At the turn of the 20th century, developer Gustave Matthews and designer Louis Allmendinger started constructing tenement buildings in Queens that would later be known as the Matthews Flats in Ridgewood.
Because these tenement buildings were designed with more space and better sanitation than their overcrowded counterparts in 19th century Manhattan, the structures were, and still are, considered to be some of the most innovative housing designs in the city.
The three-story buildings are composed of load-bearing masonry walls of yellow brick, and while each block may look identical, closer investigation will show intricate and artistic designs on each building.
“The shape is very interesting,” Paula Mirkowski, who lives in one of the flats on Grove Street said. “On some of the buildings you see little cherub faces and glass doorknobs. It just makes you feel like you’re somewhere in Germany or Austria.”
In 2009, the Landmark Preservation Commission and City Council recognized a section referred to as Ridgewood North that contains 96 of the 1,000 Matthews Flats. And last Thursday, new street signs marking the historical site were unveiled.
“I am so proud to be honoring the Ridgewood community today,” Councilwoman Diana Reyna (D-Brooklyn, Queens) said. “This historical district designation recognizes the deep cultural legacy that exists in Ridgewood and will preserve this legacy for generations to come.
Forest Avenue, Fairway Avenue, Gates Avenue and Woodbine Street bound the historic district.
The event was attended by a number of community leaders and city representatives including Landmarks Preservation Chairman Robert Tierney and New York Landmarks Preservation Foundation Chairwoman Christina Davis.
“The flats buildings of Ridgewood set a new standard in moderate-income housing in New York City when they were completed more than 100 years ago, and they remain as innovative, stylish and distinctive today as they were back then,” Tierney said. “We are thrilled that the New York Landmarks Foundation has made it possible to interpret and convey Ridgewood’s role in the development and history of New York City to anyone who passes through its streets.”
“Today, these buildings are still a haven for immigrant families,” Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) said. “They are a haven for the people who make the Ridgewood community really strong.”
After the unveiling, attendees were invited for light refreshments provided by Rudy’s Pastry Shop in Ridgewood.
The Ridgewood North Historic District is the third historic district in Ridgewood.
The Stockholm Street Historic District was the first in the area. Located between Onderdonk and Woodward Avenues, the area was designated and approved by City Council in 2000.
The Ridgewood South Historic district, bounded by Woodward and Catalpa avenues and Woodbine Street, was designated in 2010.
The LPC is currently considering a proposal for a Central Ridgewood Historic District, which would be bounded by Forest Avenue and Fresh Pond Road; and Woodbine Street and 71st Avenue.