2003-08-22 / Columnists

Historical Views of the Rockaways

From The Rockaway MuseumDedicated To The Memory Of Leon S. Locke
The Fantastic And Fanatical Years Of 1925 And 1926
by Emil Lucev, Curator
Historical Views

Historical Views
of the Rockaways
From The Rockaway Museum
Dedicated To The Memory Of Leon S. Locke
The Fantastic And Fanatical Years Of 1925 And 1926


As the Crossbay Road to Rockaway Beach neared completion, and the final plans for an ocean boardwalk and a rebuilt city beach were etched in concrete and wood…. real estate madness struck the peninsula!

The new improvements stimulated property sales to the point that Beach 116 Street became a real estate curb market. All sorts of agents were feverishly working the street on sidewalk offices, and the money of many investors caused a great enthusiasm. Realty offices, both in and outside, kept long hours into the night. Buying was said to be at a breathless pace, and Edgemere was said to be another curb market, for both structures and land. Hundreds of thousands of dollars were made by rapid turnovers. The real possibilities of the Rockaways awakened many capitalists, who were said to be shelling out $3,500 per front foot on Beach 116 Street alone. Some Florida investors were here, and the Rockaway room was written about in Paris and Berlin newspapers! Old landmarks were being sold at prices that were unheard of just a few years before! Deals were said to be above the fifty million mark with properties being sold over and over! Local and city newspapers were saying that the madness should stop and things come back to reality…. without consequence to harm the Rockaways!

The old price for lots, 3-5 hundred dollars, was now 3-5 thousand dollars! Oceanfront lots were going for $50,000 apiece, and more for certain locations. Also, many new structures were projected; apartment houses, hotels, restaurants, ocean and bay piers, and large capacity theaters. Taxes were projected to jump as much as one thousand percent, rents would increase, and many asked if local businesses could afford this. The north bay community of Howard Beach was also reported to be catching the fever!

The infant Rockaway Chamber of Commerce organization was advising all to use locally known realties and lawyers for their transactions, but to no avail. Such was the real estate fever! Nobody wanted to miss out!


• News item: Yankees pitcher Jeff Weav­er was listed on the Internet auction site eBay this week by a fan who went by the user ID ‘freerangeveal’.  It’s kind of surprising that the Oakland Athletics, under computer-savvy assistant GM Paul DePodes­ta, haven’t taken to this approach to unload players.  It’s brilliant: displaying a fitting photograph of a frustrated Weaver attempting to eat his glove, Mr. Free Range Veal was offering up the hurler in “fair-to-good condition; hardly used.” Although the listing acknowledged that the righthander showed minor wear, a main selling point was that Weaver’s golden blond hair was “freshly feathered.” There was a catch, however. The text warned that Weaver’s talent was not included in the auction, as that may be located in Detroit, and that the seller would only ship to Boston – a dig at former Yankee Ramiro Mendoza’s struggles in Beantown.  “Acquired by mistake in an attempt to keep him from wearing red socks,” the listing read.  The bidding reached over $99 million before being shut down by the service, which cited a policy that you can’t sell human beings. Makes sense to us. • Count Colorado Rockies outfielder Jay Payton among those who believe that ESPN ‘Baseball Tonight’ analyst Bobby Valentine is just killing time with his current place of employment. Asked if he believes his old manager Valentine will resurface in uniform next season, Pay­ton replied, “I’m sure he will, if he wants (a job). At the end of the season, there’s usually five or six openings, and I’m sure if he puts his name in, he’ll get one of them.”  Valentine, who was fired by the Mets last October, is still collecting part of a $2.9 million paycheck from a contract that ex­pires after this sea­son. He had reportedly been offered a bench coach job with the Cincin­nati Reds before this season, which would have probably become a managing gig when the Reds dismissed Bob Boone last month. “He’s very knowledgeable, and he knows the game very well,” Payton said. “For some reason, there’s a lot of animosity out there against him, but if he gets a job somewhere, he’ll definitely help a team. He knows the game as well as anyone.” • When the Yankees ripped Kansas City’s Jose Lima for six runs in four innings on Monday night, the loud-mouthed Lima – who began this season playing with Rickey Hender­son on the Newark Bears in an independent league – opined that “somebody’s going to pay the price. I don’t know who, but some­body’s going to pay.” Lima must have decided later that the home crowd at Yankee Stadium wasn’t to blame for his poor performance, because the next evening, Lima spent over an hour actually in the seat­ing area down the left-field line. Signing autographs and posing for pictures with fans, Lima was obviously enjoying the experience of basking once more in the adoration of real, live MLB patrons. At one point, an NYPD officer asked aloud, “What time is it?” The Royals righthander, who is 7-1 since returning to the major leagues, responded, “It’s Lima time!”  • From the very cool department: Roger Clemens steadfastly maintains that this is his last season in the big leagues, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll never see the Rocket pitch again. Clemens confirmed to the New York Times this week that he’s seriously entertaining the notion of taking the mound for Team USA in the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece. He turned 41 on Aug. 4th, but that hasn’t seemed to slow him a bit. “There are a lot of things on my plate, but that happens to be one of them,” Clemens told the Times. “So we’ll see.” Clemens has been in a patriotic frame of mind ever since he accompanied servicemen on a tour of the Persian Gulf over the winter, an experience he ranked right up there with any of his playing career. • Actually overheard from a mother and a daughter tandem at Yankee Sta­dium on Tuesday, August 19, as YES Net­work broadcaster Paul O’Neill was being shown on DiamondVision: “Look at those eyes. He’s so cute. Does he still play?”  Yes, ladies. O’Neill is still an active major-leaguer. That’s why he’s on the press level, in a shirt and tie, with a microphone in his hand. • Legendary New York Mets broadcaster Ralph Kiner, on the thin air of Colorado’s Coors Field: “The ball travels 11 percent farther at Coors, so if you hit a ball 300 feet, it goes 311.” Bryan Hoch can be contacted at bryanhoch@yahoo.com.• News item: Yankees pitcher Jeff Weav­er was listed on the Internet auction site eBay this week by a fan who went by the user ID ‘freerangeveal’. It’s kind of surprising that the Oakland Athletics, under computer-savvy assistant GM Paul DePodes­ta, haven’t taken to this approach to unload players. It’s brilliant: displaying a fitting photograph of a frustrated Weaver attempting to eat his glove, Mr. Free Range Veal was offering up the hurler in “fair-to-good condition; hardly used.” Although the listing acknowledged that the righthander showed minor wear, a main selling point was that Weaver’s golden blond hair was “freshly feathered.” There was a catch, however. The text warned that Weaver’s talent was not included in the auction, as that may be located in Detroit, and that the seller would only ship to Boston – a dig at former Yankee Ramiro Mendoza’s struggles in Beantown. “Acquired by mistake in an attempt to keep him from wearing red socks,” the listing read. The bidding reached over $99 million before being shut down by the service, which cited a policy that you can’t sell human beings. Makes sense to us. • Count Colorado Rockies outfielder Jay Payton among those who believe that ESPN ‘Baseball Tonight’ analyst Bobby Valentine is just killing time with his current place of employment. Asked if he believes his old manager Valentine will resurface in uniform next season, Pay­ton replied, “I’m sure he will, if he wants (a job). At the end of the season, there’s usually five or six openings, and I’m sure if he puts his name in, he’ll get one of them.” Valentine, who was fired by the Mets last October, is still collecting part of a $2.9 million paycheck from a contract that ex­pires after this sea­son. He had reportedly been offered a bench coach job with the Cincin­nati Reds before this season, which would have probably become a managing gig when the Reds dismissed Bob Boone last month. “He’s very knowledgeable, and he knows the game very well,” Payton said. “For some reason, there’s a lot of animosity out there against him, but if he gets a job somewhere, he’ll definitely help a team. He knows the game as well as anyone.” • When the Yankees ripped Kansas City’s Jose Lima for six runs in four innings on Monday night, the loud-mouthed Lima – who began this season playing with Rickey Hender­son on the Newark Bears in an independent league – opined that “somebody’s going to pay the price. I don’t know who, but some­body’s going to pay.” Lima must have decided later that the home crowd at Yankee Stadium wasn’t to blame for his poor performance, because the next evening, Lima spent over an hour actually in the seat­ing area down the left-field line. Signing autographs and posing for pictures with fans, Lima was obviously enjoying the experience of basking once more in the adoration of real, live MLB patrons. At one point, an NYPD officer asked aloud, “What time is it?” The Royals righthander, who is 7-1 since returning to the major leagues, responded, “It’s Lima time!” • From the very cool department: Roger Clemens steadfastly maintains that this is his last season in the big leagues, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll never see the Rocket pitch again. Clemens confirmed to the New York Times this week that he’s seriously entertaining the notion of taking the mound for Team USA in the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece. He turned 41 on Aug. 4th, but that hasn’t seemed to slow him a bit. “There are a lot of things on my plate, but that happens to be one of them,” Clemens told the Times. “So we’ll see.” Clemens has been in a patriotic frame of mind ever since he accompanied servicemen on a tour of the Persian Gulf over the winter, an experience he ranked right up there with any of his playing career. • Actually overheard from a mother and a daughter tandem at Yankee Sta­dium on Tuesday, August 19, as YES Net­work broadcaster Paul O’Neill was being shown on DiamondVision: “Look at those eyes. He’s so cute. Does he still play?” Yes, ladies. O’Neill is still an active major-leaguer. That’s why he’s on the press level, in a shirt and tie, with a microphone in his hand. • Legendary New York Mets broadcaster Ralph Kiner, on the thin air of Colorado’s Coors Field: “The ball travels 11 percent farther at Coors, so if you hit a ball 300 feet, it goes 311.” Bryan Hoch can be contacted at bryanhoch@yahoo.com.

While the first spike went in for the boardwalk and the new beach was being constructed, Crossbay Road was being cleansed of construction debris. Windblown sands from the dried out causeway fill caused Sahara desert-like sandstorms and dune building on the road, long before its completion and opening late in 1925. Beach Channel Drive to the east and west of the Crossbay Bridge was also being worked on, and all the Rockaways were celebrating the improvements. That is, except Edward Roche of Far Rockaway. Roche stated that in no way would a city–built boardwalk cross his beach property! Guess what! It didn’t until after his death in the mid-1930’s!

The Flatbush extension had been completed and the new municipal ferry to the west end at Beach 169 Street was about ready to begin crossing Rockaway inlet. A ferry stop was planned for Beach 129 Street on the bay, but the section didn’t want it, stating that Belle Harbor was a residential area, not an amusement one. They won out also!

The new beach, being filled in with sand dredged from the bay bottom stunk to high heaven…. the words of Edgemere residents, and there was talk of an Ocean Road from Neponsit to the Hamptons.

Here are some of the abhorrent sales that took place during the late months of 1925. Historical View diehards will recognize the old names of people and places mentioned. Prices were in 1925 dollars – for the record:


Jeff Weaver winces after giving up a run in the Yankees 11-0 loss to the Royals on August 13. Weaver is rumor­ed to be sent to Columbus. AP/Orlin WagnerJeff Weaver winces after giving up a run in the Yankees 11-0 loss to the Royals on August 13. Weaver is rumor­ed to be sent to Columbus. AP/Orlin Wagner

The Jack Rabbit Rollercoaster on Beach 99 Street, $1,250,000.

Morrison’s Theatre in Seaside, $1 million.

Krueger’s Boarding House in Arverne on the ocean, $236,000 from $80,000. Edgemere Plot from $25,000 to $700,000.

Rogers Brothers refused $500,000 for their 116 Street Hotel. $450,000 for the Park Movie Theatre was refused.

$700,000 offered for the Park Inn Baths. Harbor Inn owners refused a giant offer.

Oceanview Hotel and Cottage sold for $250,000.

Auer’s property on Beach 97 Street sold for $400,000.

24 bungalows on Beach 53 Street for $100,000.

Two lots, 100’ x 100’ on 97 and 98 Streets for $140,000 each.

Rogers building and garage (the present Wave building and 88 Street garage) sold for $150,000.

24 lots at Beach 141 Street from $50,000 to $100,000.

Triton baths at Beach 92 Street for $175,000.

Arverne sales reached $2.5 million. Lots sold in Somerville for $759, resold for $1,100 dollars. Three oceanfronts between Beach 51 and Beach 53 Streets sold for $175,000, $200,000 and $210,000 respectively.

Seaman’s Hotel on old Beach 88 Street for $35,000.

Lot at Beach 96 Street and the ocean for $150,000, resold for $250,000.

Colonial Hotel, Arverne, $365,000.

Ambassador Hotel, Arverne, $145,000.

Lot on Beach 84 Street, $17,000.

Three lots Beach 137 Street and the Boulevard for $12,000. Minutes later $15,000.

Oriental Hotel, Beach 90 Street and the ocean, $20,000 to $150,000.

Lot, corner of Beach 75 Street and the Boulevard for $65,000.

Newport Inn sold for $65,000. New owner wants $90,000.

Ariston Hotel on Beach 116 Street, $60,000 to $100,000.

18 lots on Beach 84 Street for $100,000. Hotel to go up and a bathhouse.

Offer made for Rockaway Beach Hospital; to convert to a factory.

$1 million offered for the Arverne/ Prince Hotel on Beach 69 Street near the ocean.

The Wave reported that hundreds more unreported deals were made during the buy/sell craze created by the Rockaway improvements. It was said that a lot of people who got stuck, will not be able to take title to their Rockaway property, because they dealt with men who came here overnight and opened offices in their hats on the sidewalks, not caring to deal with, or consult with legitimate brokers. Many old-timers have verified this feeding frenzy on realty in 1925. Anybody in Waveland who wishes to write us and tell us about "the sting of 1925?"

Anyway, the Crossbay Road opened officially in October of 1925, with an entourage of officials in their vehicles, and this is pictured in Historical Views today. The west end ferry from Brooklyn also opened to the public. Shown today is the traffic circle at the Rockaway Beach landfill at Beach 95 Street. The line of official cars is just entering the circle, with the police on hand to direct traffic.

Not everybody was happy about the coming of Crossbay and the so-called nickel crowd from the city. Some fishing clubs moved out of the bridge area, and the new year of 1926 brought fire after fire to the Rockaways. Owners were telling stories about the boom and all the deals that did not go through, and titles that did not pass. The Wave reported that about two thirds of all the deals went through in the summer of 1925. There was little about the deals that went bust! Perhaps someone can clear the air for us on these flops!

When the season of 1926 opened with the first official season for the Crossbay Road and the Flatbush ferry, all was not as well as it seemed!

Some said the Rockaways were now at the top of the world. But you could not tell that by the remarks written up in The Wave in July of 1926. The stories (not printed on page one, by the way) told of gloom and doom! The Wave article reproduced today gives opinions of various businessmen here at the time. You will enjoy reading it.

In closing, let me say this, with the opening of Crossbay, the Flatbush ferry and the new beach… the city of New York had just begun to wrap its tentacles around the peninsula. As we of Historical View know, the best was yet to come!


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