2009-08-21 / Columnists

Historical Views of the Rockaways

The Old Beachfront In Seaside Section, Rockaway Beach - 1921
From The Rockaway Museum by Emil Lucev, Curator Dedicated To The Memory Of Leon S. Locke

The Seaside section of the Rockaway Beach peninsula extends from Beach 108 Street (at the foreground in today's view) eastward to Beach 100 Street - plus or minus a few feet. The beach in this once glorious beach resort amusement area is as bland as hospital food, and was made that way by the New York City Commissioner of everything - Robert Moses - who also destroyed Coney Island. Moses, and I quote, stated that he got rid of "cheap amusement areas" at Seaside and Coney … and his idea of having 'fun' was to destroy areas of our once great city for his roads; one of which is Shorefront Parkway. This road from nowhere to nowhere was a part of (Moses') plan for his causeway from Fort Hamilton, Brooklyn to Riverhead out on Long Island. Shorefront was opened in June of 1938.

The "eat your heart out" view published today shows the beach at Seaside in the early 1920s. At left center is Kete's Oceanview Café and Bathhouse which was at the west end of the Seaside Amusement area midway known as Ocean Avenue. The midway ran through the beach side and was bordered on both sides by rollercoasters, carousels, swing rides of circular type, kiddie rides, shooting galleries, ferris wheels, the whip ride, theatres, souvenir stands, candy kitchens, fortune tellers, restaurants, game concessions, hotels, food and drink concessions, dancehalls, an ocean pier, old mill water rides through buildings filled with colorful scenes and motion displays, and many, many bathhouses for beach- goers. The ride next to Keye's place, looking like an oil derrick, is the sea swing, built in a circular pool of water. As one was circled around, you were occasionally ducked or dunked into the water (excellent on a hot day).

Next follows Seidenberg's Bath, Corning Baths, the Mascot Hotel Baths, the Weiskopf's Baths, the Pier Baths, and the Towers of the old Wainwright and Smith Baths first known as Murray's. On the right is what is left of the steel pier which went out over a thousand feet when built in the 1880s. Storms did a number on the pier many times. Moses ripped out the remnants for shorefront!

Up until the building of the city boardwalk and beach in 1926, all beaches were privately owned and operated, well kept, and rules were not interfered with. Private meant… private. In the mid 1920s the Millhauser baths were the most prominent, and they all disappeared from the beach side of the boards. Nothing was allowed out over the beachside of the new Ocean Promenade built by the city. The erosion problem was so bad that local businessmen could not afford the cost of rebuilding the beach. The city could not fix private property, so it took the oceanfront over, and fixed it up! A few decades later and up to the present time, the city is crying the same tune as the old proprietors of the beachfront. Funny how history repeats itself!

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