Places that Matter

Far Rockaway Bungalows

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Martha Cooper
Martha Cooper
Martha Cooper
Martha Cooper
White house with blue trim, Gordon Chou
House with green shades, Gordon Chou
Cream colored house, Gordon Chou
Richard George
Richard George
Richard George
Richard George
Martha Cooper
Last of the beachfront bungalows in the Rockaways
Place Details »

Place Matters Profile

Introduction by Richard George, President, Beachside Bungalow Preservation Association (BBPA)

The applicant to Place Matters was the Beachside Bungalow Preservation Association (BBPA), which was established in September 1984 and became a non-profit in December 1988. The BBPA is dedicated to the preservation of one of the last remaining bungalow colonies on the Rockaway Penninsula, built in the Rockaway heydays of the 1920s.

The bungalows are nestled along the blocks of Beach 24th Street through Beach 26th Street in Far Rockaway, Queens, between Seagirt Avenue and the boardwalk. Approximately one hundred summer bungalows remain. They were originally constructed around 1920 as an affordable getaway for Jewish immigrants residing in New York City. The bungalows consisted of three bedrooms, a small kitchen, living room (which at the time was the dining room), and a bathroom. Porches were clad in stucco or wood shingles, on twenty by forty foot lots sold to individual families. Just steps away from their homes lay the boardwalk and beach, where residents could swim in the ocean waves. 

The property of the bungalow development was originally the Dickerson Estates, owned in the 1860s by John Joseph Mott and his family. A map of the Dickerson Estates shows that it was part of Far Rockaway Inlet or Bay, which is public trust lands artificially infilled to build the bungalow development. The Dickerson Estates was subdivided into smaller lots, approximately twenty by forty feet. Other lots on the west side of Beach 25th Street and the east side of Beach 26th Street were approximately twenty feet by ninety-six feet deep to accomodate two bungalows, front and back. 

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.