Historic Maps Refute Baxter’s 1837 Claim Comment On The Historic Scene
By Emil Lucev
For some time now, John Baxter, the owner and operator of Baxter’s Hotel on Beach 116 Street, and a number of his residents have been claiming that the hotel is a genuine landmark, having been built in 1837.
Baxter’s claim was in response to community pressure to sell his building to developers in order to revitalize the shopping street.
When the first U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey Map of Jamaica Bay and the Rockaways was published in the late 1800’s, there was only sand dunes and cedar trees in the area that is now Beach 116 Street.
Ten years after the U.S. Constitution was ratified in 1789, there was only one homestead and that was on the bayfront at what is now Beach 83 Street.
When Michael P. Holland, one of the pioneers in Rockaway, came to the peninsula in 1857, there were only ten houses on the entire peninsula.
The closest property to what would become Beach 116 Street at that time was the home of Henry and Abraham Hewlett at what became Beach 97 Street and Rockaway Beach Boulevard.
That homestead went up in 1839. Nothing else was built on the western end of Rockaway until 1880, when a large hotel, first called the Rockaway Beach Hotel and later the Imperial Hotel, was built right on the beachfront and took up all the area from Beach 110 Street to Beach 116 Street and from the ocean to the present Rockaway Beach Boulevard. That hotel, which never fully opened, soon became a “White elephant” for its owner, who had both legal and financial problems, and it was torn down to make room for the development of homes in the area.
In 1906, a detailed map of that development was issued.
It shows that there were two hotels on the beachfront at Beach 116 Street. The name of the hotel and bathhouse on the western side of the street is not known, but the hotel on the eastern side of the street was the Park Inn Hotel. The baths associated with the hotel were on the next block (which was then called 4 Avenue). While there were properties on the western side of the street, from the oceanfront to the Boulevard, there were no properties, with the exception of a sales office, on the eastern side of the street. Clearly then, Baxter’s Hotel could not have been built prior to 1906.
While Baxter’s Hotel is decidedly old, and may be as much as 100 years old, the evidence shows that it was definitely not around in 1836 as Baxter and his minions claim in an attempt to forestall any development of the street that includes that hotel.