Veteran’s Circle and the Memorial Circle that circumscribes it take their names from the plaques inside the park, which honor 33 American soldiers who died in World War II. One plaque is located on the base of the flagpole; others grace the bases of the trees, each with an American flag. Most of the trees are London plane trees (Platanus x acerifolia), dedicated “to those who made the supreme sacrifice in WWII” by the Belle Harbor Garden Club.
The circle was built in conjunction with the real estate development of the area, which increased the value of the surrounding homes. It was just a cul-de-sac in 1889, standing at the edge of the Rockaway Park community, but the road was soon extended for further development in Rockaway Park and Belle Harbor. Hyde’s Atlas from 1901 shows a circular area divided into four sections, while the atlas from 1907 shows two tracks of the Ocean Electric Railway running through the center of the circle. Veteran’s Circle, located between Beach 120th Street and Beach 121st Street on Rockaway Beach Boulevard, became a public park when the Rockaway Park Improvement Company deeded the land to the City on June 29, 1911.
This neighborhood, on the Rockaway Peninsula in Queens, began developing in the 1880s when the New York, Woodhaven, and Rockaway Railroads connected the area. In the 19th century it was a common practice for railroad companies operating in cities to deal in real estate, making profits by both selling land for development and creating a demand for their transit services. Heavy rail lines carried passengers back and forth between New York City and outlying areas like the Rockaways, while streetcars, like the Ocean Electric Railway, provided local service.
The Ocean Electric Railway was part of the Long Island Rail Road, and its president, Austin Corbin, allotted about 300 acres of land, as well as a half mile of beachfront for the development of exclusive residences. This contributed greatly to development of the area. The Rockaway Beach Amusement Park opened in 1901 and a second, smaller amusement park named Rockaway Playland operated until 1985. The area became a favorite summer location, and the train stations were crowded on hot days. Due to its popularity, hundreds of homes were built in Rockaway Park by 1915. Unlike many other former summer vacation destinations, Rockaway Park has remained an attractive neighborhood, which now has a larger permanent population and fewer summer visitors.
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