The Town of Rye, 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. Rye also includes four of the nine islands known as the Isles of Shoals which lie approximately ten miles off the Rye coast.
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. By 1715 and for the next seventy years, the settlement at Star Island prospered supplying large quantities of dried fish for the tables of Europe. Mystique surrounding the Shoals involves tales of 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 writers of the period including Childe Hassam, John Greenleaf Whittier, Nathaniel Hawthorne and Sarah Orne Jewett.
Rich in history, the Town 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, the United States location of the first trans-Atlantic communications cable in 1874 and an eighty foot tower at Pulpit Rock that served as part of the Harbor Defense System during World War II.
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 today and the Town proper is now primarily residential.
The 2000 census credited Rye with a population of 5,182 residents many of whom volunteer to serve on our numerous committees, commissions, boards and community organizations. Residents take pride in the degree of civic engagement demonstrated by means of participation in local activities and are dedicated to preservation of a semi-rural environment. Rye voters have consistently supported marsh restoration, acquisition of open space and protection of our coastal resources.