2008-04-04 / Columnists

Historical Views of the Rockaways

The Rockaways Once Had Several Large Tent Cities Here
From The Rockaway Museum Commentary by Emil Lucev,Curator Dedicated To The Memory Of Leon S. Locke

For today's view, a cameraman located atop one of the L.A. Thompson Amusement Park pavilions, on the boardwalk at Beach 97 Street. (As a matter of note, Thompson's Park became Rockaways' Playland in 1928.)

The Beach 97 Street ramp to the old wooden boardwalk (built in 1901 from old Steeplechase Park on Beach 98 Street to Beach 90 Street) leads down to William Auer's tent city in this 1914 postcard view, Auer's being the oldest tent camp in the Rockaways.

Auer started out in Seaside at first. When L.A. Thompson moved his amusement midway to Rockaway's Steeplechase Park, which was opened by George C. Tilyou of Coney Island in 1901; (Thompson came in 1902), Auer ran the tent city started by Tilyou on the old Rockaways' Playland site.

When Thompson rebuilt his park in 1905 (and again in 1923) Auer lost tent space in the park itself, and purchased land between Beach 97 Street and Beach 96 Street to establish a new tent camp.

In the latter year the tent colony was enlarged and a kiddy amusement park built in the open space shown at the lower right corner of the photo.

When Robert Moses, the city's parks commissioner, destroyed seaside for his bland Shorefront Parkway in 1938, Auer's establishment was all but wiped out.

A few tents and kiddy rides survived on the north side of Shorefront and Beach 97 Street, and in the 1950s became a parking lot.

If You have Any Old Photos or Historical Information About The Rockaways Please Send It To: HISTORICAL ROCKAWAY C/O THE WAVE P.O. BOX 930097 ROCKAWAY BEACH, N.Y. 11693

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