2008-11-07 / Columnists

Historical Views of the Rockaways

Ocean Breeze Camp, Edgemere, Long Island - 1910
From The Rockaway Museum by Emil Lucev, Curator Dedicated To The Memory Of Leon S. Locke

The large tent city, which occupied the Edgemere beachfront between Beach 35 Street and the Arverne section, was opened in the summer of 1905. The camp consisted of several hundred tents and two hundred wooden bungalows, and the last tents were taken down for good in the early 1950s. The canvas summer homes were gradually replaced by the wooden bungalows since the camp's inception in 1905 by the Rheinhardt family of Edgemere.

Each tent was erected over a wooden platform, and sanitary facilities such as bathrooms and showers, etc., were communitized throughout the camp. At the season's end the tents were folded and stored in an onsite warehouse, with the platforms neatly stacked far from the surf line near the present Edgemere Avenue. Summer and winter storms caused destruction to the tent city property, often washing away the beach area. In 1920 fire destroyed 50 tents in the Tilrose Camp, with the name change occurring in 1915.

The official name of the tent city was the Ocean Breeze Camp Association, and was managed by Alvin Rhinehardt (aka Reinhart), who was also the postmaster of Inwood in the Five Towns area. In its second year 500 tents were projected, and were sold out during the previous winter!

The Seabreeze Camp for children rented space in this camp at Edgemere, and leased other beach space in the old Riis Park and Fort Tilden areas at the west end of the peninsula. These places were also found as Ocean Breeze Camp, but what's in a name. The kids got a big dose of fresh air and sunshine, despite the polio scares that were publicized at times, but never quite pinned down or confirmed! Many children's homes and orphanages and benevolent organizations secured space for their charges and such a group (unknown) is posing for today's view printed on a postcard.

From 1899 to 1914 the working boys (newsboys) summer home was located on the west end to Tilrose Camp, and was connected with the Mission of the Immaculate Virgin located in Manhattan. In the latter year, a century old property litigation was settled, and the finding was that the home had no title. It was forced to leave by real estate interests looking to develop the beachfront thereat. At times history doth repeat itself! One of the litigants claimed adverse possession through his ancestors, and I wonder if the home should have done the same. The site was given to the home by an heir of the first settlers in the Rockaways (the Cornell family) and a New York State Supreme Court judge. The courts decided that the title wasn't clear enough for them … I mean the realty interests!

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