Historical Views of the Rockaways
The Fantastic And Fanatical Years Of 1925 And 1926
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!
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:
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!