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From the Huguenots to Art Deco and Beyond: Downtown New Rochelle’s Past Stars in “History Hop” Walking Tour

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From the Huguenots to Art Deco and Beyond: Downtown New Rochelle’s Past Stars in “History Hop” Walking Tour

June 26, 2016 - 07:28
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Stops on the BID History Hop Tour. The “National City Bank of New Rochelle” Building, now Chase, 491 Main Street (1906-1908); The Pioneer Building, 14 Lawton Street (circa 1897)

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NEW ROCHELLE, NY --History buffs and anyone else who appreciates points of interest will be able to spend hours strolling downtown New Rochelle and exploring its storied past with a new self-guided, cellphone-based walking tour.

The “New Rochelle Downtown History Hop” launched recently at the Ruby Dee Park at Library Green. The tour features 33 stops, including churches, former theaters and buildings designed by the architects of the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials in Washington, D.C.

Created by the Downtown New Rochelle Business Improvement District, in conjunction with the City of New Rochelle and the New Rochelle Public Library, the tour uses technology supplied by “Guide by Cell” to send information directly to each tour-taker’s phone. A blue sign mounted at each of the locations will invite participants to scan a specific QR code or enter a web address that will bring the tour-taker to a page with a brief, breezy description of the site as well as links to archival photos, current websites and audio clips.

“The History Hop is a great way to experience New Rochelle’s fascinating history,” said Ralph DiBart, Executive Director of the BID. “New Rochelle is entering a new phase in its history, with great plans for the coming decade. This tour helps us to look back at the many interesting and important places and moments in the city’s past to appreciate the foundation on which we will build our future.” 

With more than 325 years of history since the Huguenots settled the area, New Rochelle has one of the oldest downtowns in the country. The period most completely represented stretches from the 1890s until just after the Great Depression, with many Art Deco buildings, their details restored in recent years.

Maps of the sites will be available at the train station concierge, New Rochelle Public Library, and City Hall. Simply scan the QR code on the History Hop Sign. Those sites include one of painter Norman Rockwell’s former studios on Prospect Street, Trinity-St. Paul’s Episcopal Church and Burial Grounds at 311 Huguenot Street and New Rochelle’s first fire department headquarters. The Presbyterian Church of New Rochelle at 50 Pintard, built in 1929, was designed by John Russell Pope, who designed the Jefferson Memorial. Henry Bacon, the architect for the Lincoln Memorial, also designed the building that is now a Chase Bank at 491 Main Street. 

The signs are designed to pique anyone’s interest. On the Pioneer Building, a former newspaper building, asks what connection the historic site has with the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, for instance. The answer is then sent to the person’s phone. (We’ll give you this one: John Dyott, an editor of the paper, was also an actor, and he was on stage at the Ford Theater when John Wilkes Booth committed the crime.)

“The History Hop is a great way for all ages to connect with New Rochelle’s amazing history,” said Barbara Davis, Community Relations Coordinator for the New Rochelle Public Library and City Historian. “Just walking along the street, pedestrians will be able to see rare archival images, hear audio clips and gain fascinating tidbits – all from a quick sweep of their cell phone. The New Rochelle Public Library is so excited to partner on this project, as it gives our local history collection so much more accessibility.”