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History of Ridgewood, Queens2

The Ridgewood North Historic District comprises 96 multi-family residential and commercial buildings developed mainly by the G.X. Mathews Company between 1908 and 1914. Located along Gates, Fairview, Grandview and Forest avenues and Palmetto and Woodbine streets, the district is located southwestern Ridgewood, close to the Brooklyn-Queens border.

Located in western Queens County, the town of Ridgewood3 originally spanned the Brooklyn-Queens border, an area that was inhabited by the Mespachtes Indians prior to being settled by Europeans. The high, thickly wooded terrain, part of the terminal moraine that runs through Ridgewood and continues east through the center of Long Island, was the most noticeable aspect of the area’s topology. Part of the town was located in Bushwick, Brooklyn, one of the original six towns that joined together to become the City of Brooklyn in 1854, while another section was part of the adjacent town of Newtown, one of the original three towns of Queens County.

In addition to spanning two counties, Ridgewood was also the location of an on-going Bushwick-Newtown border debate that dates back to 1661 and original land patents. In 1768, a bill was passed in the New York State Legislature allowing for the designation of a boundary between the two townships. The following year the boundary was established in reference to “Arbitration Rock,” a large, glacial boulder that marked the border.

During the 17th and 18th centuries, farms in Bushwick and Ridgewood were tilled by Dutch and British families, who grew lettuce, corn, potatoes, cauliflower, and a variety of fruits for urban markets in Brooklyn and Manhattan. The only-known Dutch farmhouse surviving in Ridgewood is the Adrian and Ann Wyckoff Onderdonk House (third quarter of the 18th century, a designated New York City Landmark). At the start of the American Revolution, Ridgewood was mostly farmland, along with a small burial ground. During this period and for some time thereafter, many of the farms held slaves. 4

1 This section is adapted from: Landmarks Preservation Commission, Stockholm Street Historic District Designation Report (LP-2081), report prepared by Donald Presa (New York: City of New York, 2000).

2 A portion of this section is adapted from: Landmarks Preservation Commission files, Ridgewood. Sources for this section include: Landmarks Preservation Commission, Public School 86 (Irvington School) Designation Report (LP-1808), (New York: City of New York, 1991); Eugene L. Armbruster, The Eastern District of Brooklyn (New York: Eugene L. Armbruster, 1912); Walter J. Hutter et al, Our Community, Its History and People - Ridgewood, Glendale, Maspeth, Middle Village, Liberty Park (New York: Greater Ridgewood Historical Society, Inc., 1976); National Register of Historic Places, Ridgewood Multiple Resource Area (Washington, D.C., 1983), report prepared by Donald G. Presa; “Our Neighborhood the Way It Was,” Times Newsweekly, August 23, 1990, 31; George Schubel, A History of Greater Ridgewood (New York: Ridgewood Times Publishing Co., 1912); Vincent Seyfried and Stephen Weinstein, “Ridgewood,” The Encyclopedia of New York City, ed., Kenneth T. Jackson (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995), 1005; and Vincent F. Seyfried and Jon A. Peterson, “A Brief History of Queens, Historical Essay: A Thumbnail View,” Official History Page of the Queens Borough President’s Office, New York City Local Government, available on-line (May 13, 2009) at: http://www.queensbp.org/content_web/tourism/tourism_history.shtml.

3 Ridgewood was named for the reservoir, built in 1856-59 by the City of Brooklyn, located on the glacial ridge formed by the Long Island terminal moraine. The reservoir was located in the present-day Highland Park on the south side of Ridgewood.

4 Early census records show that the Debevoise and Wyckoff families, 18th-century owners of the land contained in the Ridgewood North Historic District, as well as many of their neighbors, were slave owners. (United States Federal Census: 1790, 1800, 1810).


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