All the way up the 1 line, Riverdale’s leafy walks, winding streets and mom-and-pop shops make this part of New York City look pretty out of town. Bordered on the north by Yonkers and on the south by the Harlem River, Riverdale is a unique destination, combining the quiet comforts of suburban life with the commercial hubbub of New York City.
Purchased from the Mahican tribe in 1646 by a Dutchman, the region was used for mostly military and agricultural purposes throughout the 18th century. By the 1820s Riverdale began to attract some of the city’s wealthiest families. Stubbornly resisting the rigid grid layout of the city, Riverdale was planned out as a picturesque suburb of rolling hills, natural curves, and luxurious views. In the 20th century, when the Interborough Rapid Transit System began to reach the neighborhood and Henry Hudson Parkway was laid down, the pace began to pick up. High-rises and smaller residential houses joined the skyline.
Nowadays, Riverdale presents the day traveller with a mixture of its old charms and new arrivals. A walk through the neighborhood is a chance to view a variety of 19th and 20th century architectural styles and landscaping principles at work. The three main commercial streets – Riverdale Avenue, Johnson Avenue and Moshulu Avenue – offer newer attractions: cafes and off-beat curiosities.
The Riverdale Memorial Bell Tower
The Riverdale Monument was erected in 1930 to honor veterans of World War I from the Riverdale, Spuyten Duyvil and Kingsbridge areas. Its history is an itinerant one: the tower alone moved 700 feet in 1936 to its present day location. The bell within the monument was originally housed in a Mexican monastery until its capture in the Mexican War, when it was placed in Greenwich Village, then moved to the local Riverdale firehouse until finally settling inside the monument in 1930. Weighing in at 500 tons of fieldstone and limestone, the monument was designed by Dwight James Baum, an architect responsible for a smattering of Riverdale residences.
Henry Hudson Park Monument
Image courtesy of Lev Wolfson
Ah, Henry Hudson, the English seafarer whose name graces so many of Riverdale’s features: Henry Hudson Parkway, the Hudson River, and Hudson Park, which hosts a Hudson statue. Hudson claimed New York in 1609 on behalf of the Dutch, effectively opening the way for Dutch colonization of the land. Commissioned in 1909, the statue marks the 300-year anniversary of Hudson’s river journey on his ship The Half Moon. The unveiling took place in 1938. The monument consists of a 100-foot Milford pink granite column designed by architect Walter Cook, topped by a 16-foot statue of the explorer himself (started by sculptor Karl Bitter and completed by his student Karl Heinrick Gruppe). Trousers flared, gaze resolute, Hudson looks out at the river that bears his name.
Riverdale Presbyterian Church
You can spot this humble representative of late Gothic Revival architecture from a mile away. The Riverdale Presbyterian Church is instantly recognizable from afar by the brightly-painted red door at its entrance. Come closer and you’ll see steep slate roofs, a copper steeple, and stone detailing typical of Gothic Revival buildings. The Duff House – formerly the minister’s residence but now an administrative office used by the Church – is just couple of feet away. Designed by architect James Renwick Jr., the little church was built in 1863, accessible by dirt road and horse and buggy. Designated a New York City Landmark in 1966, the church continues to serve the Presbyterian community of Riverdale.