2008-04-11 / Columnists

Historical Views of the Rockaways

'Say, What Hotel Is That Going Up Here In Rockaway Park Now?'
From The Rockaway Museum Commentary by Emil Lucev,Curator Dedicated To The Memory Of Leon S. Locke

In the very early 1890s, a young local boxer (known then as a pugilist) broke his training run stride on the beach at Beach 116 Street, to ask a carpenter on the structure this question! The carpenter replied that this was John James Curley's new hotel, and that Curley's old hotel in seaside at Beach 102 Street had been sold to Mrs. Albertina Harper, and was now Harper's Hotel thereat. Curley's old hotel in Seaside had been one of the surviving buildings in the great Seaside Holocaust of September, 1892. This was attributed to a sudden shift in the wind, as the fire had already consumed almost all structures, ocean to bay, between Beach 106 Street and Beach 102 Street. A few buildings around the railroad station were kept watered down by firemen, as equipment to fight the fire was being brought in by train.

The new Curley's Hotel was constructed from the second hand lumber Curley had purchased from the wrecking company that was tearing down the giant Hotel Imperial built at Rockaway Park, but never opened as such, due to the hotel and it's owners being tied up in (as reported in newspapers) the blackest of legal knots!

Curley contributed to the authors and publishers of the 1891 Wolverton Atlas of the Rockaways (and other locales) and his building did appear on the park section of the peninsula. Apparently there were many that didn't cough up, and were not included in the atlas.

The building was enlarged many times and bathhouse capacity increased as well, as popularity blossomed. Then came that fateful day in 1965, when a few kids playing with matches ignited the hotel, causing a multiple alarm fire which threatened the entire neighborhood, due to flying sparks setting a few other fires on the block. But New York's bravest saved the day, and only one smaller hotel was severely damaged.

Curley's was not rebuilt, and the property remained as an empty lot, until the Ocean Grande Condominiums were built about three and a half decades later.

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