I recently walked (and biked the final mile or so) of the Rockaway peninsula boardwalk. Like a wraith, the former Hotel Del Mar appears at the west end of the boardwalk, officially called Ocean Promenade, at Beach 125th Street. The boardwalk itself goes on and on, all the way out to Beach 9th Street in Far Rockaway. The hotel is the lone Hurricane Sandy ruin remaining; the boardwalk itself was rebuilt and reopened 4 years after the superstorm, which chopped the former boardwalk into chunks and splinters, leaving parts of it on the streets of Belle Harbor, Hammels and other neighborhoods.
The Del Mar was one of many seaside hotels built along the water in the early 20th century as Rockaway Playland was built and residential developments began to march west in Rockaway Park, Belle Harbor and Neponsit.
The Hotel Del Mar, which opened in 1930, occupied the seaside mansion built in 1912 by Edward and Josephine Hickie Wren on Triton Ave., an early name for Ocean Promenade. An above-ground basement and a wraparound porch that accepted the breeze no matter which direction provided adequate to excellent cooling on hotter days before the days of air conditioning. A small rooftop observatory was provided to view the stars, planets and moon in the era before blaring and glaring sodium lighting rendered them nearly invisible. Edward Wren, born in Ireland, was a successful department store entrepreneur, known in the era as a “merchant prince.” He and his family sought a seaside dwelling in the early-20th century as he’d contracted Bright’s disease, a disorder of the kidneys, and fresh air was a major component of therapy then.
After Edward Wren died in 1917, the home was sold to new investors who turned it into the Del Mar, which for several decades was among the most popular resorts on the peninsula, hosting myriad weddings and bar mitzvahs. The Del Mar’s final incarnation was as the Chai Home for Adults.
Please help contribute to a new Forgotten NY website