2006-10-06 / Columnists

Historical Views of the Rockaways

A Beach In Far Rockaway Called Ostend...Not In Belgium, A Country In Europe!
From The Rockaway Museum Commentary by Emil Lucev, Curator Dedicated To The Memory Of Leon S. Locke

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

A country called Belgium on the European continent had a very famous bathing beach on its North Sea coastline known as Ostend. Many world travelers visited Ostend Beach in summer, so when a new beach community was being prepared at Far Rockaway by a private syndicate in 1908, it was decided to call the new development... Ostend Beach...in order to draw beachgoers with a class old world name. Next door to the west was the popular Roche's Beach in the Far Rockaway area (Beach 19 Street to Beach 16 Street) and now Ostend Beach was continued easterly from Beach 16 Street to Beach 9 Street.

A small, ritzy-type housing development sprang up above the beachfront in the Ostend area, and the main drag was called the Rue De St. Felix (Beach 14 Street) and South Street (Seagirt Boulevard) skirted the shore of Ostend.

The centerpiece of Ostend was the large Ostend Hotel built above South Street on the Rue De St. Felix. The hostelry had numerous rooms and suites for its clientele at reasonable rates for several plans offered.

There were many bathhouses for beachgoers, a fine restaurant and dining room, sun porches and verandas and food, drink and souvenir stands near the beach areas.

Concerts were given at night, and for those with chance in mind...there was a casino!!! That's right, you read it right...a casino!!! Gambling was never mentioned though, that is until some group of well meaning tea-totelers brought in the authorities to stop it. Of course there was a mock trial of sorts in court, but it was testified that no gambling paraphernalia was found during a raid by the police! A short time later it was, as it were.

During the early 1930s the City of New York took possession of Roche's Beach and Ostend Beach. Edward Roche died intestate, and Ostend owed back taxes causing the city to take the property. The city tried to run these private beaches but had neither the flair nor know-how to do so. Ostend burned up in a big fire in the 1940s, and Roche's Beach sort of disappeared. What did you expect...the city can't even run Rockaway beaches without causing much grief for locals and down for the day people.

In the days of yore there were many great hotels throughout the whole of the Rockaway peninsula. The very first at Far Rockaway was built in 1833, and the last few were destroyed by fire and the city's commissioner of all and everything...Robert (The Pharaoh) Moses...who did the same to old Coney Island for his roads and housing projects. I wonder what old Bob would say if he saw what was done to his Shorefront Parkway as of late!

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