Maspeth marks 375 years of proud history

The town of Maspeth turns 375 years old this month — so it’s birthday-cake time at Maspeth Savings Bank with bank president Thomas Rudzewick (c), Council member Elizabeth Crowley (r) and a costumed stand-in for Colonial Gov. William Kieft.
Photo by Michael Shain
Kourtney Webb

Small-town living doesn’t come to mind when people think of New York City. But for 375 years, the residents of Maspeth, have been a world away from the “big city” and would like to keep it that way.

Kenneth Rudzewick, president and CEO of Maspeth Federal Savings Bank, said the town is a tight-knight community and that Maspeth residents are proud of where they come from.

“Like most Americans, we in Maspeth are resilient and proud of our heritage,” he said. “Here in Maspeth we survive. We remain strong and we love this town.”

During the upcoming months, the town will host events dedicated to its founding.

The first event kicked off with a cake-cutting ceremony Tuesday at Maspeth Federal Savings, where elected officials, community leaders and residents gathered to celebrate Maspeth’s birthday. The bank was more than an appropriate setting for the festivities, considering, the family-owned-bank has been servicing the community for over 70 years.

Christina Wilkinson, president of Newton Historical Society, said Maspeth is a place for community and continues to thrive because of the undying loyalty its people have to the town.

“The community is very supportive of its family-owned businesses,” Wilkinson said. “Children learn a trade from their parents and want to continue to serve the community they grew up in. You have that more so here than in any other neighborhoods. Maspeth Federal Savings is great to non-profits and lends a generous hand to the people here. It’s great to know that such a large entity would remember its people and want to hold a celebration for the town.” Maspeth was founded by English settlers under a Dutch grant in 1642, making Maspeth the first English settlement in Queens. Maspeth is named for the Mespat Indians, who originally settled near what is now Mount Zion Cemetery, that lies on the outer boundary of the neighborhood.

The small-town feel is not lost on this neighborhood. Old houses, only occasionally interrupted by newer two-family homes, line the town’s blocks. Most of the families that live there can trace their lineage back at least four generations or more. The 2.5-square-mile area is not at risk of losing its charm any time soon. The town is devoid of direct access to Manhattan, as there are no New York City subway stations and no express bus stops in Maspeth.

Robert Holden, president of the Juniper Park Civic Association, said he is proud of the town he calls home. He grew up in a house on 74th Street, across the street from the house his mother was born in, and later purchased a house around the corner from his childhood home.

Maspeth is a place “you don’t want to leave,” said Holden. “I was born in Maspeth, my mother was born in Maspeth, my grandfather had a farm in Maspeth, so my ties here are long and deeply rooted. I grew up with my uncle and aunts all around me. They told me stories about the town when cows were around and was all farms. My grandfather lamented over the fact they started to build up the community and that the town was no longer going to be farmland. But it’s great that we can still celebrate milestones in Maspeth.”

Maspeth is not only home to multigenerational families, but families coming from all over the world looking for a new start. The town, which is made up of 32,960 people, according to city data, continues to take in large numbers of immigrants. Polish, German and Irish families are prominent immigrant populations in the area.

Eileen Reilly, executive director of Maspeth Town Hall Community Center, said neighbors want to make newcomers feel welcome.

“We embrace immigrants from every country,” Reilly said. “District 24 has the largest population of immigrant children in the city. We want to extend the feeling of support, a sense of community and that small-town love to all who live in the area.”

The anniversary celebrations will continue throughout the year with various events. A Polish music festival will be held April 9 at the Knockdown Center. On June 9 Maspeth Federal ill host a concert at its main branch in the parking lot.

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