2004-03-12 / Columnists

Historical Views of the Rockaways

From The Rockaway Museum
by Emil Lucev, Curator
Dedicated To The Memory Of Leon S. Locke

Historical Views
of the Rockaways
by Emil Lucev, Curator
Dedicated To The Memory Of Leon S. Locke
Roxbury’s Landing, Rockaway Point – Circa 1905

In the year 1900, John Lott of Brooklyn issued a lease to John Rox bury of Rockaway Park (who was manager/proprietor of a hotel there) for a strip of beach at Rock away Point. The strip was from ocean to bay, 55 feet wide and 3409 feet in length, on a north/south line.

Roxbury built a hotel and dock on the bay end of his leased land facing Rockaway Inlet.

About a quarter mile to the east, Roxbury was joined by a neighbor named Warren, who also built a hotel and dock on the Inlet. Along with a few others, who also leased Point land from the Brooklyn owners nearby Roxbury, the present Roxbury section of the Rockaway Peninsula began.

The ownership of Rockaway Point land was disputed since 1809, when the Cornell Partition divided the Peninsula amongst the heirs of Patriarch Richard Cornell – our first settler – on the Rockaway Neck, as it was called. Plot #1 of the west division began at old Beach 88 Street, the line which divides the Hammels and Holland Sections of the Penin sula today, and extended westward towards Beach 116 Street (so says corporation counsel of New York City) as a long thin and constantly changing sand bar.

But in reality, the true point of the Rockaway Peninsula, from the area aforementioned as plot #1 – western division, moved to the west slowly, by the process of natural accretion or littoral (sand) drift – and grew and grew and grew. As this process continued, the Rockaway Inlet moved westward also, and in turn, washed away any sand accumulation to the west of the moving inlet.

One such vast sand island was Bar ren Island (the remnant of which today is known as Floyd Ben nett Field in Brooklyn) which once extended east to about Beach 110 Street in 1776, and well to the south also into the sea.

As the peninsula approached the Roxbury area of today (in the late 1870’s) the dozen or so owners of Barren Island land (which was now land underwater in Rockaway Inlet) continued their lines southward to the ocean shore, over and across Rox bury, which was the point area at the time, and claimed ownership as did many others.

A dozen or so court were ongoing at the time, which was evolved around two more partition suits – and the debt owed by the owners of the defunct big hotel at Rockaway Park (torn down in 1889 for the de velopment of Rockaway Park.)

By the late 1890’s settlement of Point ownership was almost complete, until the Brooklyn claimants of Point property ownership (who paid their taxes in Kings County) now had to – due to greater New York incorporation putting the Point land in Queens County – go to Queens to pay up. When they did, they found out that taxes were paid by an Andrew K. Vandeventer and the Union-Pacific Railroad (later Rockaway-Pacific company.)

Contention between Vandeventer and the Brooklyn group (Clapp, Whitcomb, Lott, Ditmas, Vander veer and Gescheidt) plus the City of New York, lasted until 1909 when Vanderventer was declared the owner of record by the United States Circuit Court, Eastern District of New York.

All the lessee’s at the Point breath ed a sigh of relief85 as the musical lease episode (if you will) was over.

When Andrew K. Vanderventer claimed the Point in 1902 – John Roxbury took a lease from him – canceling his lease from John Lott of Brooklyn.

John Roxbury died in 1903, and in the following year his wife Minnie signed a new lease from Vander venter for a lot of 100’ x 250’ x 100’ x 250’ – and kept on in the hotel at the point.

Other than a John Roxbury mentioned in a Point one-liner in The Wave (probably a son) in June 1912, biographical information on the Rox bury’s is rare. Can anyone fill in the blanks?

By 1912, there were 29 structures and two docks in Roxbury. In 1926 a chart showed 150 plus buildings and a high water supply tower for the Pointers. At present Roxbury is part of the Breezy Point Co-Operative, a triumvirate (if you will) of Rockaway Point’s old settlements of Rockaway Point, Breezy Point and Roxbury. Fort Tilden is a neighbor to the south, the Coast Guard to the east, and Gateway Park to the west and south.

Today’s View of Roxbury’s Land ing, circa 1905, has been horribly touched up – and used for reproduction to save money – as was the case in the old days. However, it is very rare and historically worth its’ weight in Historical Views.

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