Our History

Young people hang a Goddard Riverside sign on a building in an old black and white photo

Goddard Riverside was formed in 1959 when two historic settlement houses merged: Riverside Community House, founded in 1887, and Goddard Neighborhood Center, founded in 1892. The agency’s roots extend back to the beginning of the settlement house movement in the late 19th century. In 1884 the opening of the first settlement house, London’s Toynbee Hall, marked a watershed in the history of social services. It launched a new model of social work in which workers “settled” in poor urban areas to understand their needs firsthand and to develop neighborhood-based services that would help them make the changes they wanted in their lives.

Before merging, both houses had rich records of service to New York City. Goddard Neighborhood Center had been located in the East 30s, in the area now occupied by NYU Langone Medical Center. Riverside Community House served the lower southern portion of the Upper West Side, in the Lincoln Center area. When Goddard Riverside’s two parent agencies merged, they moved to the heart of the West Side Urban Renewal Area, the largest urban renewal area in the country, consisting of 20 square blocks from West 87th Street to West 97th Street and from Central Park West to Amsterdam Avenue. In addition to starting a number of the programs and services still in operation today, the center became deeply involved in the issues of affordable housing that were central to the urban renewal process.

Deep Roots in New York History

A complex history of predecessor organizations and later mergers began with the Wilson Industrial School for Girls (founded in 1853) and included the Riverside Day Nursery (1887), the Friendly Aid Society (1892), Pioneer Youth of America (1926), Child Study Association of America (1923) and Wel-Met Incorporated (1943).

For more detailed information on the history of Goddard Riverside, visit the Goddard Riverside Community Center Archives at Columbia University Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

Growing to Meet Community Needs

In February 2011, St. Matthew’s and St. Timothy’s Neighborhood Center was merged into Goddard Riverside Community Center. Nearly all the programs run by St. Matthew’s and St. Timothy’s continue to this day, providing West Siders with quality child care, exciting after-school and summer programs, one-on-one academic help and mentoring for school-age children and older adult services.

In 2017 Goddard Riverside completed a merger with Lincoln Square Neighborhood Center, a fellow historic settlement house. The center is located on West 64th/65th Street and offers programs for children, youth and older adults.

In September 2022 we announced a strategic partnership with the Stanley M. Isaacs Neighborhood Center in Yorkville, on the Upper East Side. This alliance is designed to “position us as a collective strength,” according to Goddard Riverside Executive Director Rod Jones, who added: “Combined we can push forward ambitious two-generation approaches to family well-being.”