2006-09-15 / Columnists

Historical Views of the Rockaways

A 1920s Winter Scene On Jamaica Bay- Or- What's Going On And Where Is It Happening?
From The Rockaway Museum by Emil Lucev, Curator Dedicated To The Memory Of Leon S. Locke

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

This scene on Jamaica Bay reportedly taken in the 1920s shows an iced up section or area in Jamaica Bay, and a tugboat close to the bulkhead (which appears rather new despite the ice buildup) and behind the bulkhead is an area covered with brush and trees with patches of snow in and around. The actual photograph was no clearer than the printed halftone, so I have, as always, made my best and careful educated guesstimate as to what is shown in the Historical View brought to the museum by a faithful Wave reader who wishes to share a moment in history.

There were only a few places on Jamaica Bay where this picture could have been taken from a high place, over the water but close to land. Since it is the 1920s, that eliminates the Marine Parkway Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge; it was many years away in the future- 1937. The Crossbay Veterans Memorial Bridge opened to Broad Channel in 1924 and the whole of Crossbay Road two years later. If this shot was taken from the bridge, the bay's LIRR trestle would be shown at the top left section. So all that is left (according to Holmes) is that the View was taken from the railroad trestle switch tower or bridge opening tower on said trestle. That would make the bulkheaded landmass show Scheer's Island or what we call at present Terrapin Point at the foot of Beach 75 Street and Amstel Boulevard in Arverne. The point was closed to the public years ago and the land turned over to the Parks Department...for the construction of a park?

At this time there was only one hotel on the point, which had mapped streets running around the bayfront perimeter. The gray blob to the right of the top of the tugboats rear light mast shows the old hotel that was originally the Powers/ Vernam Political Club. Joseph Powers was the top Queens engineer and Remington Vernam was the founder of Arverne. The club was built in 1905 and the point was later purchased by William Scheer, an Arverne developer who was a diamond merchant in the city. He also was a dealer of black diamonds- a coal distributor on the Arverne bayshore at Beach 73 Street.

It was Scheer who had the point bulkheaded before the first great World War.

So at bottom right is the mouth of Barbados Basin on the east side of the LIRR trestle and on the far or left end of the bulkhead is Vernam Basin with the Brant Point section of north Arverne on the other side at top left.

The tugboat is busy breaking up an accumulation of snow covered bay ice at the mouth of Barbados Basin, to possibly free what looks like an image of a barge which was been iced in for a time. Ice floes tended to accumulate at the trestle's east side during the outgoing tide. Their wide width prevented passage through the trestle gaps causing the buildup, which had to be broken up by tugs and ice breakers at times. The noticeable lines in the ice made by repeated bow incursions of the tug can be seen in the foreground, as can the force of the propeller wash at bottom left. The misty foggy day and the smoke from the tug's diesel engine all helped to kill the clarity of the photograph. The new bulkhead shown has since rotted away and maybe 100 feet plus of the point has been eroded away by strong tidal change forces. Terrapin Point once held JFK air traffic control beacons for several years and was the special spot for many local fishermen on good weather days. Parking spaces were plentiful, and the bulkhead did provide for a good fishing platform for drop lines and screw in bite bells. But today beware!

The old point is a tick lover's paradise!

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