Tucked away on the west side of the small town of Broad Channel in the middle of Jamiaca Bay is a narrow, dead end, street that goes by the name of West 12th Road. Those of us who live there know that the nice part about living in a small town is that when you are not quite sure what is going on, someone else always does!
[Peter J. Mahon West 12th Road, Broad Channel]
Where can you find a miniature golf course, a landing strip, numerous dance halls, speakeasies, hotels, an outdoor movie theater and an army base in the length of one room?
At the ‘newest’ Broad Channel Historical Day this Sunday, October 16, that’s where. History not only comes alive, it gets up and shakes hands with present day BC between 1 and 4 p.m. at the VFW Post 260 Hall at 705 Shad Creek Road, just off Cross Bay Boulevard in Broad Channel.
The free event will feature not only more than 30 binders full of historical material, such as photos, news articles, personal histories, and a map of the Channel’s 40 plus bars, but also a many items that are not usually on view to the public.
Among those is a complete place setting from Weiss’, a former BC restaurant known as one of the places to go when visiting New York. Even the plates have Weiss’ name on them.
“It’s an extensive collection,” Broad Channel Historical Society Chairperson Barbara Toborg told the Rockaway Times. “We had things that we couldn’t put in the Broad Channel Library in the binders. Banners, framed pictures, posters, maps. It’s at Historical Day when we can present material like that and let people see it along with everything else.”
“There are Broad Channel Mardi Gras trophies, and CD’s, video tapes and DVD’s of events here and interviews with longtime residents. And there are parts of TV programs filmed in Broad Channel.”
Historical Day visitors will also get to get personal and meet some BC authors, namely Mary Dady Clarity, Captain Michael G. Clarity, U.S. Navy ret. and Dan Guarino. The Clarity’s book “Old Salt” recounts Captain Clarity’s Channel childhood, Kings Point cadet days and a Naval career that included command of the US Naval Station at Pearl Harbor.
Resident and local journalist Guarino will present “Images of America: Broad Channel,” written with his late wife Liz, and his newest book, “Broad Channel Through Time,” a colorful ‘now and then’ look at the island community. New 2017 Broad Channel Historical Calendars will also be on sale. These are very popular as they contain not only vintage photos, but also high tide times- useful information to know when to move your car up to the Cross Bay median strip!
Toborg mentions that these events are also a good time for residents, extended family, friends and former residents to add to the collection. Visitors may bring photos and other items along. Photos, as well as letters and other documents, can be copied and returned to the donor.
Look out for a few gems in these new additions. For instance, Toborg says, “We have architectural drawings of the train station and railroad from 1880,” referring to the railroad line that would span Jamaica Bay and later become the path for the A train. The schematics also add another piece to the historical puzzle, namely when did Broad Channel come to be? The New York, Woodhaven Rockaway Beach Rail Road “built the stop in 1880. So we figured there had to be something here, some dwellings or people, for them to put a stop here.” It’s one of the reasons why officially the founding of Broad Channel is put at 1875.
Few people know that Broad Channel was also part of the vital military defense of New York City. Toborg mentions, “One of the most interesting new additions we have are the pictures of what the U.S. Army camp looked like here in the 1950’s.”
Adding to a diagram of the base are newly acquired photos.
The pictures were a recent addition, donated from a woman whose husband was based at the camp.
“It was an anti-aircraft base during World War II,” Toborg explained. Then a Nike missile tracking station in the 50’s.” Designed to counter the threat of incoming Cold War Soviet jets, the Nike anti-aircraft system was deployed between 1954 and 1974. Nikes were based at nearby Fort Tilden and elsewhere.
Toborg noted that “When I went to work at Gateway, there was still a trailer there made of titanium. That was in the 90’s. I wondered why they had a trailer made of an unusual material like that. Later I found out it was from that earlier era.”
Turns out the base was located in what is now the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, a part of the National Park Service’s Gateway National Recreation Area. It too, like so many places, people and things, is now part of Broad Channel’s fascinating history and story.
Come up to the BC Historical Day and see it for yourself!
The Broad Channel Historical Society is currently having its collection digitized, thanks to grants from the Williams Company, and plans a Virtual Museum on the web. For further information, contact Barbara Toborg at 718- 474-1127 or firstname.lastname@example.org