From The Fresh Ponds To P.S. 88,
The Ring Family Was Always Nearby

As this postcard from about 1915 shows, there was a time when finding a parking space was not a problem on Madison Street off Fresh Pond Road in Ridgewood.
We have an interesting postcard from about 1915 which states: “Madison Avenue from Fresh Pond Road, Ridgewood, Brooklyn.”
The photographer is looking eastward from Fresh Pond Road along Madison Street. “Brooklyn” on the postcard dates back to when all mail for Ridgewood and Glendale was routed through the Brooklyn post office and residents of Ridgewood and Glendale, although in Queens County, were required to include “Brooklyn” in their mailing address.
The four-story brick houses on both sides of Madison Street were built by the Ring-Gibson Company, of which, Walter Ring was the president. The other photograph is essentially the same scene. It was taken in the summer of 2001. Do you think it has changed very much in 86 years?
Our story starts in 1800, when Walter Ring’s grandfather, Frederick Ring, was born on a farm near Bremen, Germany. In the early 1820’s, he emigrated to New York and settled in Manhattan. In 1827, he leased the 60-acre Vanderveer Farm on Woodward Avenue in East Willamsburgh (Ridgewood), Long Island.
In this photo taken last year, there were more cars and trees on Madison Street.
(photo: Harry Lee Henderson)
He was married and on December 24, 1832, and a son was born and named after his father. By 1844, Frederick Ring and his family were living on the Vanderveer Farm and in that year with financial backing from his father, Frederick Ring, Jr. leased the 40-acre White Farm at the Bushwick Crossroads (Flushing and Bushwick avenues).
Frederick Ring, Jr. worked hard as a market gardener, supplying fruits and vegetables to the Catherine Street Wholesale Market in Manhattan. On November 5, 1858, he purchased the 14.955-acre David Van Alst Farm in Fresh Ponds, Long Island, for $500 per acre ($7,477.50). It was on the west side of Fresh Pond Road from what is today Catalpa Avenue on the south, to 100 feet north of Putnam Avenue and extending 300 feet west.
“Fresh Ponds” was the name given to the area in the vicinity of where Fresh Pond Road and Metropolitan Avenue intersected. It got its name from two large fresh water ponds that were located north of Metropolitan Avenue and east of Fresh Pond Road. During the residential housing boom in the early 1900’s, the ponds were filled in.
David Van Alst was deceased, and his widow had decided to sell the farm with the exception of about one acre on which the Van Alst Farmhouse stood. She wanted to continue living there with her two daughters.
Frederick Ring, Jr. worked the Farm and his newly acquired farm. In 1860, he hired a contractor to build a substantial farmhouse south of the Van Alst Farmhouse. The Ring house was approximately where 68th Road is today and the Van Alst house was about where 68th Avenue is today. In 1860, Frederick Ring, Jr. and his family moved into their new home and he then discontinued leasing the White Farm.
Frederick Ring, Jr. and his wife, Sophia, had six children (four daughters and two sons) with Walter being born in 1872 in the Ring house.
About 1868, Jane Van Alst, the Elder, passed away. Her two daughters continued to live in the farmhouse. Jane Van Alst, the Younger, had taken out a mortgage on the property and in 1873 when she could not make the interest payments, the property was foreclosed and sold at public auction. Frederick Ring, Jr. decided not to bid directly. He purchased the property from the high bidder and paid $3,100.
Frederick Ring, Jr. eventually retired as a farmer and became the manager of the Kings County Milling Company, a flour miller in Brooklyn. Subsequently, Standard Milling Company (possibly a member of the flour milling trust) acquired Kings County Milling Company. Frederick Ring, Jr. died on August 24, 1890 at the age of 58.
In the early 1900s as farm land in Ridgewood was converted into residential housing, the population of school children in the area, increased sharply. The City of New York’s Board of Education, in October 1905, decided to build an elementary school to be known as P.S. 88 on the northwest corner of what is now Catalpa Avenue and Fresh Pond Road. This was the southern end of the Ring Farm. The city planned on acquiring the school site by condemnation.
We believe Sophia Ring, widow of Frederick Ring, Jr. passed away in 1906/1907.
In November 1906, the Buildings Department of Queens County issued a permit to the City of New York to build P.S. 88. The architect was C.B.J. Synder of Park Avenue and 59th Street in Manhattan. It was to be a four-story brick building with 36 classrooms to accommodate 1,800 pupils. For the condemnation proceedings, the New York State Supreme Court in Brooklyn scheduled a hearing for January 22, 1907 to appoint commissioners to acquire the land. After this was concluded, a contract to build the school was to be awarded with a projected completion date of January 1, 1908. However, there was an error made in preparing the condemnation papers resulting in a delay.
On July 7, 1907, Frederick Brommer (he married one of the Ring girls) and Marie Ring (she was one of the four daughters) as surviving executor and executrix for the wall of the late Frederick Ring, Jr., sold to the William Ulmer Brewery of Brooklyn, a 100’x 100’ plot located on the west side of Fresh Pond Road just north of the Myrtle Avenue Elevated Railroad Line (which starting in 1906 ran at ground level from Wyckoff Avenue to Fresh Pond and then continued across the fields to the terminal of Metropolitan Avenue in Middle Village). With all the houses being built in Ridgewood, the William Ulmer Brewery thought this side at the Fresh Pond Road station would eventually have heavy pedestrian traffic and would be an excellent location for a saloon to sell Ulmer Beer. They paid $12,500 for the plot (about $54,450 per acre) which was a hefty price. About seven weeks later, the brewery contacted the Ring heirs and on August 30, 1907 for $8,000 purchased additional land abutting the original purchase. The final site was 125’x154’ at a total cost of $20,250. On the site the brewery, they constructed a three-story brick building which they outfitted as a saloon on the ground floor. They subsequently leased the saloon to a proprietor who served only Ulmer Beer.
After the Ulmer site and the school site had been deducted, the Ring heirs had the balance of the farm surveyed and sub-divided with 230 building lots. Streets were laid out in the Ring sub-division as follows: Jefferson Avenue, which became Cornelia Street, now 67th Avenue; Hancock Street which became Hughes Street, now 68th Avenue; Halsey Street, which then became Silver Street, now 68th Road.
This 1908 postcard shows P.S. 88, located at Fresh Pond Road and Elm Avenue (now known as Catalpa Avenue).
P.S. 88 opened on September 8, 1908 with Jacob Rohrbach as the principal. The school cost $235,000 to build.
In December 1908, the Ring heirs decided to sell the remainder of the farm and on December 22, 1908 the heirs as individuals conveyed their interest to a corporation, Ridgewood-Queens Realty Company, of which Frederick Brommer was president. The heirs owned the realty company whose asset was the 230 lots on the Ring Farm.
Walter F. Ring and Williams R. Gibson had formed the Ring-Gibson Company, a real estate entity. Walter Ring had expressed a desire to acquire the 23 lots on the Ring Farm that faced on Fresh Pond Road. However, he could not buy them directly from the heirs because he was one of the heirs and it had to be an arms-length transaction.
For about nine months, the heirs shopped the various builders to see what was the best price they could get for the farm. To facilitate a sale, they divided the 230 lots into 12 parcels, starting in the north, as follows: Parcel 1-lots 1 through 30; parcel 2-lots 31 through 36; Parcel 3-lots 37 through 53; parcel 4-lots 54 through 62; parcel 5-lots 63 through 85; parcel 6-lots 86 through 88, parcel 7-lots 89 to 94; parcel 8-lots 95 through 145; parcel 9-lots 146 through 151; parcel 10-lots 152 through 202; parcel 11-lots 203 through 208; parcel 12-lots 209 through 230.
A complicating factor was Walter Ring’s desire to acquire the 23 lots that faced on Fresh Pond Road. Initially, the heirs shopped to see what was the best price they could get selling the 230 lots in one sale versus selling it in parcels. Paul Stier was willing to pay a price for the entire 230 lots that was agreeable to the heirs. He and Walter Ring then worked out a side arrangement whereby Stier then sold Ring the 23 lots facing on Fresh Pond Road at a price that was agreeable to both. These lots varied from 98’ to 118’ deep.
Accordingly on September 30, 1909, the Ridgewood-Queens Realty Company conveyed to Paul Stier, Inc. the 230 lots on the Ring Farm sub-division for $1 plus other valuable considerations. There were no tax stamps on the deed to indicate the value of the transaction. Paul Stier, Inc. gave Ridgewood-Queens Realty Company a purchase money mortgage for $140,000. How much cash he paid in addition to this, we do not know. Obviously all of the other builders in Ridgewood were curious as to what Paul Stier paid.
As the second part of the transaction, on October 29, 1909, Paul Stier, Inc. Conveyed to the Ring-Gibson Company for $1 plus other valuable considerations, the 23 lots from the sub-division that faced on Fresh Pond Road. These lots were also divided into parcels, with parcel 1 consisting of lots 2, 29 and 30 with 65’ frontage on Fresh Pond Road between Putnam Avenue on the south and going north; parcel 2-lots 63 and 64 with 46’ frontage between the Elevated Railroad and 67th Avenue; parcel 3- nine lots from 116 thru 124, with 180’ frontage, from 6 7th Avenue to 68th Avenue; parcel 4-nine lots from 173 thru 181 with 180’ frontage, from 68th Avenue to 68th Road. There were ‘no tax’ stamps on the deed to indicate the value of the transaction.
We believe the Ring-Gibson Company constructed 23 three-story brick buildings on these lots with a store front on the ground level and an apartment on the second floor and one on the third floor.
Walter Ring, besides being president of Ring-Gibson Company, was also president of Fresh Pond Realty Company and in 1909 was one of the founders was one of the founders of the Ridgewood National Bank.