By Mark Keegan
Although Rye is constantly evolving, its character has remained remarkably intact from the days I grew up here in the 1970s and later. My neighborhood, the epicenter of which was the corner of Rye Beach and Halsted avenues, was a whirl of kids riding bikes and playing kick the can. Whenever possible we were outside playing and exploring. We did fun things, dangerous things, and mischievous things, much as those before and after us.
We would play hockey in the street and retrieve errant balls from the sewer. We set up camp in pines higher than my house and swayed in the breeze. We buried time capsules and created treasure maps. We rode our bikes in long processions, snaking through the neighborhood endlessly. We subjected all our neighbors to ding-dong-ditch, rarely fooling anyone. We played in the leaves, mud, and sand. We carved our names in trees and looked for our lost dogs. Generally, on most days, we had a heck of a lot of fun.
Many of the houses in my old neighborhood were built in the 1920s. Some of these are taking advantage of the Rye Historical Society’s new Historic Marker Program. If your home predates 1942, when Rye became a city, it is eligible for a marker. The handsome bronze markers indicate the date the home was built and celebrate our rich architectural heritage.
One such home with a shiny new marker is at the northeast corner of Forest and Rye Beach. This lovely brick home was built in 1927, at considerable cost, by Fred Ponty, who owned Paradise Park nearby. As he built his home, his park and the adjoining Pleasure Park, were being demolished to make way for Playland.
In 1940, the Stover family bought the home, which became host to an ongoing property tax protest beginning in 1956. Clotheslines with tattered rags and other unsightly offerings were increasingly displayed in this peaceful protest. Litigation regarding the ordinances passed to quash the protest eventually made its way to the Supreme Court where the City prevailed.
Another plaque can now be found on a well-preserved 1922 Mediterranean-style home across the street. It was built as a summer home for a coffee merchant who lived with his family on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. The next owner was the noted racecar driver, Charles Moran, who raced at LeMans and at the Indy 500. When I was growing up, the well-respected attorney Judge DeCaro lived there with his family.
It’s encouraging to see the current stewards of some of our historic Rye homes recognizing and sharing that heritage.
<To apply for an historic home marker, visit the Square House, RyeHistory.org or call 967-7588. The cost is $200 for members, $225 for non-members.>