|Friday, June 13, 1997 :: History :: 10365 Views ::
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A brisk northwest wind blew cold across Howard's pier on the Wednesday night of October 24, 1907. Afire started in either the Kill-Time Clubhouse or the hotel's dancing pavilion, would shortly consume Howard's Hotel and pier The New York Times reported the story on its front page the following day:
LONG ISLAND RESORT BURNED 14 Buildings at Howard's Landing on Rockaway Trestle destroyed.
"The twelve clubhouses, Summer Hotel and dancing pavilion at Howard's Landing, a fishing resort on Jamaica Bay, on the Rockaway branch of the Long Island Rail Road, were completely destroyed by fire last night and the damage is estimated to be $100,000. It is believed the fire was caused by the carelessness of a cigarette smoker
The buildings stood on a wooden arm of the trestle road over the waters of the bay on piles. As the season is over the buildings were closed and no one was there except the night watchman and two or three fishermen. The fire started in the dancing pavilion and the watchman had a narrow escape from the flames while he was cutting away boats tied to the pier. Fifty firemen came down by special trains on the Long Island Railroad from Brooklyn and used the axes and saws in the train to cut away the pier and prevent the flames spreading to the railroad, where the trains were passing every twenty minutes. A fireboat came and played upon the burning buildings, but could do nothing to check the flames. The trestle of the railroad was saved by the prompt severing of the connection with the arm that led to the hotel and clubhouses. The flames lit up Jamaica Bay for miles.
The buildings were two-story houses of wood and the majority of them were furnished. Many small boats were burned before the watchman could get them away from the pier ,where The Times story states that the fire started in the dancing pavilion, a Ramblersville resident of the era named Christian Williams believed that it began in the Kill-Time Clubhouse.
Williams was interviewed by The NY News in 1955 when he was 83 years young. He said, "the fire engine came, but the boardwalk burned up and the engine fell into the water " This is compatible with other reports that agree the burning pier collapsed under the engine and fire crew, sending the equipment plunging into the bay "while the fire men dove clear "
Mr. Williams remembered the Hotel Howard: "the hotel had dancing, a good bar and good seafood, " he said. "There was a cable boat from the trestle but it used to get stuck in the mud often. The wind was blowing from the northwest and the place went up just like that!" With a snap of his fingers Christian Williams demonstrated just how quickly William Howard's luck had changed.