Places that Matter
Far Rockaway Bungalows
Place Matters Profile
By Jennifer Callahan and Elizabeth Logan Harris
The bungalows of Rockaway are a living reminder of the early decades of the 20th century, when a seaside “resort” existed within New York City. They also remind the visitor of the city's oft-forgotten proximity to the Atlantic. By the mid-1920s, Rockaway bungalows numbered in the thousands, lining this 11-mile barrier reef at the city's southeastern edge and forming the city's only oceanfront community. Today about 400 bungalows remain.
A stroll among the surviving cluster of bungalows at Far Rockaway, built in the 1920s along Beach 24th, 25th, and 26th Streets, immediately and visually links visitors to a time when the Rockaways were a popular destination for many of the city's working families. Walking down a short block towards the ocean, the sea air coming off the dunes and water, the sky enormous, a visitor finds the streetscape so compatible with the natural setting: one-story bungalows with porches, each about 600 feet, one after the other, made of brick and plaster, with good lines, line the street. It is immediately easy to imagine the past, when people, working people, shared small quarters.
In the past, many New York families, whose breadwinners worked as butchers, domestics, bus drivers, seamstresses, longshoremen, and peddlers, rented the same bungalow summer after summer, returning to the tight-knit seasonal communities that developed among generations of vacationers. These cottages originally had only basic amenities: 2-3 bedrooms, indoor toilets, cold water, and outdoor showers. Most residents were Jewish and Irish immigrant families who spent their days outdoors, at the beach, in the bungalow courts, and on their front porches. Far Rockaway, Edgemere, and Arverne, were frequented by Jewish families, while Rockaway Beach and Seaside were populated by Irish-Americans. Bungalows first appeared on the Rockaway peninsula in the early 20th century. Their appearance and proliferation indicate larger trends in the city’s social and architectural history.