2003-09-26 / Columnists

Historical Views of the Rockaways

From The Rockaway Museum - Dedicated To The Memory Of Leon S. Locke
Rockaway Beach Visitor Map - 1896
by Emil Lucev, Curator
Historical Views<br />of the Rockaways

Historical Views
of the Rockaways
From The Rockaway Museum
Dedicated To The Memory Of Leon S. Locke
Rockaway Beach Visitor Map - 1896


Some pre-1900 maps of Rockaway Beach and Far Rockaway used Jamaica Bay nautical charts as a base map, and then the publisher added the graphics for a fisherman's map, a real estate promotion map, a peninsula improvement map, a speculation map, or a transportation map. As a result, they were not very accurate, employed straight lines for not so straight streets and boulevards, plus misspelled, miscopied, or guessed at names or definitions!

As an example: Ruliff's Bar became Rieloff's Bar, and today it is Ruler's Bar! - north of Broad Channel.

The partial map of the Rockaway Beach peninsula appearing today in Historical Views covers from Beach 79 Street (Arverne Hygiea Ice Company in West Arverne) then westwards through Hammels, Holland, Seaside, and Rockaway Park at Beach 120 Street circle on Rockaway Beach Boulevard.

The Rockaway Point life saving station is at what is today Beach 129 Street. The black marker line at top left is the Brooklyn/Queens borderline (not in 1896, but 1898) and the Rockaway Park section is outlined - as is Arverne on the extreme right. Both areas were being heavily promoted at this time!

The map appears to have cracked when unfolded (dry and brittle with age) and not placed or taped together exactly. On the beach side, left to right is Rockaway Park (Beach 120 to 109) with the Beach 116 Street railroad station circled.

The New York and Rockaway Beach railroad goes to Beach 84 Street where the track goes to Far Rockaway, or over the bay to Broad Channel proper (not shown). Hammel's Station is circled in the railroad "WYE," as are Holland and Seaside stations. The Beach Channel station, above the Beach Channel swing bridge on the bay trestle, is also circled, with two black squares beside the trestle on the east and west sides. These were located on Long Bar - not shown.

The iron pier is at Beach 105 Street; the Atlas Pavilion at Beach 102 Street; Phillip's Hotel at Beach 92 Street; the West End Hotel at Beach 86 Street; and the St. Leonard Hotel at Beach 78 Street.

On the bay side, the Rockaway Park dock juts into the bay at Beach 116 Street; the Park Water Works at Beach 109 Street; Cable's Seaside House Hotel at Beach 103 Street; the Jamieson - Bond Supply Company dock at Beach 96 Street; Frey's Hotel on Beach 92 Street; Elderthurst Hotel at Beach 87 Street and Hammel's Hotel on Beach 85 Street.

Rockaway Beach Boulevard is straight as an arrow from Beach 88 Street to Beach 109 Street. Actually it was "V" shaped - pointing south - with the center point at Beach 103 Street (old Seaside Avenue). Ocean Avenue (to the right of the iron pier) is shown as dotted lines, which represent a wooden walk. Another wooden walk is shown crossing the boulevard (to the left of Wollenwebber's Pavilion - to the railroad on the north, and a mysterious boulevard on the south). This boulevard is shown going from Beach 102 Street on the east end - to Beach 110 Street on the west end. Changes to Seaside after the great fire of 1892 were reflected on the 1894 atlas of the Rockaways, but not on this map. See what I mean? Perhaps this map was compiled from much earlier Seaside maps (pre-1890).

There was an idea conceived by James S. Remsen and others, in the 1880's, for a Grand Central Boulevard through the Rockaways from the Point to Far Rockaway. This, in my opinion, was a great idea, but other landowners disagreed!

On this map water depths can be seen for ocean and bay - given in feet at low tide (add 4 to 5 feet for high tide). Certain depths below Big Egg Marsh (Broad Channel today) and Little Egg Marsh are not on the chart. Only 23 feet is noted at top right in Broad Channel waterway. Broad Channel goes down to Beach Channel, and the latter goes west to Rockaway inlet. Draining bay currents on the outgoing tide come south, southwest, and then west to Rockaway inlet. If you connect the highest numbers, you will get a good idea of where the deepest channels are. The average depth along Rockaway Beach was about 20 feet. The deepest parts of the bay bottom is where the heaviest scouring takes place on the outgoing tide. The bowls (or deep holes) are on the west sides of the marshes. Picture the waters coming down and hitting the west side of the marshes with force, and then forced to go west (if you will) along the peninsula. The further west, the deeper the scouring! Some dredging of the bay bottom had taken place to fill the bay side of Rockaway Park in 1889.

The waters sweeping downward, and then westward, created bowl shaped shorelines on our peninsula west of Hammels or the railroad trestle. There is slight evidence of bowling on the Arverne and Edgemere Bay shorelines....class dismissed!

In 1814, a report to New York Governor Clinton described Jamaica bay as a tidal flat at low tide, with one navigable channel along the peninsula towards Far Rockaway, Rockaway inlet was just west of Beach 137 Street - and was a half-mile wide...north to south!


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