2006-09-29 / Columnists

Historical Views

of the Rockaways A Ubiquitous View Of An Old Familiar Rockaway Site Of The Past
From The Rockaway Museum by Emil Lucev, Curator Dedicated To The Memory Of Leon S. Locke

of the Rockaways
A Ubiquitous View Of An Old Familiar Rockaway Site Of The Past

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

Before the age of natural gas piped all over the country to cities and towns, many areas of the United States had a local gas house where coal was baked in large ovens to extract coal gas. After cooling the extracted gas was stored in a large telescoping storage tank, after unwanted impurities were filtered out and converted to many byproducts for commercial use.

The baked coal was cooled and termed as "coke" coal. Coke was shipped by railroad to steel mills for the mills' coke ovens, since coke coal burned much higher than regular coal for making steel. In the Rockaways, coke was at times used to cover many bayside streets.

Alert homeowners were seen with wagons out collecting the coke for use in home furnaces.

Yours truly did this as a youngster in winter and summer to save a few dollars years ago.

Distributors also delivered coke to homeowners as well as regular types of coals.

No matter where they were built they all looked the same as the one in your hometown, and the gas houses employed locals for 24/7 shift work.

There were two gas houses in the Rockaways, one in Far Rockaway near the Redfern Projects, east of the railroad by Brunswick and Minton Avenues.

The other was in Rockaway Park at the northwest corner of Beach 108 Street and the freeway.

Today's View of a gas holder in Lima, Ohio and is almost a dead ringer of the tank in Rockaway Park.

If it were, they would be Beach 108 Street in the foreground, the Rockaway Park Long Island Railroad station and yard on the left side, and Jamaica Bay on the right side.

The gas house ovens are behind the big holder.

The same view in Rockaway Park at present would reveal a huge empty lot and small power station left after the holder was done away with in the 1960s, as was the one in Far Rockaway, when natural gas came to the northeast via the "Big Inch" pipeline from Texas.

Near the background would be the Waldbaum's shopping center and Beach 116 Street firehouse.

Several years ago the landmark Elmhurst gas tanks, always mentioned in all traffic reports of the day and night, were taken down.

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