by Kevin Walsh

I was recently wandering around in Ridgewood for the first time in several months with the intent of getting new photos of its obscurities, which are numerous: I’ll enumerate them on an upcoming page, it is hoped, but I can’t resist dedicating a page to one of the obscurest alleys, Kleupfel Court, in all of New York City, which is now in the center of one of the city’s new Landmarked districts, in Central Ridgewood.

Kleupfel Court is a dead end on 60th Place south of Putnam Avenue alongside the right of way of the elevated M train, which here is near the Fresh Pond Road station. In NYC, unlike Chicago, elevated trains were built above streets for the most part and don’t have their own rights-of-way unlike Chicago, so that in itself is an anomaly.

The Department of Transportation does not mark Kleupfel Court with a street sign, though it has in the past.

Two residences stand on the court, facing the elevated. The Central Ridgewood LPC report (page 531) says they have been moved here from elsewhere and date to about 1910.

Looking west on Kleupfel Court. The alley is wide enough to admit vehicles and it’s a tight squeeze. The alley is paved as if it was a sidewalk, not a roadway.

The history of Kleupfel Court can be inferred on this 1915 map. This section of Ridgewood was built out with streets that were extended east and northeast from Bedford-Stuyvesant in Brooklyn, so you have names such as Putnam Avenue and Madison Street. But that is complicated, as these streets also bore other names such as Cornelia and Ivy. This area in Ridgewood also borders an area in which every street is seemingly numbered 60, yet here, some streets were numbered, and some weren’t. Prospect Place became 60th Place, Buchman Street became 60th Lane. Stier Place, named for area developer Paul Stier, has kept its name.

I have circled the two buildings on Kleupfel Court, which is otherwise unmarked here and so it can be inferred that the court got its name after 1915. I have an earlier map from 1909 in which this area was depicted as empty and belonging to the ring family, which also built Ridgewood housing. In 1915, the two buildings faced a surface railroad that would not be placed on an elevated bridge until the late 1910s.

Both Open Street Map and Google Maps dutifully show Kleupfel Court. The two houses are numbered 1 and 2 and don’t use the hyphenated Queens house numbering plan.

Ridgewood was overwhelmingly German-American during the early 20th Century, and Kleupfel Court was likely named for an early resident.

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Jerry Friedman July 6, 2021 - 11:53 am

“The two houses are numbered 1 and 2 and don’t use the hyphenated Queens house numbering plan” That seems like a nice obscurity right there! Two houses on the same side of the “street”, with sequential (i.e. mixed odd and even) numbering!

Andy July 6, 2021 - 12:37 pm

The M train r.o.w. north of Wyckoff Ave. is the longest such stretch of Chicago-style private r.o.w. elevated in NYC. When the line was originally built about 1890 it ran on the street surface. In 1915 it was rebuilt under the Dual Contracts to handle steel subway cars, and the r.o.w. below was used by BRT (BMT after 1923) streetcars until about 1950. The 1915 rebuilding is why the line was retained after 1969, when the old, un-rebuilt elevated south of Broadway was abandoned and razed.

There are a few other short examples of Chicago-style els in NYC. In Brooklyn there is the unique double-deck el for the Q and F routes between West 8th Street and Stillwell Ave., and the Q line between Sheepshead Bay and Brighton Beach Stations. In the Bronx there is the #4 line at Bedford Park Blvd., and the #2/#5 route between West Farms Square and East 180th Street stations. In Chicago, such elevated were originally called “Alley Els” because the followed the alleys adjacent to the main thoroughfares – such alleys are common all over Chicago.

Tomek July 6, 2021 - 6:27 pm

Kevin, do you know where I could find maps from Putnam Ave, specifically between 60th street and Forest ave from early 1900’s?

Kevin Walsh July 7, 2021 - 6:39 pm

Check the Queens maps at Historic Map Works

Evie July 7, 2021 - 1:05 am

So interesting! Especially since I’m one of the Station Agents at Fresh Pond Road and live in the area!

Robert July 8, 2021 - 10:03 am

Zillow has some interior photos of 1 Kleupfel Court, presumably from the last time it sold


Dave July 8, 2021 - 10:17 pm

If you look in on Google maps on 60th Pl under the el, you can see the old street level tracks and bricks as well. That would be a nice picture to add.

Kevin Walsh July 8, 2021 - 10:38 pm

This will be on a future page.


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