2007-05-25 / Community

The Little House In Rockaway Beach Where The Wave Began!

Commentary From The Rockaway Museum

by Emil Lucev, Curator

Dedicated To The Memory Of Leon S. Locke

While looking through the old Rockaway Beach and Far Rockaway atlases at an annex archive of the New York Public Library some time ago, yours truly stumbled upon a dusty one which had late 1880s and early 1890s street and building drawings of the Hammels section of the Rockaways.

Back in September of 1892, while the ashes of the great Seaside holocaust were still steaming, and railroad trains were still involved moving fire engines in and out of the area from places north, east, and west of the peninsula….delivery of daily papers by train was curtailed.

James Keener, who operated a hand print shop on Eldert Avenue (Beach 87 Street) between the railroad and the boulevard, on the east side behind his home, printed a flyer to distribute locally.

The aim of the printing was to inform the residents here as to what happened and what was going on!

At the head of the flyer the words, "Wave of fire strikes Rockaway," were in bold letters, followed by the news of the fire and such.

It was said that when the dailies finally got delivered by train, these newspapers contained a lot of the information reprinted from Keenan's flyer! A few papers had telegraphed stories printed in haste, it seems, and repeated items over and over, with more in later issues!

In 1893 it was decided by Keenan and others that the Rockaways will have a new newspaper on the peninsula, besides the Far Rockaway News and the Far Rockaway Journal.

Unfortunately, the pre-1900 editions of these two Far Rockaway papers, and the pre-1896 editions of the newest Rockaway paper called "The Wave" have not survived, and it is not known what happened to these early historic editions.

All there is of the early Wave is a copy of one 1894 front page. Not too long ago a report of a fire at a Nassau County paper revealed that they were hogging early Rockaway editions from the Far Rockaway papers, which were lost in the fire.

This was a tragic loss to the history of the Rockaways.

Several years ago the old Richter House in the background, next to the Hammels Day Care Center and municipal offices on Beach 87 Street, went up in flames and was destroyed.

What is believed to be the old Keenan Hand Print Shop, the small one and a half or two story building was photographed from Beach 86 Street in want of a better view of the same.

It is probable that Charles Richter, owner of a vast distributorship business in the whole of the Rockaways, converted the print shop to a servant's quarters. This photo was taken in 1986.

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