WWW.QNS.COM RIDGEWOOD TIMES JANUARY 16, 2020 27
OUR NEIGHBORHOOD: THE WAY IT WAS
the tone for a century of change
The Onderdonk House remains in Ridgewood as a landmark celebrating the community’s history. File photo
one, was a sign of prestige.
There was a nucleus of about 50 builders who handled
most of the construction. Some built only a mere
handful of homes, simply dabbling at the fringes of a
huge market, but others built them by the hundreds.
Names like George Loeffl er, John Fisher, Richard Weber,
Louis Warmers, the Mathews Brothers and many
others rang high and mighty in local real estate circles.
These men of enterprise also helped to create that secondary
market that goes with building construction.
For the multiple dwellings consumed an endless
stream of kitchen sinks and cabinets, dumbwaiters,
stone stoops, ironwork and, of course, all of the usual
interior personal possessions that fi ll up an apartment.
Many of these items were made in nearby factories, and
the supply could barely keep up with the demand.
All of this building also generated street development,
like cement sidewalks, cobblestone streets and sewers.
One can easily see what building growth did for the
economy of that era.
The impact on the ecology at that time was fantastic.
Where crops had once grown profusely, and gentle
winds had blown over fl at, grassy fi elds, there was
suddenly nothing but stone and concrete. Twenty- and
thirty-foot-high buildings, block aft er block of them,
stopped dead any ambitious wind, heading anywhere,
so that Ridgewood became almost a windless city.
What had once been a land of picnic parks and
clapboard farmhouses surrounded by oaks, birches
and elms also came close to being a treeless city. Only
in the 1970s have various streets of Ridgewood been
revitalized with some greenery by the conducting of
There is, of course, one constant reminder of
Ridgewood’s rural past today: the Vander-Ende
Onderdonk House, at 1820 Flushing Ave., close to
the Ridgewood/Bushwick border.
The house dates back to the Dutch settlement of
New Netherlands, more than 400 years ago. During
the 20th century, it was converted into part of a factory
as the area transformed into a heavy industrial
But by the 1970s, the colonial farmhouse was
vacant and falling into disrepair. The Greater Ridgewood
Historical Society was formed, in large part, as
an eff ort to save and restore the Onderdonk House
as a landmark.
Today, the Onderdonk House — the campus encompassing
nearly a full city block — hosts numerous
events celebrating Ridgewood’s history and culture.
The house has become a museum documenting the
Onderdonks who once lived there and many related
artifacts connected to our local history.
We should also point out, alluded to in “Our Community,”
eff orts have taken place over the last 40+
years to add trees across Ridgewood. Those eff orts,
in recent decades, have been spearheaded by the
Ridgewood Property Owners and Civic Association,
which has held annual surveys and letter-writing
campaigns imploring local elected offi cials and the
city’s Parks Department to add street trees across
During our research, in fact, we came across an
article in the Ridgewood Times published on April 15,
1982, which documents the tree-planting eff ort. Paul
Kerzner, who was then RPOCA president (he would
serve many times as the civic group’s boss over the
next four decades), spoke of a letter he sent to then-
City Councilmen Arthur Katzman and Walter Ward
requesting funding for tree-planting.
Ward, the report noted, wrote to then-Borough
President Donald Manes “urging that the Capital
Budget for 1983 allocate funds for more tree planting
in Queens. Ward reaffi rmed Kerzner’s conviction
that tree planting on “both residential and
commercial” streets is an important implement in
reassuring “residents of the stability of their neighborhood
and aids in raising property values of their
* * *
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 request.