|Friday, June 13, 1997 :: History :: 11710 Views ::
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The support pilings of William Howard's 2000-foot pier are still visible today at low tide, looking south from Frank M. Charles Memorial Park. Another hundred-year-old set of pilings are visible from the north end of the Joseph Addabbo Bridge, looking west; these pilings are the rotting remains of Flynn's Folly.
Late in the 19th century a trolley impresario, Patrick Flynn, decided to build a toll road to Rockaway across Jamaica Bay. Cross Bay Blvd. was 25 years into the future and the automobile had yet to make an appearance. Flynn's road would be intended for bicycles, carriages, horse-drawn wagons and coaches. It would start at Crescent Street in Brooklyn and proceed south on the Queens side of Old Mill (Spring) Creek, crossing the bay at Long Point.
Flynn brought in the largest dredge yet seen in Jamaica Bay and set to work filling all the marshes between Mill Creek and Howard's property to the east. Flynn filled and raised much of the land west of today's Cross Bay Blvd., which itself would be raised some more with sand dredged later during the construction of Shellbank Canal. In an era preceding motor transport, both Flynn and Howard brought all the needed materials to their work sites by boat, rail or wagon.
Flynn's road almost reached the center of the bay before his lease was invalidated in 1902. Had he completed the road he would have competed with the Long Island Railroad, it would be Flynn and horse-drawn wagons versus electric trains (starting in 1905) speeding across the trestle. Flynn's dream became Flynn's Folly, but all his dredging and filling helped lay the groundwork for Howard Beach; what had been marshland was now under six feet of pure white sand dredged from the bay. This enabled home construction to proceed with minimal risk off loading. The dredging then, was critical to the founding of Howard Beach.
William Howard was still filling his land, upon which he now planned to build a beach, park, streets and sidewalks, and finally homes. Skeptical locals finally became full-fledged Howard supporters when he dug the town's first fresh water well on Elkhorn (102nd) Street. A bucket brigade became a common sight in the years before water mains and plumbing arrived in town.
The Long Island Rail Road had shown unintended foresight by building a station at Hamilton Beach in 1905, two years before the Howard's Landing pier to the trestle was cut loose to prevent the spread of the great fire. The station included an over-the tracks walkover so folks living on both sides could access the station. This brought in more settlers to the Hamiltons, country living with only a 25-minute trip to Manhattan.
Folks at Ramblersville petitioned Father Castex of St. Mary's Gate of Heaven Church to say mass in Ramblersville. The first mass was celebrated in Frank Vonderlinn's cottage in 1906; the Blessed Louis Marie De Monifort Chapel was established on Church Street in 1908. In another decade the Diocese would see the need for a permanent church, Our Lady of Grace.