Thursday, June 03, 2010

Summertime And The Beaches Are Open

With the dread of summer upon me (I dislike the heat, the sun, the humididdity and the extra long days) I've decided to venture south of the Staten Island Expressway for a rare excursion. Apparently, there are some people crazy enough to enjoy going to crowded, hot, amusement strewn beaches and boardwalks in the summertime. Well, ....

...once upon a time, long ago in the dim and distant past, South Beach and Midland Beach were glorious havens of escape and adventure.

Gaudily illuminated and painted tents, rides and buildings ran alongside the boardwalk that lined the north eastern shore of Staten Island. From the late nineteenth century through the late nineteen twenties the twin beaches had hotels, summer cottages, campgrounds and theaters and rides. In 1906 Happy Land Amusement Park opened in South Beach.

Midland Beach had its own collection of resorts and like its northern neighbor its own train station.

The Great Depression (no link, you really should know that one) killed the resorts. By the time the tourists dried up in 1939 the abandoned halls, rides and hotels were ready for demolition. The feds bought the property, knocked everything down and eventually building what is now known as the FDR Boardwalk.

Considering the emptiness of the beaches today (one restaurant/catering hall, public toilets and a fishing pier are about it) and the reputation of South Beach and Midland Beach as two run down neighborhoods the above pictures might come as a surprise. To think that Staten Island was ever anyone's idea of a destination is staggering. As much as I love this stupid place it's mostly for nutty, personal reasons. Otherwise this island is simply a place where people live and work.
I know that's absurdly reductionist but I still have a hard time picturing imaging hordes of people coming from anywhere else to spend weeks on Staten Island's shore. The closest comparison is Ocean City, NJ (though clearly people dressed MUCH better back then). Nearness to the rest of the city and the ease of getting here compared to New Jersey makes sense. Still.....

No comments: