The Mathews Model Flats,
A Place That Matters
March 4th, 2009, 9:59 am
The Mathews Model Flats, located in the Ridgewood, Long Island City, Woodside and Elmhurst neighborhoods of Queens, were nominated to the Census of Places that Matter for providing dignified affordable housing for New Yorkers.
The Mathews Model Flats were built by speculative developer Gustave X. Mathews and designed by Louis Allmendinger in the early part of the 20th Century. Considered to be some of the most innovative housing in the city, these “new law” tenements were designed with more space and better sanitation than their overcrowded 19th Century counterparts. By making use of generous lot sizes, introducing wide air shafts to provide improved air circulation and light quality, including bathrooms in each unit, and limiting the number of apartments per floor, Mathews established a new housing paradigm that was a welcome departure from the congested tenements of the Lower East Side. The three story apartment buildings were simple, sturdy, and relatively cheap to construct, and therefore became the standard for subsequent tenement house construction. Exhibited at the 1915 Panama Pacific Fair in San Francisco, the Mathews Model Flats were heralded as an exceptional achievement.
In keeping with the 1905 fire code for this part of Queens, these attached row buildings were composed of load-bearing masonry walls. Though every block appears the same at first glance, each row was artfully designed with its own intricate corbelling pattern made from variations of light and dark yellow brick from the Kreischer Brick Manufacturing Company in Staten Island. In another attempt to distinguish one block from another, the houses boast a variety of elaborate Romanesque or Renaissance Revival details.
Over 1,000 Mathews Model Flats were constructed between 1900 and 1925. The New York Times reported that the apartment houses, “if placed side by side, would make a line over four miles long.” In December 2008, the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission held a public hearing on the proposed designation of the Ridgewood North Historic District which is composed of the earliest examples of Mathews Model Flats.
To read MAS testimony on the proposed Ridgewood North Historic District click here.
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