The streets of Long Island City, Ridgewood and to a lesser degree, Woodside, are lined with blond bricked Mathews Model Flats, each unit produced for $8000 in 1915 by Gustave X. Mathews, who is virtually unknown today but responsible for much classic residential architecture in Queens. The distinctive yellow bricks were produced in the kilns of Balthazar Kreischer’s brick works in the far reaches of Staten Island. (The Krieschers and Long Island City stalwarts, the Steinways, were linked by marriage.) By 1917, Mathews flats were in such demand that it’s said that if laid side by side the entire string of houses would reach 4.5 miles.
Mathews mass-produced these multi-unit houses for about $8,000 and sold them for $11,000. At first, they did not have central heating or hot water systems. The only heat came from coal in the stove and a kerosene heater in the living room. Despite this, the U.S. Government gave special recognition to Matthews’ concept in 1915 when an exhibit was opened at the Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco. It showed the world how efficiently these type of apartments met housing needs for a surging population.
Though some blocks of Mathews flats have been given NYC Landmark status, others, such as the ones shown here on Skillman Avenue and 52nd Street as well as others in LIC, have not.
When you pass through a neighborhood of these, look for the one which have preserved the original wooden transom windows above the door where the panes of glass are arranged in a sunrise pattern.