Last month when I helped make sand dunes for storm protection in the Rockaways, Rhett told us about a beach that’s a scavenger’s haven and not too far from there. It’s also not too far from JFK, so after I landed today, Ryan and I decided to go there to see what we could find.
The beach is called Dead Horse Bay because, from the 1850s, it was surrounded by horse rendering plants, which manufactured glue and fertilizer. The grisly factories, which dumped the chopped-up horses’ bones in the water, were in business until the 1930s. At the turn of the century, the area was also used as a landfill and ever since the 1950s, the bank has been eroding, leaving the beach littered with discarded items. So while it’s not one of New York’s most beautiful historic places, it provides a pretty interesting scavenging spot.
It’s not signposted, so you need to know where you’re going. We parked up and took the narrow paths to the water.
There were so many broken bits of bottles and crockery that the beach looked like it was dotted with jewels. Among the crab shells and seaweed, we found teapot spouts, crumpled boots, forks, painted cups and perfectly intact pill bottles.
You’re not supposed to take any of the items as they’re technically federal property. But the best things to be found seemed to be old-fashioned coloured bottles of all sizes, and I’m sure if you had a good dig, you’d find all sorts of goodies. I’ve read about people finding rusty telephones and clocks, toy figurines and even a 1902 handgun (while others described discovering some of those chopped-up horse bones).
It was fun to scavenge and try to piece together the social history of nearby residents. But while some of our discoveries were beautiful, I couldn’t help but think that the whole place is still heavy with the grimness of its horrible history.