2008-04-18 / Columnists

Historical Views of the Rockaways

Many A Tear Has To Fall, But It's All In The Reality Game!
From The Rockaway Museum Commentary by Emil Lucev,Curator Dedicated To The Memory Of Leon S. Locke

The legal beagles battled over ownership of the point of the peninsula, before the ink was dry on the deed to Captain John Palmer for Rockaway Neck in 1685, from the Native American Rockaway Indians!

Legal transcripts, atlases, maps, and newspaper articles - plus recorded testimonies of old local sea captains - would fill more volumes than many would care to read! The last battle over ownership of Point Land (which had progressively accreted westward from Far Rockaway and was, in 1911, at about the present Beach 210 Street) had begun in 1905 after an incident three years earlier.

Andrew K. Vandeventer, president of the Union - Pacific Railroad, did purchase the point area in 1902, from the wife of Collis P. Huntington, after her husband died. Huntington was the original owner of said railroad and the point land, due to a past court settlement.

Vandeventer sent his agent out to the point, the long way around by a horse and wagon trip via Far Rockaway, and the agent reported that he did find several residents there. The report also stated that these residents were paying cash rent to a fellow named Mr. Lott, who lived in Brooklyn! The agent notified the "squatters" to pay rent to Mr. Vandeventer and the Union Pacific Railroad, or be evicted! The residents then inquired of Mr. Lott.

Mr. Lott, after being notified of the problem, went to Jamaica, Queens and discovered that Vandeventer and his predecessor, Huntington, had been paying taxes on the point in Queens County also! When this case came to the courts, Vandeventer was also battling the city of New York, the State of New York, and the federal government. The facts showed that both the city and state, as well as the federal government, were fishing!... as Vandeventer and his legal eagles receive a favorable court decision, that the point was a result of the natural accretion of sand to the west of Far Rockaway, and not the return of the southern tip of old Barren Island!

Also involved in a suit like a wheel, if you will, as participants, were the Rockaway Park Improvement Company, the West Rockaway Land Company, the Belle Harbor Improvement Company, the Neponsit Land Company (about half of which became Riis Park), and the Rockaway Pacific Company.

The Rockaway Pacific Company wound up with, after post trial transfers for a lifesaving station strip ocean to bay, the point land west of the now Beach 169 Street. In 1917 the federal government took over, with monetary and other valuable considerations to the Rockaway Pacific Company, the whole of the old Fort Tilden site for National Defense; of New York Harbor!

Of course, if you look at the 1814 map portion shown today, courtesy of the National Archive, Barren Island (arrow) does range well below the point. Which is at about Beach 137 Street; where a wooden blockhouse with cannon was built, thereat, during the War of 1812, to provide a safe haven for our coasting vessels during the war with the British Army and Navy!

It now appears that Mr. Lott's logic was sound, but as one witness did express, as to where Mr. Lott's land was, the witness stated that it was out in the Ambrose Channel rut, and under water there!

And as Barren Island's south tip was washed away, and the peninsula did extend itself to the south of what was left of Barren Island, Jurian Lott simply extended his boundary lines, east and west, south over Rockaway Inlet to the point's north shore, and then southerly to the ocean shore, thereat!

Between the two locations (namely East Roxbury and Beach 210 Street), narrow strips of beach were allotted to tenants of Lott… and later to the tenants of Vandeventer. Pioneers at the point were Smith Foster (Lott's nephew), Howard Reid, John Roxbury, Charles Seaman, Minnie Roxbury, Frank A. Bitz, Harry Warren, William Bijur, George Balzer, J. Wilbur Doughty, John Simon, William Everi, Neils Frieberg, and Arnold, Warner, Sutter, Case, Smalley, Dawson, and Schutte. Me. John McKnight was Vandeventer's agent for the point in 1902.

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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