On my Maspeth wanderings (I have Maspeth wanderings; Blissville wanderings; Richmondtown wanderings; Inwood wanderings; Gravesend wanderings; Wakefield wanderings; you get the picture) I have always been fascinated with Mazeau Street (pronounced by the locals to rhyme with “Magoo”) a short, crescent-shaped street issuing from Grand and 57th Avenues south to the Queens-Midtown Expressway. I’ve been saying on various tours and presentations that the street was renamed from Maiden Lane several decades ago. It’s not quite as straightforward as that.
At the bend in the road south of 57th Avenue, Mazeau Street sports a couple of dead-end tributaries, that are that rarity, New York City dirt roads, One is tabbed with a street sign, 57th Road. ( did a bit of digging on old maps, one of my favorite activities, and found a 1922 Hagstrom on this FNY page. Maspeth has a street grid of sorts, but the grid is by needs altered somewhat because when it was established in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, it had to get around a pair of zigzagging farm roads that are now called Grand and Caldwell Avenues. Hilly topography also served to define the routes of streets in some cases.
Anyway when you look at this pair of dirt roads on that map you can see that they formerly bore the names Linx Place and Ness Street. Most of the other small streets in the warren biscted Mazeau Street have either been built on or eliminated by the Queens Midtown Highway (built in the 1940s in Maspeth) now the west end of the Long Island Expressway.
Although most of the homes on Mazeau Street go back to the late 19th or early 20th Century many have been greatly altered. For example, 57-48 Mazeau (center), according to Barbara Stankowski’s Maspeth, Our Town (1977) this house was a former blacksmithery; George Mainhardt was the foremost blacksmith in Maspeth in the 1880s. If you look at 57-48 Mazeau in the 1940 photos in the Municipal Archives, this building was a poultry distributorship (possibly a slaughterhouse).
At the south end of Mazeau Street a pedestrian bridge crosses the LIE.
Now the history, at least the version of history shown on maps. This 1909 excerpt shows Mazeau Street as “Maiden Lane” and thus you might think that Mazeau Street is a straightforward renaming of Maiden Lane.
The original Maiden Lane is in lower Manhattan. It too has a curving route and according to legend, it overlays a brook where, during the Dutch colonial era in the 1600s, young women would come to wash and rinse clothes. Since then, other Maiden Lanes have arisen in other regions; for example, in Tottenville, Staten Island. This Maiden Lane may have been named for the one in Manhattan, and its curving route may have also overlain a brook.
Map excerpt in Maspeth, 1915. This shows a number of “paper streets” that were on developers’ drawing boards. At the time, there were plans to build a somewhat stricter grid in Maspeth, topography be damned, while incorporating the pre-existing Grand Avenue (Grand Street at the time), North Hempstead Plank Road (now 57th Avenue).
Maiden Lane would be difficult to dislodge because it already had several houses built along its length. At the time, a new street, Mazeau Street, was laid out north of Grand Avenue. When Queens streets were numbered it became 71st, with Laforge and Nagy becoming 72nd Street and 72nd Place.
This excerpt shows the grid surrounding Caldwell Avenue, which exists today. Mazeau, along with fellow named streets, extended south (continuing as far south as the Connecting Railroad). Maiden Lane, meanwhile, extended as far south as Caldwell (one block between the LIE and Caldwell). That small piece is still in existence, but is now called 71st Street. Caldwell angles to the SE, along with the line of houses represented by the yellow boxes.
Thus, a mystery. Mazeau was originally meant to be a second north-south street, but the section between Grand and Caldwell was never built. Instead, the name “Mazeau” was transferred to Maiden Lane.
Only a traffic engineer alive at the time could tell you why, but they’re unavailable these days.