2009-09-04 / Columnists

Historical Views of the Rockaways

The Beachfront In Front Of Old L.A. Thompson Amusement Park - 1924
From The Rockaway Museum by Emil Lucev, Curator Dedicated To The Memory Of Leon S. Locke

s the gentleman in the view appearing today stoops over to get a better

look at the sand that has collected under the old wooden boardwalk,

we get a good look at the whole of the scene, and the sand collected by the 300 foot jetty put in by L.A. Thompson in the year before … for that specific purpose. The erosion protection installation by Thompson actually worked to preserve his beachfront … until!

The boardwalk we see was built in 1901, and Beach 98 Street is shown at the center of the photo, between the Thompson Park carousel building on the right, and the Steeplechase Park aerial swing building at center.

On the left is the Steeplechase Bath building and the jack-rabbit rollercoaster in Steeplechase Park, which replaced the Steeplechase horses removed after the Tilyou family sold the park their patriarch had built in Seaside. The coaster was built in 1920 which made three, and in 1922 the fourth was built. Thompson had his hurricane, Steeplechase had its jackrabbit, and Seaside had the thunderbolt and the thriller. How about that, as old Mel Allen used to say.

Behind the swing building at center, and barely visible, is the old Steeplechase fight arena, where many future boxing greats fought for only coffee and cake money in their youth. On the left the boardwalk is lined with food, drink, and game concessions along the Steeplechase Park portion. These all disappeared when the city boardwalk was constructed a few years later in 1926.

Two years later Thompson Park became Rockaways' Playland and Steeplechase Park, as well as Seaside Amusements, were dealt a death blow by the whims of Robert (The Pharaoh) Moses - who knew what was best for Rockaway Beach amusements - and demolished them for his road from nowhere to nowhere … Shorefront Parkway! Outside the managerial successes of playland, the area never fully recovered despite worthy attempts.

Rockaways' Playland succumbed between 1985 and 1987, when the once great amusement park was closed and torn down. R.I.P.

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