Brooklyn has always had some great beaches. When Coney Island, Manhattan and Brighton Beaches became Brooklyn’s Riviera in the late 19th century, it looked as if only the rich swells would get to enjoy the sun and sand. They flocked to the shore to stay in enormous luxury resort hotels where they were waited on hand and foot. They were entertained by John Philip Sousa and his marching band, and feasted on food from the finest chefs in the city. But that all ended when Coney Island became a working-class amusement park. The rich abandoned the hotels for quieter places on Long Island or the Jersey Shore, and eventually the big hotels either burned down or were torn down.
Developers realized that there was opportunity here. Clearly, the working class wanted to enjoy the ocean as much as any upper class family did. If they built it, they would surely come. But the question was how to build efficiently and cheaply. The answer was found in watching Henry Ford’s cars roll off the assembly lines — mass production. Bungalow colonies developed in several beach communities in New York. Harding Park in the Bronx, Far Rockaway In Queens, Cedar Grove on Staten Island, and Brighton Beach, Sheepshead Bay, and Manhattan Beach in Brooklyn, to name a few.
They were all built for working- and middle-class folks. The bungalows were all small, set very close to each other, weren’t in the least bit fancy, and didn’t cost a whole lot to build. For those who were able to rent or buy one it was a New York slice of heaven.
So what became of these greatly hyped cottages? A look at Google Maps and PropertyShark shows us the fate of these small bungalows. There aren’t many left, perhaps two dozen, if that.
Over the years, all of the bungalows were adapted to year-round use. Many owners put additions on the back, even if it meant losing the garage. Many also changed the façades, adding or subtracting porches, windows, etc. Some people added another story.
But the majority of them were prized for the land they stood on. They were torn down, and much larger houses were built on the 25-foot lots.
The remaining bungalows look like children’s playhouses next to the much larger houses that have been constructed on these lots. Some houses take up more than one lot, while others rise several stories higher than their bungalow neighbors.
Most of the new houses are less than 10 years old, and when the Google Maps images were taken in 2013, the blocks were full of new construction, but this may have been more due to Hurricane Sandy reconstruction than wholesale McMansion building.
Interestingly, the Apartcot cottages, all concrete and low slung, seem to have weathered the hurricane much better than their taller neighbors did. Perhaps Mr. Day knew something.
The remaining cottages will continue to be torn down for bigger houses, leaving only the diehards who love their tiny homes. Long may they hold out.
Entire article with historical photos: www.brownstoner.com/…
Sent by Ed Forgotson