Monday, February 8, 2016
Points of view

Honoring an extraordinary family

By Sarah Gund
Grace Hoadley Dodge, at left, poses with her brothers and sisters in 1864. At age 16 she created a workers’ library that grew to become Riverdale Neighborhood House.
Cleveland E. Dodge is still remembered fondly for kindnesses like sharing the honey from his own hives and giving sleigh rides to children.


Let’s go back two centuries, to the mid-1800’s, and open our imaginations to the Dodge family. They came to the West Bronx, to Riverdale, to an extraordinary setting along the banks of the Hudson River where they began a community.  But who were they?

Cleveland Hoadley Dodge was an executive at Phelps Dodge, a leading copper mining corporation co-founded by his grandfather in 1832. His sister, Grace Hoadley Dodge was a sturdy individual, who in today’s terms might be considered a social activist.  

At the age of 16, newly arrived at the family’s Greyston estate overlooking the Palisades, she saw beyond her own family and community of friends, to a larger social community and created a small lending library in one of her family’s greenhouses in 1872. 

The library grew and became a hub for workers in Riverdale. It outgrew its initial setting, so Grace created — in 1884 — an independent building for her library. This new facility expanded beyond its original charter as a library and began supplying social services to the community, and it became known as Riverdale Neighborhood House. 

Cleveland H. Dodge died in 1926, having lived in Riverdale for 63 years and his son Cleveland E. Dodge became the next proprietor of Greyston.  

Cleveland E. Dodge and his wife, Pauline Dodge or — as she was known to many — Aunt Polly, were the Dodges that some Riverdalians still remember well.  

The recollections of the elders of Riverdale who knew these Dodges provide vivid pictures of this family, their values and the vibrant community they did so much to shape.

Robert Morgenthau Sr. — not long removed from his distinguished career as Manhattan’s District Attorney —succinctly says: “ The Dodges were an extraordinary family.”

With excitement, Frances Dennison remembers how Polly Dodge — a dedicated supporter of the YMCA — approached the Waldorf Astoria as a site for the organization’s benefit dinner in the 1950s. 


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