Maspeth is a residential and commercial community in the borough of Queens in New York City. It was founded in the early 17th century by Dutch and English settlers. Neighborhoods sharing borders with Maspeth are Woodside to the north; Sunnyside to the northwest; Greenpoint, Brooklyn to the west; East Williamsburg, Brooklyn to the southwest; Fresh Pond and Ridgewoodto the south; and Middle Village and Elmhurst to the east.
The name “Maspeth” is derived from the name of Mespeatches Indians, one of the 13 main Indian tribes that inhabited Long Island. It is translated to mean “at the bad waterplace” relating to the many stagnant swamps that existed in the area.
The area known today as Maspeth was chartered by New Netherlanders and British settlers in the early 17th century. The Dutch had purchased land in the area known today as Queens in 1635, and within a few years began chartering towns. In 1642, they settled Maspat, under a charter granted to Rev. Francis Doughty, making Maspeth the first English settlement in Queens; the deed that was signed between the Native Americans and the settlers was the first one signed on Long Island. As part of the deed’s signature, the “Newtown Patent” granted 13,000 acres (5,300 ha) to settlers. Conflicts with the Maspat tribe forced many settlers to move to what is now Elmhurst in 1643. The settlement was leveled the following year in an attack by Native Indians, and the surviving settlers returned to Manhattan.
In 1652, settlers ventured back to the area, settling an area slightly inland from the previous Maspat location. This new area was called Middleburg, and eventually developed into what is now the town of Elmhurst, bordering Maspeth. Originally, 28 English Quakers had founded the village of Maspeth, which had sizable water and milling industries along Newtown Creek and Maspeth Creek. Two storekeepers, Nathanial Hazard and Francis T. White, sold food and clothes at the Maspeth Town Docks, at what is now 56th Terrace and Rust Street, by the late 18th century. After the American Revolutionary War, villagers repaved roads with crushed oyster shells or wooden planks.
Columbusville was the name formerly applied to a section of Maspeth. It was a development of Edward Dunn that took place on 69th Place (originally known as Firth Avenue) between Grand Avenue and Caldwell Avenue during 1854–55, and was subsequently absorbed into Maspeth. The name fell into disuse in the 1890s.
Following waves of immigration during the 19th century, Maspeth was home to a shanty town of Boyash (Ludar) Gypsies between 1925 and 1939, though this was eventually bulldozed.