OUR NEIGHBORHOOD The Way It Was.......
Historical Tour Of Local Names Continues With E. Williamsburgh
EAST WILLIAMSBURGH: During the summer of 1851, R. Graves surveyed a tract of land along the Williamsburgh and Jamaica Turnpike (now Metropolitan Avenue), about midway between the Kings County line at Newtown Creek and the small settlement at Middle Village.
The odd-shaped tract south of the turnpike had been part of one of the old Debevoise farms and was acquired by the Winantville Building Association. It was bounded on the north by the lands of George Ricard, on the southwest by the lands of Robert R. Hunter, and south by the lands of Jacob Debevoise.
There was no frontage along the turnpike. The east boundary was the east side of Forest Avenue, mapped and staked by the surveyor with a width of 60 feet.
Graves’ map was dated Aug. 5, 1851 and it also included Butler Street (now Butler Avenue), running west from Forest Avenue about 930 feet to Robert Hunter’s farm line, and Ricard Street running north from Butler Street about 450 feet to the land of George Ricard. Both of these roadways were laid out at a width of 50 feet. A total of 43 large building lots were laid out, most of them 50 feet wide and 400 feet deep.
Although this subdivision was initially called Winantville, the name was almost immediately changed to East Williamsburgh, since it was located to the east of the City of Williamsburgh in Kings County.
The period of the 1850s was one of extensive development along the Williamsburgh and Jamaica Turnpike. In 1849, the turnpike’s roadbed had been re-graded and the dirt, gravel and small stone pavement had been renewed. By 1852 Linden Hill, Lutheran and Mount Olivet cemeteries were opened, leading to additional traffic and development along today’s Metropolitan Avenue from Flushing Avenue east to and beyond 69th Street in Middle Village.
The Town of Newtown established a new school district to cover the territory, and a school was built on Forest Avenue. By the mid-1850s, the East Williamsburgh name was frequently being applied to the territory along both sides of Metropolitan Avenue from Flushing Avenue east to Mount Olivet Crescent, and to at least part of Woodward Avenue in the vicinity of Linden Hill Cemetery. A small section of this area along the turnpike between Flushing Avenue and Grandview Avenue was also referred to as Linden Hill from the 1850s into the 1870s, and the early 19th century farm lane, now part of Grandview Avenue between Grover Cleveland High School and Metropolitan Avenue, was named Linden Hill Lane.
By the 1860s, the original Winantville subdivision had been expanded. George Ricard, who is believed to be one of the Winantville Building Association investors, sold his land with its frontage along the turnpike and along the west side of Forest Avenue, allowing further development of houses and small shops. An additional road named Cottage Place was laid out from the northern end of Ricard Street east through building lots 20 and 26 to Forest Avenue.
Another roadway, since replaced by modern Menahan Street, was laid out to the south of and parallel to Butler Street. Other nearby landowners to the east of the original Winantville land sold their land for development or had their property mapped and laid out in roadways and building lots.
Among the roads laid out were Prospect Avenue, also known as Church Lane (now 60th Place), from today’s Metropolitan Avenue south to a point near Grove Street; Prospect Place and Frederick Street (both part of current Bleecker Street), and Pringle Street and Marshall Street (both part of current Menahan Street).
By the 1870s, the East Williamsburgh name was being applied to all the territory between the Kings County line and Fresh Pond Road and south from Mount Olivet Crescent (including current 59th Drive) in current Maspeth to Myrtle Avenue. The land south of Myrtle Avenue began to be called Ridgewood as early as 1856, quickly replacing the name of South Williamsburgh, a real estate developer’s name of 1854.
In the mid-1880s, proprietors of the old picnic parks in Ridgewood south of Myrtle Avenue and the proprietors of the breweries, hotels, saloons and shops began to petition for a post office, but the Postmaster General refused to approve a local post office to be named Ridgewood, because that name duplicated another Queens County post office named Ridgewood Station at modern Wantagh in what is now Nassau County.
After some additional delays, the local businessmen submitted another petition requesting the establishment of a post office to be named Evergreen. This name was selected because part of the Cemetery of the Evergreens was in the Ridgewood community near the intersection of the Cypress Hills Road (now Cypress Avenue) and Cooper Avenue. The Evergreen post office was approved and opened in May 1887 at Cypress Avenue near Decatur Street.
Most residents and businesses along and south of Myrtle Avenue began to use a new address—Evergreen P.O., Queens County, N.Y. Some farmers and residents to the north of Myrtle Avenue also used the Evergreen postal address. Others in East Williamsburgh continued to used the Glendale Station P.O. (established in 1874) or the Williamsburgh Post Office in Kings County or the Maspeth Post Office,
In 1890, the Postmaster General in Washington, D.C., approved a post office for a major part of the East Williamsburgh territory, but to avoid confusion with the large community of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, the new post office was named Metropolitan and was located on Flushing Avenue just east of Metropolitan Avenue, approximately on the site of the Chase Manhattan Bank branch located there today.
The old Williamsburgh and Jamaica Turnpike was discontinued within the City of Brooklyn in 1858 and the now-public road was named Metropolitan Avenue.
In Queens County, the old turnpike between Newtown Creek and Trotting Course Lane was in deplorable condition and the opening of many public roads along the turnpike route allowed many travelers to bypass the tolls. The turnpike company had insufficient revenue to pay for maintenance of the roadway and the officials of the Town of Newtown in the early 1870s began to take steps to acquire the right of way and adopt it as a public highway.
After meetings, proposals and counter-proposals, the Town of Newtown paid a sum to the turnpike company, and actually took possession of the entire turnpike in Queens County, despite a significant portion of the road being within the Town of Jamaica. The name of the former turnpike was changed to Metropolitan Avenue because it was a continuation of Brooklyn’s Metropolitan Avenue.
Despite the postal name of Metropolitan, this section of Queens covering parts of the modern communities of Ridgewood, Maspeth and Middle Village continued to be commonly known as East Williamsburgh and most maps of the 1890s and early 1900s used that name. The Town of Newtown established a new school district, Number 14, and a school was erected on Starr Street at Woodward Avenue. With the opening of this building, East Williamsburgh children attended either the East Williamsburgh School on Forest Avenue at Bleecker Street or the Metropolitan School on Starr Street.
On Jan. 1, 1898 the western third of Queens County, including all of the Town of Newtown, was absorbed into the new City of New York and the Queens County territory within the city limits also became known as the Borough of Queens. Unlike the other boroughs, the Queens communities retained their names and for a short period, most retained their independent post offices.
The Brooklyn Post Office assumed responsibility for free mail delivery to that portion of Ridgewood (including part of East Williamsburgh) between the Brooklyn borough line and Fresh Pond Road and today’s Cypress Hills Street (part of the old Fresh Pond Road) in 1900. At that time, the Evergreen Post Office was discontinued.
In October 1904, all of the remaining independent post offices within the former Town of Newtown were discontinued and the Postmaster of the Flushing Post Office assumed postal responsibility for the former town and he implemented city mail delivery for the first time to the former Newtown communities. City mail delivery for East Williamsburgh north of Metropolitan Avenue was provided by the Maspeth carrier station of the Flushing Post Office.
The Maspeth postal station also delivered mail to Maspeth, Middle Village and Glendale. Glendale residents and businesses were the first to complain about the very late mail deliveries out of Maspeth—the letter carriers had to contend with the lack of north-south public transportation routes and evening mail delivery seemed to be the norm, with carriers walking miles to complete their routes and sometimes failing to pick up mail deposited in mail boxes along the major roadways.
The Brooklyn postmaster then offered to provide city mail delivery to the Glendale community, including a small portion of southern Middle Village and to the portion of Glendale between Metropolitan Avenue and Union Turnpike east of Trotting Course Lane as far as Metropolitan Avenue (in 1925 this territory was transferred to the Forest Hills postal station of the Flushing Post Office). The Flushing Post Office yielded to the political and community pressure and the Brooklyn Post Office took over Glendale’s mail service.
In 1905 the Brooklyn Post Office also assumed mail responsibility for a portion of East Williamsburgh in “Old” Maspeth, to the north of Metropolitan Avenue in the vicinity of Newtown Creek and Flushing Avenue.
In accordance with the U.S.P.O. Manual, residents and businesses in the territory serviced by the Brooklyn postmaster were to have their mail addressed to “Brooklyn, N.Y.” and businesses were encouraged to use the Brooklyn location on their stationery and in advertisements.
The postal changes, perhaps more than anything else, led to the demise of the East Williamsburgh name. By 1912 that name had virtually disappeared.
Old Timer’s note — the next installment of this story will be published in a future issue.