By SERGEY KADINSKY
Forgotten New York correspondent
WE don’t usually associate southeastern Queens with mural ads as this is largely a corner of the borough covered by single-family tract houses. But on Sutphin Boulevard near its intersection with Linden Boulevard in South Jamaica is a brick wall with a faded mural for Castle Baths in Atlantic Beach. The ad hearkens back to a time before the Van Wyck and Nassau Expressways became the main routes for Queens motorists to reach Atlantic Beach. That was when Sutphin Boulevard ran south from Jamaica to Rockaway Boulevard, which continued towards the Five Towns and Far Rockaway.
Having written a photo essay about a former bathhouse in Coney Island, Rutgers Baths on the Lower East Side that has since been demolished, and Baruch Baths near East River Park, I was curious about Castle Baths. When was it in operation, and what’s on its site today? I could not find many details online, only that its address was on the boardwalk and that it had burned down in 1937.
The Long Beach Public Library has a detailed online collection of old photos and postcards depicting the oceanfront city’s prewar heyday. Castle’s Bath and its affiliate, Castle-by-the-Sea Theatre, was on the Boardwalk to the east of National Boulevard. Its name isn’t architectural. Rather it is a tribute to the dancing duo Irene and Vernon Castle.
Today, this corner is occupied by the upscale Allegria Hotel, which brings the feeling of Miami Beach to this northeastern sandbar city.
Around the corner from the mural on Sutphin Boulevard, there are two dead-ends branching from Linden Boulevard: Augusta Court and James Court. Southeast Queens was developed as a patchwork of tract houses amid farms which were later also developed. As a result, it is filled with dead-ends, grid-defiers, and blocks where sidewalks disappear, where roads widen and narrow unexpectedly, and other oddities.
Having written about the urban scenery of downtown Hempstead, this ad inspires me to revisit the city of Long Beach and its forgotten buildings, streets, and hidden history.
Sergey Kadinsky is the author of Hidden Waters of New York City: A History and Guide to 101 Forgotten Lakes, Ponds, Creeks, and Streams in the Five Boroughs (2016, Countryman Press), adjunct history professor at Touro University and the webmaster of Hidden Waters Blog.
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Not long ago I was thinking about the Kilravock Inn in Connecticut, which once had been a favorite of my grandparents. Google showed that it was built as a wealthy financier’s country estate in 1905 and designed by the famous architect Henry Hardenbergh, who also designed the Plaza Hotel and the Dakota apartments. In the 1950’s it became a 50-room inn and a highly acclaimed restaurant but burned down in 1976.
And that’s basically all the information there is. There are no photos online, no reminiscences by former employees, not even any information about just where in the town of Litchfield it stood. So it’s not at all surprising that there’s so little information about the Castle Baths.
Great find. South Jamaica is a treasure chest of fading ads. Thank you for contacting me. Enjoy the rest of the summer.