2006-01-06 / Columnists

Historical Views

of the Rockaways The American Irish Hall, Rockaway Beach, New York - 1977 Photo
From The Rockaway Museum by Emil Lucev, Curator Dedicated To The Memory Of Leon S. Locke

of the Rockaways

The American Irish Hall, Rockaway Beach, New York - 1977 Photo

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

Today at the bay front of Jamaica Bay where the ‘A’ Train approaches the bay trestle on the way north, and the Rockaway peninsula on the way south, stands an NYC Transit Authority sub-station; a large gray-painted, gray brick and cement structure in back of a small municipal park.

About a century ago, the place was put up by the LIRR organization to act as a barracks for the Italian laborers constructing a trolley line on Rockaway Beach Boulevard, and a battery powerhouse for that trolley line.

In later years when electrification of the railroad came, a sub-station for that electrical power was contained in the building, and part was used for storage space. The trolley line ran on available electric power from generating stations in Far Rockaway and on the peninsula, and the battery back-up here was used in situations of power failure. Limited generation of power at this station began as early as 1902 to operate the electric motors, which opened the trestle bridges for boat traffic. Full electrification of the LIRR came in 1905, and battery power was used during rush hours for the trolley line operation, in order to insure train operation power.

The trolley line passed out of existence in the late 1920s, but the old battery service had been dismantled in 1916, as power requirements improved on the LIRR system.

At present, the building is being wholly utilized by the New York City Transit Authority. Trains pass by 24/7, but cannot dampen the echoes of the past, when the American-Irish Club of the Rockaways occupied the place. The club was the sponsor of the award-winning band “The Shamrocks,” a band that was invited to perform locally, nationally and abroad.

Many affairs and dances were held at the hall, and they were well attended by persons from all over the Rockaways. Tables and chairs were on both sides of the “magnificent” dance floor, upon which my wife and I cut many a rug and a lindy! The best time was had at the St. Patrick’s Day dances, and most memorable was trying to get out of the parking lot-with a load on!

For many a decade in the last half of the twentieth century, the American-Irish Hall occupied the building at Beach 83 Street on the bay side of the Hammels section of the Rockaways. It is gone, as is the band, but not forgotten, and will remain a fond memory in the hearts of many!

Today’s Historical View will stir some of those fond memories. The stage is decorated for a St. Patrick’s Day dance in 1977. The dance floor is slick as a whistle! Up the Irish!

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