2016-05-11 / Star Journal

Beach Communities Up And Coming In May 1893

The Greater Astoria Historical Society presents pages from the Long Island Star Journal.

Welcome to May 1893!

Chicago was abuzz with excitement as the 1893 World’s Fair opened to the public. Spanning 690 acres, the great exposition was an impressive symbol of a young nation emerging onto the world stage. In other news that month 123 years ago, on May 10 the United States Supreme Court legally declared the tomato to be a vegetable.

Such a landmark legal ruling may or may not have been on the minds of New Yorkers preparing to summer in the Rockaways that year. With a cholera scare in both New York City and Queens driving people away from urban congestion and to the seashore and other destinations, the Long Island Rail Road awaited delivery of 50 new coaches and 20 Baldwin locomotives to accommodate the crowds looking for sun, sea and fresh air. The community of Arverne was set to play host to O.E. Beach, editor of Scientific American, Mr. A. Abraham of the Brooklyn dry goods merchants Abraham & Straus, who rented a cottage for $2,000 for the season, and his partner, Oscar Straus, past and future Minister to the Ottoman Empire.

For locals who found a $2,000 cottage rental a bit pricey, the places of amusement at North Beach were already doing brisk business as they opened for the summer. The Club House served up fine wines and liquors to sizable crowds at the Queens resort, and Henry Daufkirch’s Bay View House and Dance Hall was busy preparing to entertain picnic excursions with music and dancing. Conrad Reinhold’s, however, was closed due to the death of his infant child.

With summer still a month away, some may not have been quite ready for a dip in the ocean or a stroll along the beach. That May, a few curious souls in the Ravenswood section turned out to see phrenologist Professor Bausch lecture on his practice and read the psychological characteristics of volunteers. Phrenology is a pseudo science which measures the human skull to determine attributes in patients. It was popular in the first half of the 19th century and greatly influenced psychiatry at the time.

That month, John Finn of New York City could have used the services of a good phrenologist as his “fowl” play on Borden Avenue landed him in jail on charges of grand larceny. When a Farrell Reilly at that address noticed his game chickens missing, a resident of Greenpoint reported a similar theft and fingered young Finn as the culprit. The fate of the young man and his pilfered poultry is unknown.

Hearing the news of his passing from cold at the age of 22, many a neighbor recalled the talented musician John F. Dowling who entertained large crowds with his sweet, youthful voice and charming listeners with his brilliance as a pianist. He was interred in Calvary Cemetery surrounded by family, friends and beautiful floral offerings. One of the arrangements, in the shape of a harp, was inscribed with the word “silent.”

That's the way it was in May 1893!

For further information, contact the Greater Astoria Historical Society at 718- 278-0700 or visit our website at www.astorialic.org.

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