By Jon Cronin
Within in the borders of Ridgewood lies one of the largest historic districts in the United States. Along with Glendale, Ridgewood had a large German population that both created and settled in the stately homes that still exist, in good condition, in the community today.
Just like their neighbors in Glendale, Ridgewood was also famous for its large parties, German pubs, beer gardens and breweries. Although the town is famous for its celebrated German heritage, it was British settlers that named it Ridgewood after the forest and hilly topography. The local talent featured machine workers, and skilled laborers that were part of the economic engine for World War I and II.
In the early twentieth century Ridgewood saw an arrival of Italians, Irish, and Gottscheer Germans from Slovenia, who were all displaced after World War I. In 1934 Ridgewood was the site of a 9,000 person boycott of Nazi Germany. The boycott resulted in fights between Nazi sympathizers and Jewish Communist Groups. It was estimated by a daily paper of the time that 1,100 Nazis resided in Ridgewood, but that they observed it as a social society that was difficult to avoid joining.
One of the most popular landmarks in Ridgewood is the Arbitration Rock, which settled a land dispute between Queens and Brooklyn that began in 1660. The rock was placed as land marker between Ridgewood and Bushwick. As the years passed it become buried until 2000 when the New York City Department of Environmental Preservation and representatives from Queens Borough Hall found it buried under Onderdonk Avenue. The rock’s fate was under debate, until it was decided to be moved to its current home in 2002.
Along with the German and British settlers, was a large influx of Dutch at the beginning of the 18th century. The Ende-Onderdonk’s family homestead has survived until now. The house, which was built in 1709 when the area was mostly farmland, stayed as their family home until 1905. During the land dispute the house was the original marker between Bushwick and Ridgewood and now shares its property with Arbitration Rock. The house is the old Dutch-Colonial home standing New York City.
In 1975, the newly formed Ridgewood Historical Society began fundraising to reconstruct the house, which was damaged in a fire. It took the organization six years to accomplish their goal. Today it operates a museum and cultural center that is the focal point of history for Western Queens.