quickly refitted and sent out to take healthy souls off the stricken vessels.

The militia was called out to Fire Island to break up the mob preventing ships from landing the sick there.

And Seaside fires of September of 1892 did not occur until after the militia was called out to Fire Island in Suffolk County, Long Island.

The incident is still under investigation by yours truly. If anyone can help, drop me a line!


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