|Friday, June 13, 1997 :: History :: 10737 Views ::
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By 1908 William Howard had filled his marshland and made plans to develop Howard Estates. This was the successful long-term plan that resulted first in Howard Estates, which became Howard Beach Estates and finally Howard Beach.
The Howard Estates Development Company retained Joseph R Day as its real estate agent. From this modest beginning Mr.: Day would go on to become one of America's great auctioneers and Realtors; after the 1929 stock crash his name could be found on nearly every other foreclosed building being resold in New York.
While the surveyors plotted boxlike streets to be built atop the filled marsh west of Hawtree Creek, Howard's attention turned to the edge of the bay where he began building his park. From the bay north pure white sand glistened in the sunlight. The dredged sand had dried and workmen were building streets and sidewalks, but still there were no homes atop the pristine sand.
At the bay's edge, a beautiful beach now existed where previously the reedy, flood-prone marsh had been. The west bank of Hawtree Basin became known as Sand Beach.
The company then constructed an all-purpose building adjacent to the creek that became known as The Casino. This building, a large, one-story recreation center-type structure, became a fixture at the private beach opened for residents of Howard Beach Estates. The Casino faced south and stood just east of the tennis courts in today's Frank M. Charles Memorial Park.
The Casino was ideal for a beach headquarters. It had two sets of doors facing the bay. Above the west door was inscribed the word: Casino; above the east door it read: Refreshments. A fireplace inside stood against the north wall. Showers, lockers and a small restaurant with overhead veranda completed the interior Public meetings, dances, hops and benefits all would be held in the Casino building over the next forty years. And as we'll see when our story reaches the 1920s, it later became the appropriate address and headquarters of the Frank M. Charles Post of the American Legion. A concrete sidewalk circled the building, along which small hedges were planted. The company then laid out a long concrete walkway running the length of the park. A veranda with white support columns extended from 99th to 95th Streets, allowing a shady stroll along the walk. Tennis courts added the following year were placed at the northeast end of the walkway; years later the late Vitas Gerulaitis would hone his game on these courts en route to tennis stardom. While the first of Howard's homes were under construction, his park and beach were mainly used by the residents of Ramblersville and their friends. Within a few years the crowds would force the company to secure the beach for Howard Estates residents only.
The Casino became the homespun name in local usage referring to William Howard's park. Even today old-timers in town will refer to the park as, "The Casino" just as they still call a creek a "crick" , and the tidal marshes, "swamps".