2008-01-11 / Columnists

Historical Views of the Rockaways

In Memory of Wooden Bungalows at Seaside, Rockaway Beach, N.Y.
From The Rockaway Museum Commentary by Emil Lucev,Curator Dedicated To The Memory Of Leon S.Locke

There are many bungalows still located at the west end of the seaside section of our peninsula. The greater part of these have been converted or remodeled into year-round dwellings.

The first of these appeared in the western border of the seaside section in the early twentieth century, and were put together (as they were prefabricated in Michigan) by John J. Egan. In 1903, Frank Chaffee opened the big city tent in western seaside, between the boulevard and the beach from Beach 106 Street to Beach 109 Street. A decade later the great tent city of four hundred tents (plus or minus) closed, and the bungalow building craze began. The many tent colonies, peninsula wide, were phased out for bungalow living at the shore. As a result, Egan began to build many wooden bungalows (known as Egan Villas) on the property. The Queens Beach Company also laid out sites for bungalow building, as did one past tent renter before 1903, William Auer, who seems to have given Chaffee the incentive to build his tent city, through the profits made by Auer. Auer ran tent colonies for the big Tilyou and Thompson Amusement Parks in the Holland section.

Upon his return to seaside, Auer built bungalow rows of the single and two story height, the most famous of which were Auer's Court, built along the old seaside midway called Ocean Avenue, west of Beach 104 Street, which did later on have a name change, Croft Road.

Views today is a postcard image from the early 1920s, and our camera is pointed eastward looking down Jennings Place, towards Wolz' Thriller roller-coaster at Beach 104 Street, on the west side thereof and north of Ocean Avenue or midway. (Thriller was torn down in 1927).

North, towards Rockaway Beach Boulevard is Willet Street, and south toward Croft Road or Ocean Avenue is Stubin Place. Centre Street was opposite Willet Street, and the whole became Beach 106 Street. The postcard that I have used as a graphic this week is marked incorrectly, probably for some commercial purpose.

In the 1960's early years the southwest section of seaside was demolished for the Robert Moses Seaside Title I Housing Project. (AKA - Dayton Towers). The entire character of seaside was changed by Moses from a fun place to drab atmosphere of hi-risers, historically speaking - that is!

In later years, the former redlined residents formed the Croft Road Association and met at times to recall the old days in southwestern seaside. I wonder if that group is still active? Report ASAP, that's an order!

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