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Hidden HOME Town: Long Beach, City by the Sea

By: Lee Meyer
Long Beach Postcard

Long Beach Historical & Preservation Society

We all have favorite aspects of Long Island’s myriad villages and towns, from pristine natural wonders to historic homes and beloved businesses. What we love most, perhaps, is that there is always something new to discover. Famous for its stunning Atlantic Ocean views, beautiful boardwalk and distinct real estate districts, Long Beach is affectionately known as the City by the Sea, but less known, perhaps, is that the moniker is actually there, written in Latin, on the city’s official seal.

First incorporated as a village in 1913, the City of Long Beach was founded by politician and real estate developer William H. Reynolds in 1922. Reynolds, who also developed Bedford-Stuyvesant, Borough Park, Bensonhurst and South Brownsville in Brooklyn, was Long Beach’s first president.

Elephants from Coney Island’s Dreamland were used in a PR stunt to help build the 2.2 mile boardwalk in 1914. The elephants “helped” with the physical labor of hauling building materials.

Long Beach is one of only two cities on Long Island (sharing the distinction with Glen Cove).

Legendary dancers Vernon and Irene Castle, who are known for reviving popular modern dance, opened the Long Beach nightclub Castles by the Sea in 1914. Tragically, Vernon would not get to enjoy Castles by the Sea for very long—after enlisting in World War I, Vernon was killed while piloting a plane in Texas in 1918.

The Rockaway Indians were the original inhabitants of the Long Beach barrier island.

Bayman Davenport Wright built the first house on the barrier island, in 1869. The first neighborhood, the Estates, went up in 1908.

The fictional Corleone compound from The Godfather was located in Long Beach, although the house shot in the movie was on Staten Island. Ironically, one of the editors of the Oscar-winning 1972 film was named William Henry Reynolds.

When the 1,100-foot-long Long Beach Hotel was built in 1880, it was the largest in the world.

Rock icon Joan Jett—a longtime resident of Rockville Centre and Long Beach—may have filmed the music video for 2006’s “Change the World” on the boardwalk, but she should be better known for her heroic act there in 1985 after hearing a mother’s cries for help. “She said, ‘My kid is drowning! I can’t find my kid,’” Jett told the Los Angeles Times about the day she saved a little boy from drowning in the Atlantic Ocean surf after. “I looked around and I saw where he was. So I ran in the water with my clothes on—you don’t think about that kind of stuff—and got him from about a half-foot under water.”

Celebrities who have called Long Beach home include Billy Crystal, Derek Jeter, John Barrymore, Humphrey Bogart, James Cagney and Chuck Close.

As you take a Long Beach Historical & Preservation Society tour of the historical homes, you’ll notice hundreds of bricks donated by Long Beach locals, making up the Heritage Walk.