First Riverdale school bus, 1913

The Story of Riverdale

Riverdale Country School opened in 1907 with just a handful of students. Our neighborhood was a mixture of farmland, riverfront, and forest. Throughout more than a century, we have worked to be a conscientious steward of our two campuses – home to the largest urban forest in the City, and the site of playing fields, grassy lawns, playgrounds, gardens, and outdoor laboratories, in addition to multiple buildings, libraries, gyms, theaters, dining rooms, and labs.

By design, our location is close to the city but offers students the chance to be surrounded by the vibrancy of nature.

As a country school, Riverdale combines vigorous academics with an emphasis on personal reflection and outdoor education. Tree-climbing, camping, hiking, and competitive athletics are traditional elements of our curriculum.

Frank S. Hackett, our founder, opened Riverdale with two visionary goals: to provide “scholarly, intimate teaching” and to build a school where “abundant play in the open” was possible.

Over the years, even as Riverdale has grown and changed and been led by six more heads of school, we have remained committed to these original goals because these two threads provide the foundation for educating the whole child.

Our faculty – many with advanced degrees – are gifted educators. Their commitment is to educate and support the whole child – to inspire each student to develop their strengths, find their unique academic path, and develop the grit and agency required to meet their personal goals. 

Also, we know that the deepest learning applies to the world beyond our campuses, whether that is here in the Bronx, across the New York metropolitan area, or in the wider world. Our intention is to be a thoughtful, engaged neighbor, so we connect our students and families with organizations and partners located nearby and far away.

Our graduates attend the most selective liberal arts colleges and universities in the country, as well as engineering schools, professional art and theater institutes, international institutions, and music conservatories.

Our alumni are scientists, lawyers, writers, leaders of industry, musicians, artists, educators, athletes, entrepreneurs, and public servants, unified by their shared memories of a Riverdale education. Many Riverdale alumni trace the beginnings of their university studies and career interests to their days at Riverdale.

Riverdale is a place of forward motion. We seek ways to adapt to a changing world.

Still, we maintain a strong grasp on our legacy and original purpose.

“Riverdale is a place to explore new ideas, where faculty are encouraged to develop new, research-based methods to prepare students for the future,” says Kari Ostrem Head of School. “And, as we innovate, we become more fully the school our founder envisioned more than 100 years ago.”

In 1907, Riverdale Country School was surrounded by some impressive newly-established landmarks: the New York Botanical Gardens, the Bronx Zoo, Van Cortlandt Park’s golf course – the oldest public course in the U.S. – and Thomas Edison’s Motion Picture Studio.