The Town of Rye and Rye Beach, New Hampshire is located on the Atlantic Coast, a one hour drive by car from Boston, Massachusetts; Portland, Maine or the foothills of the White Mountains. Although Rye has a total area of 35.5 square miles, 64.45% of it (22.9 square miles) is wetland or marsh. The Town of Rye has the longest stretch of coastline of any New Hampshire coastal town and also contains four of the nine islands known as the Isles of Shoals which lie approximately ten miles off the Rye shores.
First documented in 1605 by Samuel De Champlain and named Smith’s Isles in 1614 by Capt. John Smith, the Isles of Shoals served as a fishing station before mainland New England was settled. Rich in history, the Town of Rye encompasses Odiorne Point at the mouth of the Piscataqua River which is recognized as the site of New Hampshire’s first permanent settlement in 1623. During the 18th century, the area prospered by supplying large quantities of dried fish for the tables of Europe. In 1874, Rye became the site of the first trans-Atlantic communications cable connecting the United States and Europe. The cable terminus and the building housing it, now a private home, were located at Jenness Beach near what is known as Cable Road. During World War II, an eighty foot observation tower was constructed at Pulpit Rock as part of the Harbor Defense System. Today efforts to preserve the tower are ongoing.
Mystique surrounding the Isles of Shoals involves marauding Indians, murder, pirate treasure and evolution from rough and rowdy outpost to Victorian resort destination where poet Celia Thaxter, daughter of lighthouse keeper Thomas Leighton, was the center of the social scene as she entertained the notable artists and writer of the period including Childe Hassam, John Greenleaf Whittier, Nathanial Hawthorne and Sarah Orne Jewett.
Bountiful fishing drew early settlers and small farms developed through the nineteenth century with a tradition of frugality and hardy self-sufficiency. During the Victorian era, Rye was known throughout the eastern United States as a first class summer resort. None of the numerous large wooden hotels and boarding houses of that period remain on the mainland and today the Town is primarily residential.
(Provided by Town of Rye Website) (Photo by Stephen Oates)