2011-05-13 / Columnists

Historical Views of the Rockaways

Some steamboats still came to Rockaway Beach, Thanks to Playland
From The Rockaway Museum Commentary by Emil Lucev, Curator Dedicated To The Memory Of Leon S. Locke

Many years ago, in Historical Views, I featured all the steamboats and ferries that came to the Rockaways from day one to the opening of Crossbay Road. There were many, of all kinds and descriptions, which held a handful or thousands of passengers. After Crossbay road opened, more and more people came in autos and buses in summer, causing steamboat lines to lose ridership and revenues. Up to 1931, five years after Crossbay Road opened, a few boats still came. In this year the largest steamboat line, the Iron Steamboat Company, went into receivership, and had to auction off its fleet of about a dozen large walking beam engine steamers, built of iron with wooden decks. Each big boat was named after a star constellation!

In the mid thirties, Rockaways’ Playland owner, A. Joseph Geist, contracted with excursion boat companies to run their vessels to Playland dock at Beach 98 Street on the bayfront. This was successfully done and carried on into the next few decades; the brochure appearing in Views today advertises the S.S. Empire State in 1936. In later years the Mandalay and Liberty Belle made the trips.

I believe the two latter were diesel boats.

The subway specials to the Rockaways in the late 1950s, and 1960s, 70s and early 80s killed the boats altogether. Hell!, we can’t even get a ferry line to Rockaway, as it is!

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