Land Use Votes Unanimously to Landmark Early 20th Century Homes
At today’s Land Use Committee meeting, Council Member Elizabeth Crowley moved her colleagues to vote unanimously to designate the Ridgewood North Historic District. The full City Council will vote on the bill (LU 1274-2009) at the next Stated Meeting on November 30, 2009. At yesterday’s Landmarks Subcommittee hearing, Council Member Crowley gave the following testimony to encourage her colleagues to vote in favor of the proposed Ridgewood North Historic District.
“Today’s committee vote to landmark the historical houses in northern Ridgewood is a long-awaited victory for many people in Queens,” said Council Member Elizabeth Crowley (D-Queens), whose district encompasses the proposed designation of the Ridgewood North Historic District. “Preserving the history of Ridgewood is important for developing a sense of pride in our history and for the education of our future generations. The longer we wait the more the houses change, impacting the quality of the proposed historic district. I hope you will join me in voting in favor to preserve these historical structures that capture the era of Ridgewood in the early 20th century.”
The Ridgewood North Historic District is significant as an intact grouping of structures that reflect the development of model tenements in Ridgewood in the early 20th century. German immigrant Gustave X. Mathews began building in Bushwick and Ridgewood in the first decade of the 20th century. Using wider lots, large air shafts, private bathrooms, and limiting occupancy to two families per floor, Mathews’ “cold-water flats” were a radical improvement to the overcrowded tenement houses of Williamsburg and the Lower East Side.
By creating improved living quarters and controlling costs so that the apartments could be affordable to families of modest income, Mathews found a niche in the real estate market and met with immediate success. He built and sold over 300 tenements in Ridgewood between 1909 and 1912, receiving 25% the tenement house permits issued in Queens in 1911. The buildings in this district were among the first that Mathews built featuring his innovative floor plans, and are the earliest examples of fully developed Mathews Flats in Ridgewood, which became standards for later tenement house construction.