Can History Illuminate New Rochelle’s Tale of Two Cities?

Written By: Deprecated User

In the February 5 issue of the Westchester Guardian

Is New Rochelle a tale of two cities (north and south)? This week was there any favoritism to any part of New Rochelle when the snow was removed? Is it true some streets in the southern half of the City were never plowed? There were once two New Rochelle’s – a village and a town. Some nearby communities continue with city and town designations, but in l899 New Rochelle chose to unite its village and town because of continual population growth. City Historian Barbara Davis said it was an amicable change between the two entities.
New Rochelle (as reported in Herbert B. Nichols’ book, “Historic New Rochelle”) said New Rochelle began with a few families. By 1698 the Census reported 233 residents and by 1771 the number had increased to 714. People left during the Revolutionary War, but by l800 the population was growing again. There were 3,000 in the Town of New Rochelle when part of the land area was incorporated into the Village of New Rochelle
A period of rapid growth occurred as the railroad, motor cars and horse cars were introduced into the area during the 1880’s so that by 1899, the Village and Town of New Rochelle joined together to incorporate into the City of New Rochelle. This was achieved by an Act of the Legislature of the State of New York.
New Rochelle has a long history of democratic government tracing back to the time of the settlement of the City. In l689 New York Governor Leisler ordered an election for assessor and made Andre Thauvet a justice of the peace. A town meeting was recorded in 1699 and the City Clerk was in charge of the town records. By 1700, an assessor, collector of taxes and two surveyors for the highway were elected. During the American Revolution no records were kept. But by 1783 the government had resumed and by 1796 there was an election for five Commissioners of Common Schools.. School inspectors were initially elected in l831.
A benefactor, Willian Henderson, gave a donation of $1,200 to erect a Town Hall in 1812, and it was built in l828. A building on 10-12 Lawton Street was the site of the previous City Hall. During the l850’s there was a greater population in the Village which was off Main and Huguenot Streets and the lower area of North Avenue. It was felt more taxes were needed for government services. In 1857 when the population was 1707, a Village Charter was requested. At this time the Village stretched from Titus Mill pond to Winyah (Lincoln Avenue) and near Drake Avenue. At a later date the borders of the Town were extended to Main Street on the East and Pelham on the West. The residents in The Village of New Rochelle paid both Town and Village taxes up until the Town and Village were joined to create the City of New Rochelle.
New Rochelle has been recognized as a residential city. Congestion on North Avenue created by commuters traveling to New York City was noted even in the l930’s. New Rochelle’s northern part of the City began to develop rapidly after World War II as many returning veterans, according to Barbara Davis, needed housing. The farm land in the former Town of New Rochelle in the northern part of the City was a prime area for building houses. George Imburgia recalls the l950’s when New Rochelle was a busy place. “It was a more vibrant city in the l950’s with stores like Bloomingdales, Arnold Constable, Palace Shoe Store and Woolworth’s. People liked to go to the three movie theaters on Main Street. It seemed like a friendlier atmosphere when you went to downtown Main Street.”