2008-08-29 / Columnists

Historical Views of the Rockaways

Greater New York Souvenir Postcards of 1898
From The Rockaway Museum Commentary by Emil Lucev, Curator Dedicated To The Memory Of Leon S. Locke

To commemorate the creation of greater New York City (January 1, 1898) the H.A. Rost Printing and Publishing Company of NYC created a line of souvenir postcards (number in series is unknown). The set was officially called the Greater New York souvenir postcards.

Each card featured an image or images of places and buildings of interest within the five boroughs of Richmond, Kings, Queens, the Bronx and Manhattan which all made up the new Greater New York City.

With the Rockaways as my main interest in postcard collecting, and Coney Island as a secondary interest, yours truly has found two of the souvenir set of GNY cards. Each has two lithograph drawings on the front, with a small space for a short message. The back of the card was only for the address of whom the card was sent to in the mail.

One card features Coney Island and the second features seaside amusements in Rockaway Beach … in the boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens, respectively. These places were two of the new city's favorite watering holes in summer.

The series was copyrighted by the H.A. Rost Printing and Publishing Company of Manhattan in 1897, and yours truly would like to know how many cards were published for the complete set of souvenir cards.

Shown on the Rockaway Beach souvenir card is the old seaside amusement attractions of the time, and from right to left are the Old Grant's Switchback Coaster; the bath houses of Morrison, Vollmer, and Wainright & Smith; Sanford Murray's Hotel, dance hall, and baths … all between Beach 102 Street (r) and Beach 105 Street (l) with the view drawn from the ocean pier thereat. At the bottom left is a beautiful 1890s bathing beauty!

The Coney Island Greater New York souvenir card has a litho of the many Coney Island baths at the time, starting at the right where the old Coney Island Iron Pier (opened 1879) is shown at about West 5 Street.

This pier became the Dreamland Park pier in 1911 when Dreamland Amusement Park was officially opened.

The view then pans westward to Steeplechase Park near West 16 Street.

In between were a few carousels, scenic railways, and the famous baths and restaurants such as Feltman's, Stauch's, and Henderson's. At bottom left is a small grouping showing Balmer's Baths, the new iron pier built in the early 1880s, the 300-foot observation tower (1877-1911) brought to Coney Island in 1877, from the Philadelphia Exposition and centennial celebrated in 1876 at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Coney Island lost its first Sealion Amusement Park in 1904, Dreamland Park in 1911, Luna Park in 1947, and finally old Steeplechase Park in 1965. The Cyclone Coaster (1927) and Astroland Park, plus the old giant Wonderwheel and a long dormant parachute jump are still at Coney Island. The future is a little murky at present; Astroland is to close for a redevelopment plan on the old amusement Mecca in Brooklyn. It is said that the remaining attractions mentioned will be kept running, and the parachute reopened. But … whatever developerlola wants … developerlola gets!

Rockaways' Playland survived Coney Island by two decades, in an amusement area that had it's humble beginnings in 1857. There were four amusement parks in the Rockaways; Seaside Park, Steeplechase Park, L.A. Thompson Park, and Rockaways' Playland.

Addenda: The Greater New York souvenir cards were the first illustrated postcards (with these two views of NYC beaches in 1898) for Coney Island and the Rockaways. Shortly after the turn of the century the Illustrated postcard craze began, and that made job security for the mailman for many years to come.

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