2011-10-28 / Columnists

Historical Views of the Rockaways

A Souvenir Postcard From An Old Rockaway Tent City
From The Rockaway Museum Commentary by Emil Lucev, Curator Dedicated To The Memory Of Leon S. Locke

Before the building of wooden bungalows ended their dominance, many canvas tent cities were put up along the beachfront in the Rockaways. The largest was Frank Chaffee’s camp, which stretched from Beach 106 Street to Beach 109 Street and contained upward of 400 camps or tents. There was a central pavilion in Chaffee’s camp, which contained a restaurant, bowling alley, camp offices, and some rooms in a small hotel section. Chafee’s camp was opened shortly after 1900 and was closed by 1913, when the bungalow building craze began to heat up. There were a few tents left in the Edgemere section up to the early 1950s. They were strong and solidly anchored to the ground, but at times wind gusts during a storm would blow a tent down and almost away. Early camps had communal wash and rest rooms, and as the years went by, running water, showers, gas, electricity, and private baths were installed. Appearing today is a souvenir postcard from Chaffee’s tent city in 1904, picturing a family group and captioned — After Dinner.

Images of the camp are rare, and some survive on old antique picture postcards, for which Historical Views is grateful. Much of the history of the Rockaways has been preserved on old picture postcards.

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