2014-04-04 / Community

The Phantom Hotel Of The Rockaways

“The Phantom Hotel of Rockaway” by Norman Lunde. “The Phantom Hotel of Rockaway” by Norman Lunde. In 1875 the Rockaway Beach Hotel was to be the world’s largest, with a thousand rooms, stretching six blocks east from Beach 116th Street and with a projected income of millions per year.

The Long Island Railroad’s “Land Improvement Company” officially called the project “The Imperial Hotel” and set a grand opening date for June of 1880. Although a railway station at Beach 116th Street, landing dock, roads and all exteriors of the hotel were finished for the opening, funds ran out at the end of the decade and other than that single summer of promotional tours, the unfinished and unfurnished hotel was never opened to the public.

By the early 1900s, the monster building slowly started to disappear as locals salvaged the wood to build the businesses and homes around Rockaway Park.

There are no known photographs of what has come to be known as “The Phantom Hotel.”

Artist Norman Lunde’s painting, shown here, was inspired by a woodcut from the hotel developers’ letterhead in the archives of the Central Queens Library. No other image of the Imperial Hotel has been found.

Research turned up many ads in 1800s’ New York City newspapers promoting both the hotel and the steamships that were stopping at the newly built Imperial Pier.

However after weeks of searching, local researcher Tom Dugan never found any actual newspaper reports on the project, the ensuing bankruptcy proceedings or a single photo of either the hotel or its construction!

This was truly “The Phantom Hotel of the Rockaways!”

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