Riverdale not from 1852


To the editor:

In recent weeks, I have noticed a number of signs welcoming people to Riverdale erected by the North Riverdale Merchant and Business Association. I commend any efforts undertaken to enhance the neighborhood’s commercial and aesthetic value.

The most curious item on the sign is the date given for the establishment of Riverdale: 1852. Indeed, 1852 was a momentous year here. It witnessed the tragedy of the steamer Henry Clay on the Hudson River, in which dozens perished on the afternoon of July 28 just south of the Riverdale train station. 

It also saw the completion of the Fonthill Castle by actor Edwin Forrest on the grounds of what is now the College of Mount Saint Vincent.

However, 1852 is not the year Riverdale was founded. Oct. 3, 1851 saw the opening of the Hudson Line of the New York Central Railroad. Additionally, on March 7, 1864, the Riverdale branch of the U.S. Post Office opened.

Needless to say, the date of 1852, which adorns these signs, is erroneous as the two aforementioned dates bear some reference to those usually assigned to a community’s founding.

It must be admitted that a number of families were already well established in the area prior to 1852 — the Van Cortlandts, Hadleys, Delafields, et al. — and it might be appropriate to pick a date of foundation as earlier than those I suggested. 

But the current date of 1852 is incompatible.

Joseph H. Smith

Joseph H. Smith,