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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
*Above notes compiled from the Rye.gov website.