[Riverdale Village Hall, 1853 - 1963]

HISTORY OF RIVERDALE, IL 1835 - 1900

It is generally held that George Dolton was the first settler in the area in 1835. Dolton established a homestead near a local Potawatomi Indian reservation which is now the site of Acme Steel. One year later, J.C. Matthews settled near Dolton and the area began to grow and diversify.

In 1836, the County government granted a river ferry license to Dolton and Matthews. The pair built a toll ferry that crossed the Calumet River at a place known as "Riverdale Crossing".

In 1840, Levi Osterhoudt came to the area and in 1842 Osterhoudt, along with Dolton, received permission from the State of Illinois to construct a toll bridge across the Calumet River. The bridge was constructed and known as "Dolton Bridge" and charged 25 cents for wagons, 2 cents for cattle and 1 cent per person or other animal. It is said that a traveling circus got a "real deal" when their elephant was allowed to cross for only 1 cent!

Dolton and Riverdale became so close and inner-twined that most people considered them one settlement. Families began to establish homesteads in the area, with notable names such as Berschinski, Kipley, Schmidt, Reich and Bachmann being important to the founding of the village.

The area, bounded by the Calumet River on the north and 138th Street on the south, was platted many times and subdivided. In 1867 Riverdale formed its own school district, although schooling had been available since the early years. In 1873 Riverdale founded its own post office, a significant accomplishment in those days.

1878 saw the founding of Riverdale's first major industries; the distillery and the lumber yard, located on the Calumet River near what is now Indiana Avenue. Other industries soon followed such as the ice houses, cattle fattening pens, planing mills and even a cooperage. At the cooperage, metal barrel hoops were fastened to wooden staves to make corn, beef, and pickling barrels for the stock yards.

In 1891, Frederick Schmidt built the business district near 137th and Indiana Avenue. People from Dolton, Riverdale and Chicago supported the local businessmen and helped the area prosper. The area consisted of grocery stores, a bakery, a general store, a meat market and several small service businesses.

Even though people from Dolton and Riverdale shopped and had social gatherings with people living in Chicago, there was never any doubt that Riverdale wanted to be a separate village. A newspaper article of the era stated, "There is no desire on the part of the Riverdale settlers to be part of Chicago. In fact, it would cause quite a stir if anything like that should come up."

The first effort to incorporate Riverdale came in 1887 in the form of an election referendum, which was defeated by only 8 votes.

From the Village of Riverdale ordinance book of 1907, the following sums up the final and successful effort to incorporate; "...on November 26th, 1892, another petition was filed in the Cook County Court, signed by Frederich Reich, John Schaefer, Peter Kipley and 37 others, asking that the question of organization of a proposed Village of Riverdale be submitted to the legal voters. On the same day the Honorable Frank Scales, County Judge, entered an order calling an election on the said question of organization, on December 28, 1892, the polling place being fixed at the real estate office of John Schaefer in the rear of the Calumet Hotel (which is now Bugsy Flynn's). Peter Kipley, Herman Hand, and Fred Schmidt were appointed as judges. The election was held on the proposition and it was carried by eight votes."

The first village election was held a month later with 63 votes being cast. The first Mayor of the Village of Riverdale was Frederick Schmidt. So began the official history of the Village of Riverdale and the beginning of "A Century of Pride".

HISTORY OF RIVERDALE, IL 1900 - 1930

Early in the village's history, the railroads became an important part of it's existence. Not only did the railroads provide employment during the construction period of the 1850s to the 1890s, but they were a link to the world and provided a stable basis for other industries to spring up.

Brickyards were founded in this area around 1880 when it was discovered that the clay in the area made excellent bricks. In May 1887, Purlington & Company opened a brickyard at Chicago Road and the C&EI Railroad near 147th Street. As a result, between 1899 and 1905, other brickyards opened. One of these was the Tuthill Material Company which was located at 138th Street just west of Halsted.

The brickyards surrounding Riverdale added a new element to the population. Expert Canadian brickmakers - some French, some British, and some French-Indian - came to the Riverdale area to work and make their homes.

Russian immigrants came to Riverdale about 1900 to work in the sugar beet fields which were common in this area. The manufacturers of beet sugar brought them to the village because of their knowledge of raising beet crops. The demise of the beet sugar industry came with the depletion of the land due to the lack of crop rotation. The farms were gradually abandoned, and by 1928, little farming was done in the area,. Fortunately, other industries had grown and took the place of farming.

In 1918, Acme Steel Company relocated to Riverdale to increase the size of its plant. The company purchased land along the Calumet River. By 1929, Acme Steel employed 1,189 people.

In 1919, the Federal Ice Refrigerating Company opened a new factory at 142nd and Halsted. They found the location convenient because they were to supply the C&EI Railroad with ice.

Previously, ice companies stored natural ice, which was cut during the winter months on Wolf Lake and the Calumet River. The Federal Ice Refrigerating Company was the first artificial ice plant to operate in the Chicago area.

In the 1920s, Arcady Mills was opened. The company found the convenience of the trains to be a great benefit.

While industry was growing, so was the village. Shortly after the incorporation, ordinances were passed to organize and regulate the police department. The first Police Chief was Frank Steiman. The department consisted of regulars as well as volunteers. The men were paid 50 an hour while on duty.

In 1895, the village hall was completed. It was a beautiful brick structure which stood at 137th Place and Wabash Avenue. It housed the jail in it's basement.

By 1900, a central telephone office was constructed. It serviced both Riverdale and Dolton. In 1928, after several moves, the site at 137th Street and Indiana Avenue was purchased from the Schmidt family. The site became the permanent home of "Ma Bell" and, on December 14, 1929 at 9:35 p.m., Riverdale received it's own telephone service.

On July 20, 1900, a petition of more than three-quarters of the legal voters was signed to enlarge the village to a total of 1340 acres. Then, on July 5, 1905, a special election was called to annex a portion of Calumet Park. A majority of votes was cast in favor, and the village expanded to 1700 acres.

By 1907, the village of 1,100 people could boast that it "owns a fine large brick village hall, an exceptionally fine water works system, a partial system of sewers, and were perfecting ways and means for the construction of a complete sewer plan..."

It also had a splendid volunteer fire department which began in 1902. The first station was at 41 East 137th Street. A horsedrawn fire truck was given to the Hook & Ladder No. 1 by Chicago with the understanding that they would respond to calls in Chicago as well as in Riverdale.

At the time, the village secured electric light from Dolton, and gas from Northwestern Gas Light & Coke Company in Blue Island.

In 1905, Bowen School and Highlawn School (now Washington School) were built. Also in 1905, an election was held and a large majority voted in favor of establishing the Riverdale Park District.

By 1908, many recreational groups had been organized. Some of these were The Fife & Drum Corps, The Riverdale Gun Club, The Riverdale Fishing & Hunting Club, and The Blinkie Baseball Club which was managed by Theodore Koch.

Also important in the town's development were the Riverdale Theatre, which opened in 1914; the Riverdale Bank, which started operations in 1917; and the expansion of the business district when The Pointer was founded by the Kinney brothers. The first edition was printed on March 23, 1907 on a pink blotter. It included an announcement of the weekly paper, a few advertisements, a joke, and a report of nominations for village officials.

All of these improvements made the village attractive to developers. In 1921, the Branigar Brothers acquired 465 acres extending from Halsted Street east to Indiana Avenue, and from 145th Street North to the Indiana Belt Harbor Railroad. 25 foot lots sold for $250.00. The territory was called "Greenfields." The first building, which is located at 144th Street and Stewart Avenue, was the real estate office for the Branigar Brothers. It also housed apartments and a grocery store - 144th Street's first. The Branigar Brothers also plotted a school site between Wentworth Avenue and LaSalle Street at 142nd Street. Later, Park School would be built in this area.

A contest was held to rename the subdivision "Ivanhoe," the title of Sir Walter Scott's classic novel, was selected. After that change, the community continued to develop with lots ranging from $5,500 to $12,000 (for lots on 144th Street). May 30, 1925 saw the completion of the first unit. By 1926, there were 25 families living in Ivanhoe.

Other subdivisions, some that had been plotted as early as 1891, were the "Spies" Addition to Riverdale, Riverdale Park View, Acme Forest View, and Halsted Gardens. The names alone hint at their locations.

Besides the I.C. trains, there were other modes of transportation that continued to develop. On January 14, 1914, the Chicago Surface Lines, a street car company, extended it's Michigan Avenue run to 138th Street and Leyden Avenue. And in 1921, the Red Line Company provided bus service from Roseland to Riverdale.

With the close of the 1920s, as farms and prairies began to disappear, the face of Riverdale began to change. But, the original pioneer spirit remained strong, and set it's sights towards the future and... "A Century of Pride".

HISTORY OF RIVERDALE, IL 1930 - 1960

In the twenties, the Branigar Brothers acquired the 465 acres of land that make up the subdivision of Ivanhoe. Their dream was to build a perfect little city. All improvements were made. Trees were planted, 144th Street was widened, and a parkway was constructed down the middle.

Through clever advertising, people were lured from Chicago via the Illinois Central Railroad to Ivanhoe. The visitors were offered free ice cream, soda, and gifts. As an added attraction, an armored knight rode through the street on a snowy white charger shouting "Ivanhoe the Beautiful."

Before the Branigars purchased the property, twenty-five foot lots sold for $55 to $250 each. The Branigars felt that lower priced lots would result in poor construction. The lots were purchased, subdivided into larger parcels, and restrictions were set up. Store sites were also set up. The Branigars offered rent at one dollar per year to anyone who would operate a store along 144th Street.

When the Great Depression struck in 1929, the building of homes and apartment buildings came to a standstill. Like the rest of the country, Riverdale felt the hardships that accompanied the Depression. Food and gas rationing went into effect, and unemployment rose to great heights.

When Franklin D. Roosevelt became president in 1933, he immediately launched a series of emergency measures to reorganize industry and agriculture through a great expenditure of public funds. This series of programs was called the New Deal.

One of the New Deal programs was the Works Progress Administration (W.P.A.). Riverdale benefited from the W.P.A. as did the rest of the country. Funds and labor were used to construct a sewer and tunnel system, and the curbing and paving of streets. Other streets were improved and maintained under the program.

In 1936, as the Depression eased, Mills and Sons Realty Trust purchased much of the Branigar property. They planned to build 1,600 homes involving an expenditure of $10 million. The new homes were to range in price from $4,500 to $8,500 depending on the style.

In the late thirties there was a brief period of normalcy that allowed the village to grow socially. In 1936, Betty Robinson won the Olympic Gold Medal in the 400 meter relay events during the 1936 Olympics. Also during that year, Saint Mary's Church celebrated its fiftieth anniversary. In 1937, the Ivanhoe Women's Club organized the formation of Ivanhoe Park. From 1937 to 1939, Herbert Brewer was a catcher for the St. Louis Cardinals. And in 1939, the Riverdale-Dolton Lions Club was formed, and the Ivanhoe Civic Club was reorganized and incorporated.

The 1940 census revealed that the population of Riverdale was 2,865.

Unfortunately, the building boom that began during the late thirties was held back as the United States entered World War II in 1941. As the country entered the war, Riverdale was preparing to celebrate its fiftieth anniversary.

During the war, Americans planted Victory Gardens to supply American homefront tables with fresh vegetables. Riverdale kept up with the times. In 1942, the Ivanhoe Garden Club was formed.

After World War II ended in 1945, building resumed. Most of the homes that exist in Ivanhoe today were built between 1945 and 1960. Ivanhoe began to take shape as we know it today.

Many GI's were looking for homes to purchase with their GI loans. The solid, brick homes in Ivanhoe appealed to them. Ivanhoe grew.

With the return to everyday life, the need for social activities increased. During the late forties and early fifties, there was an expansion of social groups. As the Baby Boom began, the focus of these new groups naturally turned to children and family.

In 1945, the Riverdale-Dolton Youth Activities Council was issued a charter to promote educational and recreational activities for the young people of the community. The League of Women Voters was also started in 1945. The Riverdale-Dolton Kiwanis Club, the dedication of the Ivanhoe Methodist Church, and the organization of the Ivanhoe Reformed Church, occurred in 1947. In 1949, the Dolton-Riverdale Little league was chartered. It became a member of the National Little League Association.

In 1950, the census reported that Riverdale's population had more than doubled in ten years. Its population was 5,840.

Ivanhoe was near completion in the fifties. In 1950, Queen of Apostles Parish was established, and by 1955, classes were being held in the new school. In 1950, the famous TV Evangelist Rev. Robert Schuller was the minister at the Ivanhoe Reformed Church where he remained for 5 years.  In 1955, while Bowen School celebrated its fiftieth anniversary in the old part of Riverdale, the new portion of the village was building Jefferson School. Also during this period, Girl Scout Troops were organized, and by 1959, Brownies Troop #559 was formed. The present United States Post Office was built in 1958 - the same year that the Riverdale Chamber of Commerce was formed.

The largest single tract of open land in Riverdale in the fifties was the John Zornow farm. He sold his farmland to Harry Quinn, president of the Pacesetter Realty Corporation. This property became the newest and last subdivision in Riverdale. Today the area is called Pacesetter.

All the homes were built as town houses consisting of six rooms. The plan was to offer these homes at a low rental with an option to buy. Part of the rental payment was to be held for the down payment. There were to be 90 units in the section, each to be priced between $16,500 and $17,300. The plan provided for a shopping mall, a recreational building, and a school (Patton School) to be located near the homes. The Pacesetter Shopping Mall consisted of a large Garofalo Supermarket, a Stineway Drug Store, a barber shop, a beauty shop, and a women and children's apparel shop. The pool and the community center were open to the residents at a nominal fee.

This fine setting was short-lived. Management and renters disagreed about what was to be done to keep the community a garden spot. The property became 25 percent vacant when many residents moved and Pacesetter Homes, Inc. went bankrupt. As the years passed, it became apparent to the management that the rental of the units was not a satisfactory solution. All the homes were eventually sold.

By 1960, Riverdale had grown to include 12,008 inhabitants within its borders!

HISTORY OF RIVERDALE, IL 1960 - 1992

Going into this period, Riverdale was a very stabilized community. Majority of the open land had been developed, and there were a variety of businesses to provide the residents with their everyday needs.

Following are the events that took place in Riverdale from 1960-1992:

On October 1, 1961, over 2000 people were present for the dedication ceremonies of the new Riverdale Municipal Building at 325 W. 142nd Street.

In 1962, on March 25, close to 1000 people attended the dedication ceremonies of the new General George S. Patton School at 137th Street and Stewart Avenue. It replaced the Bowen School at 137th Place and State Street.

Effective November 1, 1962, the name of the First Trust and Savings Bank of Riverdale was shortened to Riverdale Bank.

On July 1, 1963, the zip code of 60627 for Riverdale went into effect.

The celebration of Riverdale's 75th Birthday was held from July 30 to August 5, 1967. On July 30, Governor Otto Kerner led a parade of about eighty decorated floats and cars to kick-off the celebrations. A "Miss Jubilee" contest was sponsored by the Riverdale Chamber of Commerce. Jill Christian won the title. A carnival was held in the Ivanhoe Park, and as a climax to a very successful Diamond Jubilee celebration, a giant fireworks display was featured on August 5.

On October 15, 1971, Betty Robinson, a Riverdale resident and Gold Medal winner in the 1928 and 1936 Olympics, was inducted in the Roseland-Pullman Area Sports Hall of Fame.

In May of 1972, Illinois Central Railroad's new air-conditioned, Bi-level cars (known as "highliners") were put into service.

On March 31, 1973, Riverdale residents voted in favor of a free public library by a 6 to 1 yes vote. In May of 1974, the Board of Trustees of the Riverdale Library hired Mrs. Adelle McCarty as Administrative Librarian, a position which she stills holds.

In 1975, the Riverdale Library moved from its temporary location in the Village Hall to its permanent home at 208 W. 144th Street. It opened for public service in September of that year.

On April 17, 1975 at 6:07 p.m., Arcady Farms Milling Company was demolished by a single blast.

On July 6, 1975, Riverdale started a year-long celebration to commemorate the country's 200 years of freedom from British rule. A parade through the streets of Riverdale and an old-fashioned picnic in the Riverdale Park highlighted the festivities. Through the sale of bicentennial items and donations from businesses, a bus was purchased and named "Spirit of 76". It was used by the villages' senior citizens and the handicapped.

The new Indiana Avenue Bridge over the Little Calumet River was dedicated and opened to traffic on May 13, 1977.

The Riverdale Chapter #3233 of the American Association of Retired Persons was organized in April of 1980. Robert Dimond was its first president.

In 1981, the newly organized Dolton-Riverdale Jaycettes held their charter installation banquet in November.

On November 6, 1981, C. "Kelly" Franson was inducted into the Roseland-Pullman Area Sports Hall of Fame. He spent over 50 years in sports through his participation as a player, coach, manager and Ivanhoe Park commissioner.

The newest park in Riverdale, Prairie Park, (located at 142nd and Stewart Avenue) was dedicated on July 18, 1982.

In April of 1983, cable television service was provided to Riverdale residents.

On May 2, 1984, after nearly twenty months of detours and delays, the reconstructed School Street bridge was reopened for normal traffic. The Riverdale Chamber of Commerce and the Ivanhoe Shopping Center Association merged on January 12, 1985 under the name of the Riverdale Chamber of Commerce.

In August 1985, the Riverdale Improvement Association was formed.

On January 26, 1986, St. Mary's Church began its 100th year in the Riverdale-Dolton community with the rededication of their newly restored and redecorated church.

In May of 1987, James Steenbergen, Assistant Director of the Riverdale Library, became president of the local chapter the League of Women Voters. He is the first male president of a chapter in Illinois.

On November 3, 1987, Riverdale residents approved a $900,000 building bond referendum for the purpose of renovating the Riverdale Public Library building and grounds.

On June 20, 1988, the Riverdale Library temporarily moved across the street to the vacant Ben Franklin store while their permanent building was being renovated.

On November 8, 1988, Mayor Frank Heenan announced that a Riverdale Housing Authority had been approved.

On April 24, 1989, documents were signed committing the Riverdale Bank to a housing redevelopment project in Riverdale. The bank pledged from $250,000 to $500,000 to a coalition of housing groups hoping to use the money to buy foreclosed and abandoned homes. The money would be used to renovate and sell the homes to qualified buyers.

On July 10, 1989, the Riverdale Public Library reopened in newly renovated quarters.

1990 - the census showed that the population of Riverdale was 13, 671.

In October of 1990, the Riverdale Housing Authority purchased the property at 601 W. 144th Street with plans to convert it to senior citizen housing. Presently, the property is used to house the Riverdale Centennial Committee during the centennial year.

On November 5, 1991, Riverdale residents voted overwhelmingly to reject a proposal to allow the village government to take over local electric utility.

The first meeting of the Riverdale Centennial Committee took place in September of 1991. In November of 1991, Police Commander Ronald Bonneau was chosen by the Riverdale Board of Trustees to be chairperson of the Riverdale Centennial Committee. The committee was set up to plan the year-long centennial celebration.

On December 11, Riverdale's Enhanced 9-1-1 Emergency Telecommunications System went into effect. This system combines Riverdale's emergency dispatch for police, fire and medical.

In 1992, Riverdale Bank celebrated 75 years of service to the community. On December 28, 1992, Riverdale was 100 years old.

As we move into our second "Century of Pride," we look forward to Riverdale's Economic Development projects planned for the redevelopment and revitalization of the community. Some of the projects being planned are: *Renovating the Ivanhoe Metra station *Constructing senior citizen housing *Developing residential housing, retail and office facilities, banquet halls, meeting facilities * Improving public transportation and roadways. Completion of all these projects will take many years, but the end result will be worth waiting for.

HISTORY OF RIVERDALE, IL 1993 - 2002

On April 6, 1993, South Suburban College dedicated a Riverdale Historical Hall on their third floor.   Displayed are photographs of buildings and the history and activities of early Riverdale.

Mayor Edward Kipley, Jr. and the Village Alliance Party swept all available offices in Riverdale’s municipal election held on April 20, 1993.  Also, Zenovia Evans becomes the first African-American to serve on the Riverdale Village Board with her 1,856 votes.

In July of 1993, the Riverdale Public Library and the Riverdale Chamber of Commerce sponsored their first annual Flea Market in the commuter parking lot at 144th & Atlantic Streets.

In March of 1994, Riverdale was given a 17-acre parcel of land at 138th and Halsted Streets that housed the former Halsted Drive-in Theater.  The land was appraised at $25,000 an acre and was donated by its present owner. Riverdale officials are hoping to turn this gift into an economic development generator for the village and its residents.

Construction of a new $2.5 million Metra Ivanhoe commuter station at 144th Street between Atlantic and Tracy was completed in June of 1994.  The station was dedicated in honor of Riverdale Village Trustee Frank “Hap” Hoevel, a long time Riverdale resident and a 40-year veteran of the Illinois Central Railroad.

In September of 1994, the Village of Riverdale added 20 years to its cable contract with Continental Cablevision.

The American legion celebrated its Diamond Jubilee in 1994.  In Riverdale the Paul Gall Post was organized on October 19, 1919.  The Post has made generous donations to worthy causes and has sponsored baseball and basketball teams.

In 1995 the Dolton-Harvey-Riverdale League of Women Voters celebrated its 50th anniversary.

A party celebrating E. K. Gentry Post #7179-V.F.W. 50th Anniversary was held on May 5, 1996.

The new village hall at 157 W. 144th Street opened on July 1, 1996 for its first day of business.  The village spent about $650,000 to renovate and furnish the new facility, using money that it hopes will be repaid over several years through more sales and property tax revenue from a resurgent downtown.

In October of 1996, Acme Steel successfully produced its first test coil of steel at its new continuous thin-slab caster and hot mill.  The $400 million mill should be producing steel coils for commercial shipments in November.

Riverdale’s new Resource Center went into operation in November of 1996 at its temporary headquarters at 14140 S. Tracy Avenue.  The center is intended as a tool to help local residents confront and solve daily problems.

In March 1997, the new Riverdale Post Office opened at 661 W. 138th Street.  On July 1, 1997 the village was awarded its own ZIP code 60827.  The crusade for a new ZIP code began 35 years earlier.

On April 22, 1997, Edward Kipley, Jr. stepped down as Mayor of Riverdale ending 23 years of service to the village, the last eight as mayor.  He passed the torch to Joseph Szabo who defeated Victor Shaw in the April 1 municipal election.

John Kolata was hired by Riverdale as its first village administrator in December of 1997 to assist elected officials with the day-to-day operations of running the village.

In October of 1998, Acme Metals, Inc. announced that it and its wholly owned subsidiary, Acme Steel Company, filed for Chapter 11 of the United States Bankruptcy Code.

Voices of Riverdale began in November of 1998.  It is a telephone information line to find out what is going on in the village and its library, parks and schools.

“Zero Tolerance” Program was started in Riverdale in November of 1998.  Through this new program, Riverdale police and local officials made it clear that guns, drugs, gangs, and violence will not be tolerated in the community.

On May 18, 1999, Elizabeth (Betty) Robinson passed away. She brought fame to Riverdale when in the 1928 Olympics she won a gold medal in the 100-meter dash.   She became the United States’ first woman Olympic champion and the world record holder for that event.  Also, in the 1936 Olympics she won another gold medal in the Women’s 400-meter relay race. 

In April of 2000, public officials and citizens of Riverdale were made aware that a rare piece of history is in their own backyard.  An ancient butternut tree (Juglans  Cinerea) very likely over 350 years old resides at 13842 Tracy Avenue.  The tree predates the city of Chicago and approximates the arrival of African-Americans to North America.  It is the co-champion largest tree of its species in the State of Illinois with a trunk circumference of over 14 feet.

After 20 years in public service, the last 3-1/2 years as mayor of Riverdale, Joseph Szabo resigned on November 24, 2000.  Trustee Zenovia Evans will finish out Szabo’s term until the election in April.

On January 2, 2001, a three-alarm fire tore through the Family Dollar Store destroying the building.  It was located at 215 W. 144th Street since 1990.

On January 15, 2001, three former Riverdale residents, Carl Durnavich, William Bielby and Shirley Hay-Koteff, created a Riverdale Reunion Web site on the Internet.  There are over 1000 signed-up members and thousands have visited the site.  Pictures of Riverdale buildings, residents and events are available for viewing.

The Grand Opening of the Thornton Township Senior/Youth and Family Services Center in Riverdale was held on January 27, 2001.  It is located at 14323 Halsted Street.

Riverdale’s acting mayor Zenovia Evans and her slate of Unity Party incumbents swept the election of April 2001.  She is now the first elected African-American mayor of Riverdale.

Riverdale lost one of its oldest residents when Florence G. Hedtke passed away on April 16, 2001 at the age of 103 years.  She was a school teacher in Riverdale for 46 years.  She also served as principal and superintendent of Bowen and Patton schools.

In June of 2001, the United States Census Bureau released numbers that showed Riverdale grew to 15,055 people and is now 86 percent African-American.

A Grand Opening Ceremony was conducted by the Board of Education School District 148 for the new Park School addition on June 2, 2001.  It is to be built in partnership in the Village of Riverdale with the Ivanhoe Park District at 14200 Wentworth Avenue.

The Centennial Park Ground Breaking Ceremony that took place on July 4, 2001 will be recorded in Riverdale history as the day revitalization of the oldest neighborhood in Riverdale began.  It is centered around the old Calumet Hotel at 137th and Michigan and was the original location of the Village of Riverdale when it was founded in the 1830’s and incorporated in 1892.

In October of 2001, Acme Metals, Inc. started a phased shutdown of its operations in Riverdale.  The shutdown will mean the loss of about 1,100 jobs.

Riverdale was awarded the “Tree City USA” designation on March 21, 2002.  The village’s annual Arbor Day ceremony was held on April 27, 2002 at 137th Street and Wabash Avenue, site of the original village hall.  The ceremony included the official presentation of the “Tree City USA” award and planting of the “Tree of Honor”.

The Dedication Ceremony of the Riverdale Public Safety Building at 725 W. 138th Street took place on September 21, 2002.

The Park School Community Open House was held on October 5, 2002 at 14200 Wentworth Avenue.

It was announced in October of 2002 that a vacated retail site located near the Ivanhoe Metra Train station on 144th Street would soon be used for virtual travel.  Village officials are looking into developing a Network Station, which is a shared mixed use public facility that is based on high-end, off-the-shelf cyber technologies.

The Ground Zero Flag Tour was conducted at the Riverdale Public Safety Building October 15 through October 21, 2002.  The tour is a display of flags signed by former mayor of New York City, Rudy Gulliani, New York City Firefighters and Police Officers.  Riverdale residents were invited to sign the Village of Riverdale flag that will be sent as one of 200 community flags to be displayed at New York City Fire Stations.

Patton School District 133 held a dedication and Open House on October 16, 2002 for additions made to the school.

In October of 2002, International Steel Group, Inc. closed on its $65 million purchase of Acme Steel’s thin slab caster and hot strip mill.  Former Acme employees are expected to be called back in early November.  The company will now be known as ISG Riverdale.

In November of 2002, Acme Packaging Corp., formerly a division of Riverdale based Acme Metals Inc., emerged from Chapter 11 as an independent company.

HISTORY OF RIVERDALE, IL 2003 - 2005

In April of 2003, the building at 14419 S. Halsted Street was named Riverwoods Manor.  There are 55 condo units available for people age 55 and over.

On June 22, 2003, a fire destroyed the railroad trestle at 137th Street and Perry Avenue.  This disrupted Metra Electric Line service for commuters for at least a week.

The 2003 Governor's Hometown award was given to the Village of Riverdale on June 24, 2003 at the annual luncheon in Springfield.  The award formally recognizes community improvement efforts, which depend upon the voluntary commitment of community residents and organizations.

On July 28, 2003, Greg Knoll, former Homewood Fire Chief, became Riverdale's new Fire Chief.

In August of 2003, Illinois Tool Works, Inc. bought Acme Packaging Corp., its biggest competitor in the steel and plastic strapping industry.

About five years after filing for bankruptcy, Acme Metals, Inc. will be out of business at the end of August 2003.  It has been making steel staples for the packaging market since 1884.

Frank J. Heenan, former mayor of Riverdale, died on August 26, 2003.  He was mayor from 1972 to 1988.

Riverdale's Community Resource Center at 13725 S. Wabash Avenue was formally dedicated on September 27, 2003.

A ground breaking ceremony was held on November 17, 2003 for Riverdale Manor located at 145th Street and Indiana Avenue.  It will be a 96 unit mixed income senior citizen housing community.

In January 2004, Mayor Zenovia Evans and Riverdale Marina hosted a ground breaking ceremony for a new 63,000 square foot, full enclosed, heated boat storage facility.  The marina in located at 13100 S. Halsted Street.  The project will take several years to complete

On February 4, 2004, Riverdale Police Officer William "Wally" Rolniak was kidnapped by a prisoner, Adrian Humes, and shot to death with his own gun.  He is the first Riverdale police officer to be killed in the line of duty.

At the Village Board meeting on March 23, 2004, Mayor Evans read the letter from John Rosenow, President of the Arbor Day Foundation announcing that Riverdale has been named Tree City USA for 2003.

On April 30, 2004, Acme Packaging closed and about 200 workers lost their jobs.

Police Chief David Shilling retired on May 14, 2004 after serving 32 years with the department, nine years as Chief.

Police Commander Peter Satriano, a 20 year veteran of the Riverdale Police force was sworn in as Chief on May 25, 2004.  He was picked by Mayor Zenovia Evans to succeed Police Chief David Shilling who retired on May 14, 2004.

On August 27, 2004, Edward L. Kipley, Sr. died.  He was mayor of Riverdale from 1957-1967.

On November 4, 2004, CVS Pharmacy opened at 144th and Atlantic Street. Stop lights were installed at this intersection and Atlantic Street is no long a one-way street.

Riverdale Manor had its open house on March 1, 2005.  This building located at 14422 S. Indiana Avenue consists of 96 affordable senior apartments.

In April 2005, Mayor Zenovia Evans easily captured another term, defeating Herman "Shaun" Hardin.

In April 2005, Mittal Steel USA acquired ISG Riverdale.

The Riverdale Library closed on May 23, 2005 for reconstruction of truss work.

On May 31, 2005, regular hours and days for the Riverdale Library took place in three mini-mobile units located in the parking lot until completion of the truss work.

Family Dollar store came back to Riverdale on August 4, 2005 and is located in Ivanhoe Commons at 144th and Atlantic Streets.

On September 12, 2005, a ribbon cutting ceremony was held at Riverdale School, located at 325 West 142nd Street.

The Riverdale Library opened to the public in their building on October 3, 2005 upon completion of the truss work.

HISTORY OF RIVERDALE, IL 2006 - 2007

In April 2006, Washington Mutual Bank opened for business in Ivanhoe Commons at 255 W. 144th Street and held a grand opening event on May 19, 2006

On July 15, 2006, the First NuWorld Riders Motorcycle Show took place and was very successful.

The Gus Macker 3-on-3 basketball tournament which was to be held on July 15th and 16th was postponed until September 9th and 10th, 2006.

On July 25, 2006, Linn-Mathes, Inc. was chosen as the general contractor for Whistler Crossing Project, Phase 1, and will require participaton of trades such as carpentry, electrical, mechanical, plumbing, paving, roofing and others. Construction is anticipated to begin in late fall.

On September 8, 2006, Police Chief Peter Satriano retired and was succeeded by Gregory C. Baker.

The Gus Macker 3-on-3 Basketball Tournament was held on September 9th and 10th, 2006. It was very successful and will be held again in 2007 on June 30th and July 1st.

On September 12, 2006, the Village of Riverdale issued a proclamation that May 18, 2007 and May 18th each year thereafter will be known as "Luvernea Fuller Foundation Answer My Prayer Day" in the Village.

In October 2006, the historic redevelopment of Pacesetter was moving forward. The area will now be known as Whistler Crossing.

The Riverdale Tree Commission held its first Butternut Tree Celebration on October 14, 2006. The tree is located at 13842 S. Tracy Avenue and is the oldest tree of its kind in the state. It is estimated to be 365 years old.

In November 2006, Home Rule status was elected for Riverdale.

In February 2007, a new project called the "Riverdale E-Village" was implemented and will be located in the Resource Center located at 13725 Wabash. The goal of the Riverdale E-Village is to help local organizations and residents become more effective users of Broadband Telecommunications so as to improve economic opportunity.

"Citizens Call Back Program" began in April 2007 and will enhance current community policing efforts. Residents who called for service will be contact by shift sergeants, either in person or by phone, to provide them with feedback on their request for police service.

On April 10, 2007, the Village Board authorized the establishment of the Calumet River Corridor Council and adopted the Calumet River Economic Development Vision.

At the April 24, 2007 Board meeting, Trustee Dean read the letter from National Arbor Day Foundation declaring Riverdale as Tree City USA for the Year 2006. This is the sixth year Riverdale has received this national recognition.

 In May 2007, the Riverdale Alternative Policing Strategies (RAPS) organization was established in cooperation with the Village of Riverdale, Riverdale Police Department, and Riverdale Landlord Association, to address concerns and implement pro-active measures to reduce crime and create safer neighborhoods within Riverdale's apartment dwellings.

In May 2007, in an effort to improve the quality of life of neighborhoods, the Village Board adopted the Village of Riverdale Crime Free Rental Housing program.

The Gus Macker 3-on-3 basketball tournament took place on June 30th and July 1st, 2007. The event was very successful.

Remembering When Coalition of Riverdale was formed and had their first meeting on July 6, 2007. Remembering When is a fire and fall prevention program geared for older adults. It was developed by the National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA) center for high-risk outreach and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) to help older adults live safely at home for as long as possible.

The Riverdale Network Center located at 13725 Wabash had its grand opening on July 21, 2007. Riverdale residents and businesses are invited to come and utilize their technology services. Computers, offices, and meeting rooms are available with wireless internet services.

The Quality of Life Committee is sponsoring the 1st Annual Riverdale Idol Talent Search and is looking for that talented girl or boy, ages 8-18, to be awarded Riverdale Idol of 2007. The event will take place on September 8, 2007.

On August 14, 2007, Mayor Evans read the proclamation declaring September as Save-A-Life month in the village.

The grand opening/ribbon cutting ceremony for the newly constructed Washington Junior High School was held on September 19, 2007.

On September 25, 2007 the Village of Homewood's Tree Commission adopted the Village of Riverdale as their sister village.

In November 2007, the Riverdale Meat and Produce Market opened at 301 W. 138th Street.

On November 13, 2007, a ground-breaking ceremony was held for the historic "Pacesetter Project". The 38 million dollar project is to redevelop 90 of the area's 397 homes. Over the next 18 months, the 90 housed on Lowe Avenue will be renovated in the first phase of redevelopment. It will take eight years to complete up-grades to the entire 42 acre complex, bounded by 138th Street on the South, rail yards on the North, Lowe Avenue to the West and Eggleston Avenue to the East.

In December 2007, the Fire Department promoted the "Keep the Wreath Red" campaign. The wreath will be lit with red bulbs, but each holiday related fire will result in replacing one red bulb with a white bulb. The wreath will be entirely white for one day during the season should there be a holiday related fire.

HISTORY OF RIVERDALE, IL 2008

In January 2008, the Pacesetter Project got underway. The redevelopment is expected to be completed by the end of the year.\

Black History Month was celebrated in February 2008.

On March 8, 2008, J. Kamala Buckner Day was celebrated.

The week of March 15, 2008 was proclaimed Girl Scout Week.

Habitat for Humanity planned to construct homes in Riverdale. A seminar was held on March 29, 2008 for all those interested in home ownership through Habitat for Humanity.

On March 29, 2008, all Riverdale residents and businesses were asked to turn off their lights from 8:00p.m. to 9:00p.m. to participate in Earth Hour to show that it is possible to take action on global warming.

On April 18, 2008, Arbor Day was celebrated.

On April 24, 2008, Sergey Doronkin, Sergey Soloviev, and Olga Dorbrova Kulikova came to the Riverdale Library from Russia to obtain information about Betty Robinson. Ms. Robinson was a Riverdale resident who at the age of 16 won a gold medal in the 1928 and 1936 Olympics. They plan to make a film about her and other Olympic champions to be shown at the summer Olympics in Beijing, China.

A gun turn-in program was held on May 17, 2008.

The Village of Riverdale's C.A.P.A. (Community Awareness Policing Academy) will begin in May.

On May 24, 2008, the Riverdale Community Policing initiative hosted a safety awareness program.  Bicycles were given away along with a bike safety program.

On June 10-11, 2008, the Riverdale Police Department participated in the annual Torch Run for Special Olympics.

The 3rd annual Gus Macker Tournament was held on June 28-29, 2008.  It was a great success.

The Grand Opening of Whistler Crossing was held on August 21, 2008.  The new rental development will replace the Pacesetter development that was build in the 1950's.

On October 16, 2008, the Riverdale Police Department began the Community Awareness Policing Academy - C.A.P.A. - for interested Riverdale residents.  This program provides a look into the operations of the Riverdale Police Department.

In November 2008, the resurfacing of 144th street was completed.

Effective December 2008, the Riverdale Park District and the Ivanhoe Park District merged to become the Ivanhoe Park District of Riverdale.

 

HISTORY OF RIVERDALE, IL 2009

On March 31, 2009, The Butternut tree in Riverdale became the Village's official tree.  The tree is approximately 360 year old.

On April 16, 2009, Mayor Deyon Dean, Clerk Deborah Smiley and Trustees Cheryl Foy, Jerome Russell and Lawrence Jackson won the election in a landslide victory  by a margin of 3 to 1 over the incumbent Zenovia Evans. Deyon Dean became Mayor on May 1, 2009 and is the first African-American male Mayor for Riverdale.

May 1, 2009, The Village President/Mayor's position was made into a 30-hour paid position.

In August of 2009, the Village of Riverdale instituted a new logo.

 

HISTORY OF RIVERDALE, IL 2010

On April 22, 2010, Turnstone Development and McShane Construction Company held a groundbreaking reception for the new Riverdale Senior Apartments.  The apartment located at 335 W. 138th Street is being renovated for senior housing.

On October 31, 2010, Riverdale Library's first librarian, Adelle Swanson, retired after 36 years of service to the Riverdale community.

On October 23, 2010 a ceremony was held at the Riverdale Public Safety Building located at 725 W. 138th Street where two streets were dedicate to honor Riverdale Detective William Rolniak Jr. and Metra Police Officer Thomas Alan Cook, who were killed separately in the line of duty. A ceremony was held at the Riverdale Public Safety Building, 725 W. 138th St. The village will rename a stretch of Union and Lowe Avenues after Rolniak and Cook, respectively. These streets border the Riverdale Public Safety building.

On November 9, 2010,  the Village ratified the appointments of William McHenry as Chief of Police and William Stephens as Deputy Police Chief.

 

HISTORY OF RIVERDALE, IL 2011

On June 2, 2011, Deputy Fire Chief Chris Van Dyke was appointed to the position of Interim Fire Chief.

On August 18, 2011, the Senior Apartments located at 138th & School Street were official dedicated.

 

HISTORY OF RIVERDALE, IL 2012

On February 8, 2012, Deputy Fire Chief Chris Van Dyke was appointed to the position of Fire Chief.

On May 1, 2012, the Ivanhoe Park District of Riverdale will be known as the Riverdale Park District.

 

HISTORY OF RIVERDALE, IL 2013

On April 9, 2013, Mayor Dean and the independents running with him were defeated by Trustee Jackson and the Integrity Party. 

On May 2, 2013, the new Mayor Lawrence Jackson, Village Clerk Karen Holcomb and Trustees Roderick Jefferson, Jerome Russell and Bradley Smith were sworn into office.

Police Chief William McHenry resigned his position on May 4, 2013. On May 6, 2013, Riverdale Police Lieutenant Richard Sommer was appointed Interim Police Chief.

On May 14, 2013, Riverdale Police Sergeant David Demik was appointed the new Riverdale Police Chief.

Robert Scharnhorst was appointed Acting Fire Chief from June 6, 2013 - September 9, 2013.

On September 10, 2013, Robert Scharnhorst was appointed as Fire Chief. He currently holds that position.

The Village held their 2013 Holiday Tree Lighting on Friday, December 13, 2013

 

Click here to view Riverdale's Historical Photographs

 

 Information provided by
Riverdale Historical Society.
All information current as of 2013

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December 12, 1997
Updated: December 16, 2013, 2013

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