2004-08-13 / Columnists

Historical Views of the Rockaways

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

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

Shortly before, and shortly after the year 1900, Rockaway Point sands were claimed by three different owners.

Isaac E. Gates of East Orange, New Jersey, Julien Lott et al from Brooklyn and Andrew K. Vandeventer, President of the Southern Pacific Railway all had some sort of court papers, maps and deeds to the then point of the Rockaway Peninsula.

Gates had purchased the point from another after a sheriff’s sale; Lott et al had substantial holdings on Barren Island, which was washed away and replaced by the Rockaway peninsula and still continued their property lines southerly across the Rockaway Inlet and the Rockaway peninsula to the sea; and Andrew K. Vandeventer bought the point from the wife of the deceased Collis P. Huntington, who was President of the Union Pacific Railway, now the Southern Pacific Railway. Huntington had taken possession as a result of a judgment from the courts, from his case against the owners of the failed Big Hotel in Rockaway Park – to which he had lent large sums of money in the early 1880’s.

Vandeventer was declared the rightful owner by the courts in 1903, but had to fight further in the courts until he got a final decree in 1909. Even New York City laid claim to the point after the city had gained title to Barren Island from Lott et al in Brooklyn. City ownership was claimed by using the same lines that Lot and all the other owners had drawn south over the inlet to the point.

The three owners were like ships passing in the night, and issued some musical leases (if you will) to some early renters of beach lots at the point.

Gates had issued a lease to an Adam Balzer in 1895, and Balzer had to renew with Lott in 1898. In the latter year, Balzer pulled out by selling his Lott lease, small hotel, café and restaurant, along with boat rental facilities with dock, to a captain John Seaman – a local boat owner. Reference was found to a Charles and Joseph Seaman, but it was a John Seaman who made the news in the Wave in 1898 for selling liquor without a license. He was arrested and held for the grand jury, but the outcome was never published and it is not known who pressed the charges.

Finally in 1903, Captain Seaman signed on with A.K. Vandeventer, the new court declared owner, and was now enjoying the twelve or so neighbors now at the point. Seaman’s small resort was about a quarter of a mile east of Reid’s New Pavilion, and in between was Simon’s Place. Simon’s later became Friberg’s in 1906. Roxbury’s was to the east about ¾ of a mile.

Shown today in Historical Views is Captain Seaman’s Hotel at Rockaway in the early 1900’s. The signs indicate that it is a café and a chowder house as well as a hotel (marked in this rare photo.)

The hotel is shown behind the café and restaurant, and a slightly raised wooden walk leads to Seaman’s Dock on Rockaway Inlet, which is to the north and behind the camera.

A special hello to Mary Elizabeth Smith, Rockaway Point historian, and Historical Editor of the Breezy Point News.

Welcome to my world!

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