City of Rye, NY


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The History of the City of Rye, New York

The following information is an excerpt from Kaiser Publications.

First Settlement

Rye is the oldest permanent settlement in Westchester County. It began in 1660 when Peter Disbrow, John Coe and Thomas Studwell came from Greenwich with a small group of settlers. They were joined by John Budd the following year. Their first treaty with the Mohegan Indians gave them the land between Milton Point and the Byram River (Peningoe Neck); then the mile-long “Manussing” Island. Within several years their combined purchases comprised all of what is now the City of Rye, Town of Rye, Harrison, White Plains, parts of Greenwich, North Castle, and Mamaroneck.
Settlement Named Rye

In 1665, Connecticut merged these settlements under the name of Rye after ancestors in Rye, England. In 1683, Rye was ceded unwillingly to the Province of New York by King Charles II as a gift to his brother, the Duke of York. But when a New York court severed the Harrison area from the settlement in 1695, the Rye colonists rejoined Connecticut in protest. In 1700, Rye again became part of New York by royal decree, this time permanently. The New York State Legislature officially established the Town of Rye boundaries in 1788.

Early Business and Recreation

For two centuries, Rye remained a secluded community. Land was cleared for farming and cattle grazing. Docks were built on Long Island Sound, and oystering was an important occupation. Homes along Mill Town Road, now Milton, led to grist mills on Blind Brook.

Communication with the outside world came slowly. The Rye-Oyster Bay ferry, which began service in 1739, was a great community event. The New York-Boston stagecoach made its first run in 1772 using the Square House, then an Inn, as a stopping place. Rye to New York steamboat service and completion of the New Haven Railroad in the mid 1800’s made Rye a popular summer resort. Horseracing on “The Flats” (Rye Beach) was a special attraction.

Rye Thrives at the Turn of the Century

In the late nineteenth century, Rye experienced its first real growth and change. The era of the trolley made surrounding communities accessible. (Through a series of careful transfers, one could travel all the way to New York for eight cents.) By 1904, there were two schools, five churches, a library, and a lively population of 3,500 residents.
Rye Becomes a Village

The growing community became dissatisfied with the services of the Rye Town Board, on which it had no representation. The Rye Village Incorporation League organized public meetings; “letters to the editor” debated the merits of independence. The Legislature passed a bill of incorporation and on September 12, 1904, a special election was held at Theodore Fremd’s market. The taxpayers voted 155 in favor, 47 opposed - and Rye became a village.
The Post-War Boom

During the 1920’s, the post-war boom and the advent of parkways and commuter trains brought a rush of prospective suburbanites and summer residents to the flourishing village. This was Rye’s greatest period of growth and by 1930, there were nearly 9,000 people.

Rye Becomes a City

As Rye developed, the residents began to desire complete independence from the Town government. City status offered many advantages, one being relief from paying a disproportionate share of the Town welfare tax. In 1940, the Legislature approved the Rye City Charter which was adopted by the residents 1,172 to 34. On January 1, 1942, Rye became Westchester’s sixth and smallest city.

Rye History in the Making

Today, the City of Rye is a unique blending of the old and the new. Now a residential, suburban community with every facility for modern living, it still retains its traditional atmosphere of tranquil village life as well as many historic landmarks that bind it to its three-hundred year history.

Still small as cities go (1990 census population: 14,936), Rye is primarily a place in which to live rather than to make a living. One-third of Rye’s working residents commute to New York City, 25 railroad miles away. Others are employed in Westchester, Connecticut, New Jersey, and Long Island as well as in the 200 small businesses and several large firms located here.
Community Characteristics

The dominant characteristic of the community is one of single-family homes that cover about three-fifths of Rye’s six square miles. Another fifth of the land is devoted to recreation and conservation. The balance is divided between institutions (such as The Osborn, churches, and city property) and vacant land, with a slim 5% of all property in Rye used for business and industry.

Careful planning and controlled growth have protected the overriding community objective - to retain its residential character. Of the 5,400 households, two-thirds live in private homes; the rest are housed in condominium, cooperative, two-family or apartment buildings - a balance which has been purposely maintained.
Natural Endowments

Rye’s remarkable natural endowments - a protected harbor along Long Island Sound, varied rolling landscapes, tree-lined streets, and winding brooks - enhance its many attractive neighborhoods. Community interest in recreation and preservation of open spaces has been considerable. The purchase of a 127-acre private country club, doubling of capacity at the marina on Milton Harbor, and expansion of the Nature Center to 47 acres all reflect the wishes of the citizens.
Present-Day Business

Campus-type office buildings for corporations in a few selected areas have been of economic benefit to the community. The central business district, primarily intended to serve local residents, has been confined to the Purchase Street area.

Zoning regulations that control density, height, and use of property have successfully kept tower apartments, motels, shopping centers and manufacturing plants out of Rye. Ample lands have been set aside for schools as well as for shopper and commuter parking.


"The City of Rye is served by two public school districts as well as numerous secular and non-secular learning institutions. The Rye City School District serves over 2,028 students in grades Kindergarten through 12 (1995 Report). There are five schools in the city school district: The Osborn School, The Milton School, The Midland School, Rye Middle School and Rye High School. Current available statistics show that 96% of Rye High School graduates plan to continue their education beyond high school. In 1995, the per pupil expenditure of the Rye City School District was estimated to be $12,872.00 (1995 RCSD Progress Report). Students living in the Greenhaven section of the City of Rye are served by the Rye Neck School District. Rye is also home to the renowned Rye Country Day School, a private learning institution."
Historical Landmarks

Any description of the Rye scene is incomplete without mention of its historical landmarks. The original home site and burial place of John Jay, first chief justice of the United States, is located here. Original milestone, fixed by Benjamin Franklin along the Post Road in 1763, still mark the 24th, 25th, and 26th miles from New York.

The historic Square House, built in the 1700’s, is now a museum. As a public inn for nearly a century, it housed such distinguished stagecoach riders as George Washington, John Adams, and General Lafayette. It later became Rye’s first post office and from 1904 till 1964 served as Village Hall, then City Hall.

On Milton Road, first site of community development, is the oldest house in Rye - the Timothy-Knapp house, built in the 1660’s; the Milton and Purdy cemeteries with gravestones of two centuries ago; the original Milton district school house, built in 1830, now a residence; and number 51, a colonial building dating back to 1788, currently the Rye Arts Center.

City of Rye, New York, SealThe City of Rye Seal

The official City Seal displays a ship in the center copied from the seal of Rye, England, a peace pipe, a torch of freedom and the following three significant dates in Rye History:

1660 Year community was first settled, illustrated by a peace pipe.

1904 Year Rye became a Village, showing a torch of progress.

1942 Year Rye became a City.