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Rye’s Square House maintains area’s history

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The Square House in the community of Rye, New York, stands today at what was a crossroads of colonial travel, the location of wartime and peacetime visits from dignitaries, and within what became a bustling and eventually a wealthy part of Westchester County.

More than 20 different owners have occupied the land since the first structure appeared on the site during the 1600s. Today’s house is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and the museum interprets the period from when the Haviland family owned it and operated it as an inn.

Ebenezer Haviland was a doctor who served as a surgeon in the Continental Army. When he succumbed to disease or battle wounds in Connecticut during 1781, the family more readily relied on income from overnight guests. Many visitors stayed the night after traveling along the old Boston Post Road that was a main byway during colonial and later days.

Two stories provide credit to the name of the structure. One is attributed to the physical shape of the house. The second refers to its location, which is in the center of the colonial community. The Square House has seven large rooms that have been added at various times. High ceilings popular to the period can be seen throughout the house.

Revolutionary Visitors

The inn and tavern operated until 1830. The house retains the vertical bars that protected the liquor at night and gave meaning to the word “bar” for a public house.

Visitors during Haviland ownership included John Adams and Samuel Adams, who stayed during 1774 as they traveled to and from the first Continental Congress in Philadelphia. President George Washington visited on two separate occasions, writing in his diary that he visited the then “Widow Haviland’s” twice (October and November 1789). He also wrote that “After dinner through frequent light showers we proceeded to the Tavern of a Mrs. Haviland at Rye who keeps a very neat and decent Inn.”

During August 1824, the Marquis de Lafayette, while on his final tour of the U.S., dined at the Square House. At that time, it was known as “Penfield’s Inn.”

After its roles as a private residence, tavern and inn were completed, the house served as the village hall from 1904 until 1964. Today, The Square House museum features five areas of the house with period displays—front hall, tavern room, warming kitchen, upstairs hallway and innkeepers bedroom. It also maintains more than 8,000 artifacts, including ladies’ dresses dating to the 1800s. Vintage typewriters and traveling trunks are among the items donated by the community.

The Square House is located at 1 Purchase Street in Rye. To learn about days and hours of operation, and special programs and exhibits, call 914-967-7588.

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