2007-08-03 / Columnists

Historical Views of the Rockaways

The Mother Of All Rockaway Courthouses - 1932
From The Rockaway Museum Commentary by Emil Lucev,Curator Dedicated To The Memory Of Leon S.Locke

Before the borough of Queens became a part of greater New York City in 1898, courtrooms were located in the towns of Hempstead, Jamaica, and Newton (today's Long Island City).

But there were local lockups and judicial benches in Seaside, which also served as the local police stations, as did the volunteer firehouse on Beach 86 Street in Hammels. Far Rockaway had an early courthouse in the old village hall on Mott Avenue, and later in an office building opposite the present firehouse.

After incorporation into greater New York City, the old library building on the northeast corner of Beach 91 Street and Rockaway Beach Boulevard served as a courthouse. In Far Rockaway, the playground on the south side of the firehouse once held the magistrates court, which was converted as such from the original Far Rockaway schoolhouse.

As the space in all these places became limited, a new courthouse with holding cells was built on the south side of Beach Channel Drive, between Beach 90 and Beach 91 Streets. The beauty of the building was in its Greek revival architecture, made of granite, marble and sandstone.

Operations at the new courthouse began in September of 1932, and in the following year, there were cries of a high caseload and a low budget.

The Far Rockaway courthouse was torn down in 1946, and had been empty since all of the cases started going to the new place, and the courtrooms in the old library building on Beach 91 Street became office space.

Then in 1962, a great centralization of the court system (to Jamaica, on Sutphin Boulevard, south of Hillside Avenue) closed the Rockaway courthouse for good, and ever since then, a new life for the building has been proposed several times, but it still remains closed.

Today's View is a postcard photograph of the big Rockaway Beach and Far Rockaway courthouse in the 1930's, when the place was fresh and new.

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