Riverbend and its surroundings have a rich and varied history. In the 16th and 17th centuries, the site was used by the Lenape Native Americans, belonging to a confederation of the Algonquin Nation. Known as the Unami Tribe, these Lenape established their summer station in the bend of the Schuylkill River that gives Riverbend its name. The last written record of Native American activity in Riverbend’s vicinity was an encampment at Black Rocks in 1740.
The 1682 William Penn land grant of 5,000 acres to British settler Joshua Holland included the land that became Riverbend. When clearing new land for agriculture, it was common practice for farmers to remove large stones from the ground as they prepared for planting, and these stones were often used to construct walls. Walls like this are still found at Riverbend and at many of the surrounding properties.
The property on which Riverbend sits was eventually transferred to Welsh Quaker Morris Llewellyn, Sr., a farmer with substantial land holdings. At this time, the land was known as "Indian Fields." The names given to what is now Bryn Mawr, Gladwyne, and Bala Cynwyd reflect Welsh influence during this period. At this time, Spring Mill Road led to a ford and later to a ferry crossing the Schuylkill River. This served as a transport connection to Spring Mill Road on the Conshohocken side of the river. Although remnants of the old road are still visible on Riverbend's property, access to the river was cut off by the construction of the Schuylkill Expressway in the 1950s.
In 1864, the Union Army leased land from farmers on the south side of Spring Mill Road to establish Camp Discharge. This camp housed Union soldiers released from Confederate prison camps before they returned to civilian life. A sentry house from Camp Discharge still stands near Riverbend’s entrance.