St. Margaret of Cortona . . . where HEARTS are Nurtured . . . and MINDS are Educated!
History of St Margaret's School
The education of the Catholic youth of Riverdale began in 1875 at the St. Vincent's Free School housed on the grounds of Mount St. Vincent in what is now known as Le Gras Hall. The Sisters of Charity operated the school teaching the children of mostly Irish poor, who worked as domestics on the numerous estates that populated Riverdale at the time.
St. Margaret's parish was not founded until 1887, and the first pastor Reverend James Kiley used a portion of the school as a temporary chapel to say Mass. Prior to that the local Catholics had to attend Mass at Saint John's in Kingsbridge or Saint Mary's in Yonkers. When Saint Margaret's parish was established, the boundaries were North to Ludlow Street in Yonkers, South to the fire house on the road to Henry Hudson Bridge, East to the Harlen River railroad, and West to the Hudson River. The property on the Southeast corner of Riverdale Avenue and West 260th Street was donated, and the first church and rectory were erected there. The current church and rectory were built in 1964 on the Northeast corner.
The school continued as the Free School on the grounds of Mount Saint Vincent until 1910 when the Mount opened the college and needed the building. The pastor at that time, Father Murray, decided to construct a parish school. It was located directly behind the church facing North on West 260th Street, and its Easterly side on Delafield Avenue. The school was called Lavelle Hall, and the buidling was two stories with five classrooms and a capacity of 180 students. This original building still stands with its large entry hall, library and art center on the first floor, and the huge staircase that leads to the principal and administrative offices on the second floor. The cornerstone of the building on the lower right as you stand facing the school reads 1911. Financial restraints at the time prevented the school from opening so Father Murray leased the building to the public school system. It was used as an annex to PS 7 until 1926.
When Monsignor Joseph Doyle became pastor in 1925, he wanted the building to be a parish school. The timing was right as the building for PS 81 had just been completed. Monsignor asked the Sisters of Charity to staff St. Margaret of Cortona School. Sister Regina Concepta Mulhall, principal, and five other Sisters became the first faculty. As enrollment continued to grow, it was decided in 1928 to expand. An auditorium/gymnasium was added on the ground floor with eight classrooms above and a convent on the third floor. The basement contained a large kitchen, lunchroom, and a Club Room. Affter WW II the population of Riverdale exploded with new apartment buildings and there was a need for additional space. In 1955 another eight classrooms were built (known as the "new school") joining the "old school" on the Southwest side facing out toward Riverdale Avenue and cutting the school yard in half.
St. Margaret of Cortona School has educated thousands of Riverdale youth for over 80 years. Improvements continue to be made in this strong, yet aging school building. Some of these have included: needed roof repairs,plumbing, pointing, painting, wiring of the classrooms for Internet, renovating and updating the school computer/media center, establishing a school-wide technology network, purchasing Smart Boards for each of the classrooms, etc. There are also advanced programs in various subjects and, of course, an endlist of accomplishments to its credit.
The alumni of St. Margaret's have also brought credit to our school as they ventured into the world and brought with them the knowledge and values that were instilled in them all those many years.
We have so much to be proud of at St. Margaret of Cortona School!