2005-06-24 / Community

Steamship ‘Columbia’ Plied Rockaway Waters

Poster shows the Columbia, hawked as “the largest excursion steamer in the world.”Poster shows the Columbia, hawked as “the largest excursion steamer in the world.” Ken Zwolinski grew up summering in the Rockaways and his family later moved there in the early 1970’s from Washington Heights in upper Manhattan. He has been living out in Scottsdale Arizona for eight years now and he says that he always loves to read the historical views that are published in The Wave each week.

His mother, Joan who still lives in the Daytons, makes sure that he gets a subscription to the Wave each year. “Mom and I are real lovers of the old nostalgic Rockaway days of yesteryear, he says. His older brother Artie and nephews Brain and Kevin and his lovely wife Joann are also local Rockaway residents.

Time schedule for the Columbia and its sister ship, the Grand Republic with a note that they docked at the New Colossal Hotel.Time schedule for the Columbia and its sister ship, the Grand Republic with a note that they docked at the New Colossal Hotel. Ken says that he buys and sells antiques for a living in Arizona and very often restores old Coca-Cola machines, Gas Pumps and very often early Carnival machines and games.

“In my business I come across many whom have a love for the old relics, things like the old games that Rockaways Playland use to offer,” he said.

“In one of my dealings sometime back my friend and President of the C.O.C., a trade magazine, Alex Warshaw (dedicated to old vending machines) showed me a magazine cover of an old Steamship working model called “The Columbia,”

Model of the Steamship ‘Columbia” that once sailed from Manhattan to Coney Island and Rockaway, probably docking where Beach Channel High School is today.
Model of the Steamship ‘Columbia” that once sailed from Manhattan to Coney Island and Rockaway, probably docking where Beach Channel High School is today. “It was one of his beauties that went to auction and sold for good money. What intrigued me were the articles that were attached with the sale. If you look closely you will see that the old Steamship ferried between Coney Island and the Rockaways in the latter part of the 1800’s,” he says. 

The magazine article about the model said that two machines were made by William T. Smith circa 1885.

“Alex has told me that to the best of his knowledge this was the only working model in existence. So, the Steamship must have been in ferry service sometime around then. One of the advertisements gives times of departure and the old hotels it use to service like the “New Colossal Hotel,” he adds.

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