2005-12-09 / Community

Howard’s Landing, Howard Beach, On The Bay

From time to time in Historical Views, mention was made of Howard’s Landing on the north shore of Jamaica Bay, just west of the Bay Railroad in Howard Beach.

Howard’s was noted as a Jamaica Bay colony- along with Goose Creek, The Raunt, and Broad Channel- with Beach Channel just to the south of Broad Channel.

All these bay hamlets had one thing in common- The Bay Railroad- for they all were built along the railroad trestle of the New York, Woodhaven and Rockaway Beach Railroad between 1881 and 1900. Howard’s Landing was the last colony built along the bay trestle. Trains going to Rockaway would stop at Howard’s Landing before commencing onto the bay crossing, on the trestle, passing thru four other bay colonies.

William H. Howard, a Brooklyn leather manufacturer, began driving piles out into the bay southward for about 1,750 feet, and then eastward about 1,100 feet to the station on the trestle. The first boardwalk, (north-south) 25 feet wide, was called Pier #1. Lots- underwater- 25’x100’ were for sale or lease, on which small clubhouses or residences could be built upon pilings over the bay waters.

The walk to the trestle station (east-west) was about 12 feet wide, and had a drawbridge approximately 50 feet in width, to allow passage of boats in and out of Hawtree Creek.

Howard’s Hotel was built on a huge wooden platform at the end of Pier #1. On the east side was a protected stillwater swimming pool- 90’x75’- with numerous bathhouses on the pool’s north side. Behind the Howard Hotel (shown in today’s Historical View) were support and dancing pavilions, and about a dozen or so boat clubs. Among them (on a 1920s survey) were the Hummer, North Star, Harmonie, Aquae, Anabes, Bushwick Wheelman, Prospect, World, Journal, and Barnacle. On the west side of Pier #1 (in the photo) is the Comfort Club, which seemed like a very exclusive club for the younger generation.

Fishing parties were catered too, and boats were for hire. Pool and billiard rooms were available, and a clubhouse rented for $150 a year. Rooms with lockers went for $20 a year.

Boatmen were always annoyed with Howard’s closing off of the mouth of Hawtree Creek, and bitterness was always expressed.

On October 23, 1907- a Wednesday night- the hotel, dancing pavilion, and 18 small cottages were wiped out by fire, and never rebuilt. Flying sparks drifted south to the other bay colonies, setting small fires.

It was said that fisher/boatmen in the area “torched” Howard’s, but that was never proven. Again, on November 30, 1907, the last three remaining cottages of Howard’s were said to be “torched” and reduced to waterlogged ashes.

It was again suspected that the fire was of incendiary origin.

William H. Howard then kept his feet on solid ground to develop what is today Howard Beach.

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