Ask Westchester, June 2012: How Rye Got Its Name

How Rye got its name—and named its streets

Q: Does Rye have anything to do with rye bread?
—Jeremy Scott, Bedford

A: Jeremy, do you mean the City of Rye, or the Town of Rye, because, either way, the answer is no, other than that they do serve rye bread in both places. With corned beef, if you’re lucky. And a schmear of mustard. Rye (the city and town) was named by John Budd, an immigrant from the port city of Rye, England, who helped New York claim the municipality of Rye from Connecticut. The origin of the English moniker is disputed but probably comes from one of the similarly spelled words for “bank” or “ford” used in Old English, Irish, and many romance languages. “Rye” (the grain) also has an uncertain origin, but it’s probably not from the same root, but rather a Norse or Germanic term for the grain.

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Q: Who is Theodore Fremd? There’s a road in Rye named after him.
—Evelyn T., Dobbs Ferry

A: Theodore Fremd? The Theodore Fremd? You don’t know who Theodore Fremd is?  What kind of troglodytes do we let read this column, anyway? Theodore Fremd is, of course, um, uh, the guy they named that road after in Rye. Capice? Next question.
Oh, all right, we’ll admit our initial ignorance, too, but it turns out Fremd was sort of a cool guy. He was chief of the Rye Fire Department, director of the Rye National Bank—yes, there was a Rye National Bank!—and Village President of Rye for over a decade. In fact, when he retired in 1926, President Calvin Coolidge telegrammed his congratulations. As did the Mayor of Rye, Suffolk County, England (from which Rye, USA, got its name—but you already knew that from two minutes ago). Indeed, Fremd erected the post office on Purdy Avenue, led the charge to build Rye High School, and was in office during the great Pleasure Park standoff of 1925 when the Board of Trustees threatened to enforce a state penal law closing “Sunday amusements,” which prompted one concerned citizen to offer $100 to be arrested to test the edict. (Occupy Rye?) When not running the village, Fremd was a yachtsman. He died in his house on the road named in his honor.

Q: I would like to know what the plans are to update the retail and food/beverage offerings at the village that surrounds Crestwood Train Station, which services Eastchester and Tuckahoe residents. As a daily user and local resident, I find this “downtown” to be outdated and ages behind the surrounding neighborhoods such as Bronxville, Scarsdale, and Hartsdale. It is time the town/village council begins looking at bringing significant change to this area and get serious, inviting major names such as Starbucks or Papyrus.
 —Carolyn G, Tuckahoe

A: Oh Carolyn, your plight made us tear up a little. We dispatched a post to Tuckahoe Mayor Steven A. Ecklond—our outrage at the lack of a Papyrus being conveniently located to you was pulsating off the page—and did he even bother to respond?
Yes. Quickly, actually. Says Mayor Ecklond: “The Crestwood business district, which surrounds the Crestwood Train Station, is currently undergoing some very significant changes. The old Roberto’s Restaurant location is presently being completely rehabilitated for a fresh new bagel bakery. A proposal for developing the two abandoned gas stations across the street…will have ground-floor commercial space with upper-floor residential space. The Crestwood business district has recently seen great success with some new retail food establishments and a bakery.”

He later added: “I have lived in the Crestwood neighborhood all my life [more than fifty years], and, although it may seem somewhat dated to new residents, it has seen a pretty significant transformation over the past ten years. These new development proposals will bring new residents to the area who will not only support the existing commercial base but clear the path for new merchants who will serve the needs of the community.” Well, Mayor Ecklond, you are no Theodore Fremd. But, in all seriousness, your response seems reasonable and indicates you really care for your community…um…we mean…you scoundrel.

You decide: charming or dated?

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