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Dead Horse Bay

Photo Credit: Julia Wertz

If you are in the market for a non-traditional day at the beach this summer, make sure to pencil in a trip to Dead Horse Bay. Like most of New York City, Dead Horse Bay has a long and slightly gritty history. While much of old New York has been rebuilt, renovated, refurbished, and rebranded, at Dead Horse Bay, remnants of the past are still strewn as far as the eye can see.

Thousands of glass bottles, many over 100 years old, litter the beach along with other more resilient pieces of garbage turned relic. The bay is usually empty, making it a deliciously shiver-worthy post-apocalyptic playground for history buffs, artifact collectors, and NYC urban adventurers alike.

The bay was given its name in the 1850s, when it was home to numerous horse-rendering plants that used the remains of dead horses (which were plentiful in the era of carriage travel) to manufacture glue, fertilizer and other products. From the New York Times: "Dead Horse Bay sits at the western edge of a marshland once dotted by more than two dozen horse-rendering plants, fish oil factories and garbage incinerators... The squalid bay, then accessible only by boat, was reviled for the putrid fumes that hung overhead."

Map Graphic: Get Lost: Dead Horse Bay

With the expansion of the automobile industry, buggies (and the horses that pulled them) became a thing of the past. By the 1920s there was only one rendering plant left. During this transitional era in the 1910s-20s, the marsh of Dead Horse Bay was used as a landfill for the city. It filled quickly and by the late 1930s, the trash heap was capped.

However, in the 1950s the cap burst, and since then the beach and surrounding areas have been filled with bottles, cans, automobile parts, even metal signs - a treasure trove of refuse from a by-gone era. If you, like many New Yorkers, enjoy a slightly sordid history lesson after brunch on Sundays, this should be one spot quite close to home that you don't miss.

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