WWW.QNS.COM RIDGEWOOD TIMES APRIL 15, 2021 23
OUR NEIGHBORHOOD: THE WAY IT WAS
A Ridgewood social hall built by immigrants
BY THE OLD TIMER
It’s no secret that Ridgewood grew at the dawn of
the 20th century thanks to the strength of immigrants
who came to the United States looking
for freedom and the opportunity for a better life.
Back then, a great many immigrants who arrived
in Ridgewood came here from Germany.
The population was so large, in fact, that when the
Ridgewood Times published its first issue on Aug.
1, 1908, it was printed in two languages: English
At the same time, however, another group of immigrants
began making its way into Ridgewood by
way of Williamsburg, Brooklyn. These were the
people of Gottschee, a German-speaking enclave
located in present-day Slovenia that dates back to
the 13th century.
The Gottscheer community’s impact on Ridgewood
during the first half of the 20th century
cannot be overstated. Groups of residents formed
charitable organizations and social clubs to support
each other and help families thrive in the
community, and their legacy lives on to this day.
One place in Ridgewood that carries on the
Gottschee legacy is Gottscheer Hall, located at 657
Fairview Ave. Most local residents know it as a
great place to enjoy German food and a fun night
out with friends and family, but Gottscheer Hall’s
history shows it’s much more than a hangout.
Gottscheer Hall was formed by the Gottscheer
Central Holding Corporation, which was established
from the membership of various Gottscheer
social clubs in Ridgewood and Williamsburg.
The hall opened its doors in December 1924, but
almost vanished five years later as a result of a
The Gottscheer community rallied together and
rebuilt the hall, and in the years that followed,
it would become an even greater hub as more
Gottscheer families moved into Ridgewood and
By the 1930s, the Gottscheer population in
Queens had met or exceeded the actual population
of Gottschee, which by then was located within
Europe was thrust into the Second World War II
in September 1939. Two years later, Hitler invaded
and occupied Yugoslavia. The Nazis forced the
“resettlement” of the German-speaking Gottschee
population into Germany itself, thus dissolving
Thousands of Gottscheers sought refuge in the
United States during and after World War II, and
the Gottscheer community in Ridgewood formed
the Gottscheer Relief Association toward helping
In 1950, President Harry Truman signed an
immigration law that allowed easier entry for
Photo via Ridgewood Times archives
“displaced persons” in post-war Europe to enter
the United States. This gave Gottscheer refugees
their opportunity to settle in the Greater Ridgewood
area and start a new life.
Ridgewood boasted the largest Gottscheer
population in the world, and Gottscheer Hall was
busier than ever before. The clubhouse proved
too small to accommodate the burgeoning number
of Gottscheer club members, so the Gottscheer
Central Holding Corporation built a larger club
that opened in December 1962.
The more spacious Gottscheer Hall featured a
large banquet hall with a modern kitchen and two
smaller meeting halls. At least a dozen Gottscheer
clubs made Gottscheer Hall their headquarters
and conducted nearly all of their affairs there.
Gottscheer Hall remains active to this day as
a place for parties, markets, weddings, anniversaries,
graduation celebrations and more. It also
continues to host various clubs linked to local
Gottscheer history, including the Gottscheer
Men’s and Women’s Chorus and a Gottscheer folk
The influx of new residents into Ridgewood
has also helped keep Gottscheer Hall going.
The Queens Courier, a sister publication of the
Ridgewood Times, published a story in 2014 about
it becoming a popular hangout for hipsters, and
that the new regulars were helping to keep the
In Ridgewood, there are few more welcoming
places than Gottscheer Hall — a place born to help
welcome immigrants to America and open the
doors of opportunity and friendship to them.
* * *
If you have any remembrances or old photographs
of “Our Neighborhood: The Way It Was” that you
would like to share with our readers, please write
to the Old Timer, c/o Ridgewood Times, 38-15 Bell
Blvd., Bayside, NY 11361, or send an email to editorial@
ridgewoodtimes.com. Any print photographs
mailed to us will be carefully returned to you upon
The exterior of Gottscheer Hall on Fairview Avenue in Ridgewood as seen in October 2018..
Photo via PropertyShark/Christopher Bride