February 2024 Rye History Note

Four Pieces of Rye History

On Jan. 21, 2024 Rye made the front page of the Sunday New York Times in a feature article about the Boston Post Cane project. Starting in 1909, the newspaper gave out 700 of these canes to towns in eastern New England including Rye to honor the oldest resident in the town. That tradition continues in Rye and over 500 of the original towns. The article featured several towns who still distribute the cane including Rye where one of two  residents at Websters, age 102, share  the same birthday. The original cane presented in 1909 to Rye may be seen int eh town museum.

At a recent SB meeting, something came up about land and conservation that reminded me of the 1918 plot plan that was made for the Wedgwood Farm, 19 Lang Rd., where I grew up. This important document shows all abutters and two non-contiguous lots, common for most farms – one for firewood and one at the shore line for harvesting salt marsh hay. My brothers and I donated the Wedgwood four- acre wood lot to the town ten years ago.Thanks to a neighbor who knew the location, we visited plot once, deep in the back lands off Washington Road, a lovely mature forest. As with most former farms, locating the salt marsh plot is a mystery unless there is some written documentation giving its exact location. 

The Town Deliberative Meeting on Feb 3 was a 9-5 affair and some of us were there for the duration and enjoyed the Civic Fest in the Cafe sponsored by the Civic League. 134 officially registered for the meeting. This event marked 25 years since Rye adopted the SB2 model in which Town Meeting is broken up into two sessions – one for deliberation and one for voting. While we now have far more people voting in town elections, it is still only about 30% of all registered voters, stark contrast to national elections. More efforts at citizen engagement are needed. 

I work with the Rye Advocates for Historic Preservation and we volunteered to do publicity for the owner of 237 Locke Rd.  Thanks to Selectman Bob McGrath’s social media post with Free House photo, we were inundated with inquiries, some of them quite heartfelt from those in need of housing. To date we have not had a firm proposal to move the house, but we are hoping one or two will be forthcoming soon. If the historic 1826 house leaves Rye, it will be unfortunate, but our goal is to avoid demolition. This Locke house is one of 317 buildings that Rye Advocates has identified in town that were built before c. 1905.

Alex Herlihy

Town Historian