2004-09-03 / Community

Selling Rockaway Park In 1903 – The Rockaway Park Improvement Company

By Howard Schwach

The Boardwalk ran between Fifth Street and Pelham Street.
The Boardwalk ran between Fifth Street and Pelham Street.

  • Rockaway needs little in the way of publicity in selling homes on the peninsula. The building boom now in progress is overwhelming after years of poor publicity and declining home prices.
  • That was not the case in 1903, however, when the Rockaway Park Development Company went on a large-scale publicity drive to sell its “residential cottages” in Rockaway.

    The company put out a brochure at that time detailing the wonders of the west end of Rockaway.

    The Rockaway Park Improvement Company had a real estate office at Washington Avenue (Rockaway Beach Boulevard) between Third and Fourth Avenues (Beach 115 and Beach 116 Streets).
The Rockaway Park Improvement Company had a real estate office at Washington Avenue (Rockaway Beach Boulevard) between Third and Fourth Avenues (Beach 115 and Beach 116 Streets). “Just 16 miles, or about one hour, from City Hall,” the ads trumpet. “38 minutes from Long Island City by express from Brooklyn, Flatbush Avenue by new electric trains. Also, BRT (bridge) all summer and a trolley, connecting Rockaway Park with all sections of Long Island.”

    The brochure said that Rockaway Park was “unique in its environment, has the Atlantic Ocean upon one side, Jamaica Bay upon the other. No backgrounds as elsewhere, no meadows, all fine, dry land… There, the atmosphere in the summer is tempered by the ever-present sea breeze, in autumn it is intensely exhilarating, while during the winter it is, in regular weather, warmer by several degrees that that of the metropolis.”

    The Bathing Pavilion was next to the Park Inn Hotel.
The Bathing Pavilion was next to the Park Inn Hotel. In order to service the people who bought the “cottages” in the area, the company built a number of amenities, including the Park Inn Hotel, a bathing pavilion and a short boardwalk.

    It also included, “Broad avenues, a great inducement for horsemen, automobiles and cyclists. Pure Water, Perfect sewerage, gas and electricity, telegraph and telephone and regular city fire and police protection. There is Public School 43 and free postal delivery.”

    The Park Inn Hotel Stood right at the oceanfront at what is now Beach 116 Street. Today, it is a run-down adult home, considered by many to be a blight on the shopping street.
The Park Inn Hotel Stood right at the oceanfront at what is now Beach 116 Street. Today, it is a run-down adult home, considered by many to be a blight on the shopping street. They are described in the sales brochure.

    “The Park Inn Hotel is a strictly modern structure, standing directly on the beach and containing many first-class furnished rooms with private baths, a fine café, open and sheltered dining rooms, all lighted by electricity. A broad veranda, fronting the ocean, surrounds the Inn and is a source of endless satisfaction and comfort to the guests.”

    Some of the cottages in Rockaway Park in 1906.
Some of the cottages in Rockaway Park in 1906. “The Bathing Pavilion, capable of accommodating 2,000 bathers, has rooms that are light and airy. It has fresh-water showers, baths and a ladies parlor.”

    “The Bay Section” of the development, listed as between Newport and Bay Avenues (Newport Avenue and Beach Channel Drive today), was “developed with all the modern improvements constitutes an unsurpassed location for summer and winter cottages, for fishing pleasure and yacht clubs and a source of gratification to families fond of fishing and safe sailing. There is, alongside the company’s new pier and strong bulkhead at the foot of Fifth Avenue (now Beach 116 Street) a 30-foot anchorage, protected against the fiercest storms; a broad, deep channel leading westward to Manhattan Beach and the ocean.”

    According to the brochure, the lots at Rockaway Park, with few exceptions, were 20 by 100 and sold from $700 upwards, depending on the location. Those closer to the ocean, of course, sold for the higher price.

    There was a ten percent discounted for cash sales.

    There were some covenants connected to the land.

    No manufacturing was allowed, nor were any “dealing with the sale of dealing in spirituous liquors, malt, or in business giving entertainment, musical performances or shows of any kind, nor for boarding houses.”

    The area shown on the map as Rockaway Park Estates runs roughly from Eastern Avenue (Beach 109 Street) to Pelham Avenue (Beach 126 Street).

    Triton Avenue was actually the beachfront. Washington Avenue is today Rockaway Beach Boulevard. Bay Avenue is today called Beach Channel Drive.

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