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Sabbath Day – Walk Rye History 2

July 3, 2017


Kudos to the Rye Historical Society who have done a valuable and impressive job putting together Walk Rye History, a series of 22 Wayside Displays interpreting the History of Rye from early settlement to the twentieth century. With an absolutely beautiful Sunday afternoon on my hands I spent four hours following the interpretive boards around the historic neighborhoods of Rye, New York. I walked most of it, but did consent (for time) to driving between historic neighborhoods. [Apparently stops 23, 24, and 25 are a series of milestones erected at the direction of Benjamin Franklin, but I had no map to find them.]

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Rye was founded in 1660 by Peter Disbrow and two others who purchased land from two Native American brothers. The house above, which is not a part of Walk Rye History, was originally a stone home used as a fort for the settler community during King Philip’s War. The present house represents a series of additions to the original stone house which was itself taken down after the Civil War. I had a friendly talk with the current resident who told me the foundations of the original and subsequent additions can still be seen in the basement, where a massive section of an ancient tree holds up the house.  

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The photo below captures me looking down into Rye’s oldest well, beside the Disbrow house, presumably dug around 1660!

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The Rye Historical Society’s

Self-Guided Tour Through
350 Years of Rye History


1. The Square House: Once owned by the Rev. James Wetmore, and then run as an Inn and Tavern by his son. John and Samuel Adams stayed here on their way to and from the Continental Congress in 1774.

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2. The Village Green and the Rye Free Reading Room: The mortar stone above was used by the Siwanoy Indians who dwelt here beside the Long Island Sound. Several millstones from local mills lay on the Green here beside the Blind Brook. Below, the Free Reading Room which still serves the community.2017-07-02 17.47.36

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3. The Firehouse and the YMCA: above

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4. Church of the Resurrection: The original Catholic Church in Rye was a wooden Gothic structure right on Purchase Street – the center of the commercial district. The wayside display had several photos of original. It was torn down, I believe, in the 1920s. The house above, on the Boston Post Road, was the home of the priest. 

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5. Rye’s Commercial District: Walking down the aptly named Purchase Street with the aid of the interpretive signs, it was quite easy to imagine it filled with horses and dry goods stores rather than cars and trendy micro-breweries. Many of the buildings on the street were here 100 to 150 years ago. The house on the right in both photos above belonged to Daniel Budd and was used for a time as the post office. The house on the left (seen through the tree) was Theodore Fremds Meat Market. 

2017-07-02 17.56.39Daniel Budd’s Building

2017-07-02 17.55.36Theodore Fremd’s Meat Market

6. Arrival of the Railroad: Simply turning around from where the above pictures were taken, one can see Union Square where the first railroad station once stood. 

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7. The Caroline O’Day Post Office: Named for the third woman and the first Democrat elected to congress, and a good friend of Eleanor Roosevelt, this post office above is the third in Rye. The first was Daniel Budd’s, further above. The second, below, still stands just down Purdy street. 

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8. Rye Public Schools: The interpretive board helps one imagine school life in the early settlement. The building above was the original high school.

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9. Billington’s Livery: The stone fence is all that remains of the livery and riding school. The pictures on then display make it easy to picture Smith street 125 years ago.

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10. History of the Boston Post Road: One of the things I missed on the tour were the locations of original mile markers which were carved by the same stone cutter who made the tombstone for Rev. John Smith, of my current congregation.

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11. Religion in Rye: “During the Revolutionary War, the Presbyterians generally sided with the patriots while the Anglicans sided with the British.” Yep. That’s what my sermon was about this morning. Yet both had their churches burned during the war. This building was once Christ’s Church, built  1788 as the new Anglican church. It now houses The Rye Arts Center.

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12. Rye Playland: A staple of our summers since 2011. The photo above was taken at the town park beach near the end of my walk.

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13. Rye Town Park: Established in 1909, a couple of young guys let me park for free, as they had never heard of the Walk Rye History boards before and were curious.

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14. The Timothy Knapp House: Built by an early settler and a relative of mine, it now holds the town’s archive. See my previous post

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15. Milton Cemetery: See my previous post.

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16. The Bird Homestead and Rye Meeting House: Built in 1835, those home raised generations of scientists in the maritime village. The meeting house next door was originally a mission of Christ’s Church, but today houses the Quaker Meeting. Found this deer resting between the meeting house and the marshy waters of Milton Bay.

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17. Rye Commercial District: Set on a peninsula between Milton Harbor and the Long Island Sound, ships were built here, as well as racing boats. Mentioned on the interpretive sign is the location of “the little yellow schoolhouse,” above, and other surviving buildings.

18. The Wainwrights and Their Houses: Rode all the way to the private club at the point. Took no photos. 

19. The Boston Post Road Historic District: This stretch includes Whitby Castle (now a golf club) and the Jay Estate and Heritage Center. No photos.

20. Greenhaven: Once, and still, home to early movie moguls and entertainers. Truly beautiful and ridiculously expensive homes. No photos. 


21. The African Cemetery (at Greenwood Union Cemetery): I have performed many graveside services at Greenwood Union but was previously unaware of the African Cemetery. I visited my dead friends, including a descendant of the first Rye settlers, and sought out the African stones. Land was donated by a Methodist for the burial of descendants of the towns early slaves. Spotted my second deer of my walk.

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22. Immigrants in Rye: I first found this neighborhood a few years ago, attending a concert at the Rye Roadhouse. In the mid nineteenth century the corner of Maple and High Street was known as Dublin for all the Irish.  In the 1890s, it became an Italian community. The private residence above was built by by a Dubliner in honor of St. Gertrude. A local business now occupies the former St. Donato, built in 1892 by an Italian. 

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The neighborhood is full of mid-nineteenth century residences. 

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Obviously, this is a sketch of my walk through Rye, not an account of Rye’s history. I do regret that the text and photos on the Wayside Displays are not available online for a virtual tour, but then that would defeat the experience of getting out and walking through history. If you can find as pleasant a day as I did, and you are local (or visiting), then I hope these photos will encourage you to get out and walk. If I’m around, I’ll join you.

Happy Sabbath.

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