Riverdale Park, Maryland

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Riverdale Park, Maryland
Official seal of Riverdale Park, Maryland
Prince George's County Maryland Incorporated and Unincorporated areas Riverdale Park Highlighted.svg
Coordinates: 38°57′46″N 76°55′47″W / 38.96278°N 76.92972°W / 38.96278; -76.92972Coordinates: 38°57′46″N 76°55′47″W / 38.96278°N 76.92972°W / 38.96278; -76.92972
Country  United States of America
State  Maryland
County Prince George's
 • Total 1.68 sq mi (4.35 km2)
 • Land 1.65 sq mi (4.27 km2)
 • Water 0.03 sq mi (0.08 km2)
Elevation 39 ft (12 m)
Population (2010)[2]
 • Total 6,956
 • Estimate (2012[3]) 7,088
 • Density 4,215.8/sq mi (1,627.7/km2)
Time zone Eastern (EST) (UTC-5)
 • Summer (DST) EDT (UTC-4)
FIPS code 24-66635
GNIS feature ID 0597960
Website www.riverdaleparkmd.info

Riverdale Park, formerly known as Riverdale, Maryland is a semi-urban town in Prince George's County, Maryland, United States, which is also a close suburb of Washington D.C.[4] The population was 6,956 as of 2010.[5] The area is close to, and is heavily influenced by, University of Maryland, College Park.


Physical character[edit]

Riverdale Park, still called simply "Riverdale" by many of its residents, is mostly a leafy, semi-urban area with many trees and many small to medium-sized houses with small yards. It has some apartment complexes, notably on its north side, and also the side closest to the city of Maryland. Small office buildings and housing projects make up a minor part of its north side. East-West Highway runs through the heart of the area.

Post 1940s History and culture[edit]

Carla Hall preparing gourmet natural food at the Riverdale Park Farmers Market, October 2009

Since the 1940s, the area was largely a blue-collar town where many of the residents had been able to purchase small red brick or wooden homes with porches. The area has always had a large presence of University of Maryland students, faculty and staff residents. It also has a large and growing, professional, middle-class African American population. It has a small counter-cultural population as well, dating back to the 1960s.

The area originally had its own small town Maryland identity, but was eventually engulfed by post-war urban expansion, both related to the University and Washington D.C. suburban expansion. The area is now much more of a neighborhood than an actual town. Although many of the original residents have left, there are still a significant number of original residents living in the area. Some traditional community events still continue. These gatherings reveal the old culture and community. Many of the original residents speak with classic Maryland accents, which has some similarities to a Baltimore accent. Washington D.C. and its close northern and northwestern suburbs once had large blue collar Irish populations and some of this influence is also still evident in the remnants of the older community.

1960s–present: counter-cultural presence[edit]

Leland Hospital, historic architecture in Riverdale Maryland. September 2009

Riverdale also once had a large counter-cultural population, dating back to the 1960s, with many group houses and some small counter-cultural businesses and organizations present in the town. This community maintains a small but significant presence in the area.

1998 Name change, current architectural features of the area[edit]

Historic Riverdale Presbyterian Church Nov 08

In 1998, the town was officially renamed Riverdale Park. Today, the town is made up of a mix of housing styles including 1960's apartment buildings, pre- and post-World War II era buildings, as well as dwellings from the turn of the twentieth century. The Riversdale mansion, now surrounded by eight acres is owned by The M-NCPPC, which purchased it in 1949. The Riversdale property is bounded roughly by 48th Avenue to the west, Riverdale Road to the north, Taylor Street to the east and Oglethorpe Street to the south.

1800–1950s: First 150 years[edit]

Historic Calvert Cemetery in Riverdale, the original Calverts were the first leaders 0f the Maryland colony, in St. Mary's City, Maryland, this gravestone is of one of their descendents in the 1800s who lived in Riverdale. The Calverts were still an influential family at that time and were very influential in historic Riverdale. Nov 2008
Calvert Cemetery plaque in Riverdale, Maryland, one of the founders of what is now the University of Maryland, College Park. Nov 2008
Riverdale House Museum, showcases life in historic Riverdale, Maryland. Ben Jacobson (Kranar Drogin)

Riverdale Park and the neighboring community of West Riverdale developed in the late 19th century as streetcar suburbs in central Prince George’s County. The town is located approximately seven miles northeast of Washington, D.C., and is bounded to the north by East-West Highway and bisected by the heavily traveled U.S. Route 1. The city of College Park is located to the north, and the city of Hyattsville is located to the south and southwest.


The area was first developed in 1801 when a Belgian aristocrat, Henri Joseph Stier, purchased 800 acres situated between two tributaries of the Anacostia River known as the Paint and Northwest branches. Stier and his family moved to the United States several years earlier to escape the French Revolution (1788-1789). He named his holdings Riversdale (PG: 68-04-005) and began constructing his residence that same year. The mansion was modeled after the Stier family’s Belgian home, Chateau du Mick, and when completed in 1807, the building stood as a two-story stuccoed-brick dwelling in the style of late Georgian architecture.

Just two years after purchasing and improving the property, in 1803, the political tension that had caused Stier to flee his native country subsided and he and his wife, Marie Louise, returned to Belgium. Riversdale was given to their daughter, Rosalie, who married George Calvert, the grandson of Charles Calvert, 5th Baron Baltimore, in 1799. After Rosalie Stier Calvert died in 1821 and George Calvert in 1838, their son, Charles Benedict Calvert, took over the plantation. Charles Calvert was a renowned agriculturist and helped establish the Maryland Agricultural College, now the University of Maryland at College Park. In May 1853, Calvert announced he would donate land for an agricultural college.[6] In 1861, Calvert was elected to the United States Congress and fought for the establishment of the United States Department of Agriculture. During his life, Charles Calvert conducted a variety of agricultural experiments at Riversdale and expanded the original holdings to 2,200 acres. Calvert died in 1864; however, the property remained in the ownership of the Calvert family for another twenty years.


The 1861[7] Martenet map depicts the rural setting of Riversdale and identifies Charles B. Calvert as owner. The old Baltimore Turnpike, now known as US Route 1, is located to the west of the mansion house. To the East of the house is the Washington Branch of the Baltimore & Ohio Railway, which opened in 1833. The railway is located inside the boundaries of Riverdale Park, just west of the Paint Branch tributary. The 1878 Hopkins map shows little change and no significant development had occurred.


In 1887, the heirs of Charles Benedict Calvert transferred 474 acres of land to New York City businessmen John Fox and Alexander Lutz in two separate transactions. The first deed involved the sale of 300 acres including the Riversdale mansion. The remaining 174 acres were transferred to Fox and Lutz shortly thereafter. The cost of the sales to Fox and Lutz totaled $47,000. On March 23, 1889, Fox and Lutz formed the Riverdale Park Company, which was named in honor of the grand Federal-style mansion at the center of the proposed community. The company planned on creating an upper-middle-class residential suburb for residents working in Washington, D.C. and Baltimore.


The land was platted in 1889 by surveyor D.J. Howell and the new development was named Riverdale Park. In an attempt to differentiate the historic plantation known as Riversdale from the subdivision, the “s” was dropped. The new roads were named in honor of United States presidents and were arranged in a grid pattern that surrounded a central ellipse that served as the site of the commuter train station. The first of the stations was constructed in 1890. Laid out as a “villa park,” the community featured traffic circles and green space, using the mansion as a central amenity. The three original sections of the suburb utilized relatively uniform lot dimensions and building setbacks, thereby creating a cohesive development of middle- and upper-middle-class housing. The residential housing lots surrounded the high-style Riversdale mansion.

1890: Large scale construction begins[edit]

The construction of dwellings in Riverdale Park began in 1890. The buildings reflected popular trends of the time and were of wood-frame construction. Some structures were pyramidal-roof Foursquares, while others had front-gable or cross-gable roofs. Many houses from this period have projecting bays, corner towers, and wrap-around porches. By the turn of the twentieth century, Riverdale Park comprised 60 dwellings, a Presbyterian church, a schoolhouse, and a railroad station. The new community straddled the Washington line of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, which provided residents an easy commute to Washington, D.C.

Recognizing the financial potential of the new suburb, builders purchased groups of lots that were soon improved by high-style single-family dwellings. Joseph A. Blundon (ca. 1847–1909) was one such late-nineteenth-century builder. Born in Georgetown, Blundon worked as a general contractor in Washington, D.C., before moving to Riverdale Park in 1889. He was instrumental in forming the Riverdale Park Company and served as its first manager. Blundon acted independently of the development company when he purchased several lots each year for the purpose of overseeing the construction of single-family dwellings. Between 1891 and 1909, he was responsible for the erection of roughly 90 buildings in Riverdale Park. Accordingly, he became known as the “Father of Riverdale.”

1920: Incorporation of town[edit]

In 1920, a handful of owners in both Riverdale Park and the nearby West Riverdale petitioned the Maryland General Assembly requesting authority to incorporate the two neighborhoods as a municipality. On June 14, 1920, the community was incorporated as the Town of Riverdale. As a result of the transfer of power from the Riverdale Park Company to the municipal government, the importance of the real estate company began to diminish, prompting a financial strain. Within ten years of the town’s incorporation, the Riverdale Park Company went bankrupt.

Annexations and growth[edit]

Numerous annexations in the mid-twentieth century have increased Riverdale’s overall size. The municipal government continued to grow and change during this period. In 1941, the town changed the name of its roads to conform to the standards of the United States Postal Service and carried a similar pattern as those of Washington, D.C., and nearby College Park. The increasing population and commercial and governmental growth of metropolitan Washington, D.C., most notably during the last twenty years of the twentieth century, has resulted in further development of the town of Riverdale. This late-twentieth-century growth was predominantly commercial and centered along Baltimore Avenue, thereby physically and visually separating West Riverdale from Riverdale Park.


2010 census[edit]

As of the census[2] of 2010, there were 6,956 people, 1,944 households, and 1,390 families residing in the town. The population density was 4,215.8 inhabitants per square mile (1,627.7/km2). There were 2,058 housing units at an average density of 1,247.3 per square mile (481.6/km2). The racial makeup of the town was 32.2% White, 27.1% African American, 1.3% Native American, 3.3% Asian, 0.1% Pacific Islander, 32.0% from other races, and 3.9% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 50.0% of the population.

There were 1,944 households of which 46.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 44.7% were married couples living together, 16.6% had a female householder with no husband present, 10.3% had a male householder with no wife present, and 28.5% were non-families. 18.7% of all households were made up of individuals and 4.8% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 3.50 and the average family size was 3.85.

The median age in the town was 30.3 years. 27.7% of residents were under the age of 18; 11.7% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 33.8% were from 25 to 44; 19.8% were from 45 to 64; and 6.7% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the town was 52.9% male and 47.1% female.

2000 census[edit]

As of the census[8] of 2000, there were 6,690 people, 2,172 households, and 1,437 families residing in the town. The population density was 4,212.7 people per square mile (1,624.5/km²). There were 2,321 housing units at an average density of 1,461.5 per square mile (563.6/km²). The racial makeup of the town was 39.91% White, 38.51% African American, 0.49% Native American, 4.25% Asian, 0.12% Pacific Islander, 12.99% from other races, and 3.74% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 28.27% of the population.

There were 2,172 households out of which 38.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 42.0% were married couples living together, 16.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 33.8% were non-families. 23.9% of all households were made up of individuals and 4.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 3.06 and the average family size was 3.60.

In the town the population was spread out with 28.7% under the age of 18, 12.2% from 18 to 24, 38.7% from 25 to 44, 15.6% from 45 to 64, and 4.9% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 29 years. For every 100 females there were 110.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 109.3 males.

The median income for a household in the town was $44,041, and the median income for a family was $49,904. Males had a median income of $30,053 versus $30,200 for females. The per capita income for the town was $19,293. About 9.0% of families and 12.0% of the population were below the poverty line, including 16.0% of those under age 18 and 7.2% of those age 65 or over.


The town is governed by a Mayor and Town Council. The council is made up of six members who each represent a ward in the town. As of the 2015 general election, the Mayor of Riverdale Park is Vernon Archer and the wards are represented below:

  • Ward One - Jonathan Ebbeler
  • Ward Two - Alan Thompson
  • Ward Three - David Lingua
  • Ward Four - Chris Henry
  • Ward Five - Eber Rosario
  • Ward Six - Alejandro Silva

The town has its own police department; with David Morris as the Chief of Police (following the departure of Teresa Chambers).

Riverdale Park and adjacent unincorporated Riverdale Heights are served by two primarily volunteer fire departments within the Prince Georges Fire and EMS Department. "Riverdale 7", and "Riverdale Heights 13" both provide services to the community with volunteer firefighters and a staff of live-in volunteers that staff apparatus.


Riverdale Park is within the Prince George's County Public Schools system.

Elementary schools serving the town include:

Middle schools serving the town in separate attendance zones include:

High schools serving the town in separate attendance zones include:


The town is served by the Riverdale station on the MARC commuter rail's Camden Line.


According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 1.68 square miles (4.35 km2), of which, 1.65 square miles (4.27 km2) is land and 0.03 square miles (0.08 km2) is water.[1][9]

See also[edit]

Riversdale (Riverdale Park, Maryland) Historic mansion in Riverdale


External links[edit]