Square House Museum
Welcome to the Square House Museum, a fully accredited museum operated by the Rye Historical Society. The Square House has been serving the Rye community since 1964. To view the mission of the Rye Historical Society, click here.
The Rye Historical Society arose out of the efforts of five concerned citizens of Rye; Goddard Light, New York State Supreme Court Justice Frank McCullough, Livingston Platt, William Selzer, and William Dornbusch. In June 1963, these men met to discuss the fate of the Square House, which had served as the municipal building of Rye for sixty years, as ground had been broken for a new city hall. They concluded that the best way to preserve the building would be to form a historical society, which would use the Square House as its official headquarters. On April 19th, 1964, the society was officially formed, composed of these five individuals plus several additional members. On June 26th, 1964, the New York State Board of Regents granted an absolute charter of incorporation to the Rye Historical Society.
Inside the Square House
The Square House was an ideal spot for an inn due to its location on the Boston Post Road. One of the oldest highways in the United States. Most visitors would have entered into the entry hall throug the front door. Travellers could place their cloaks, hats, and lanterns on pegs on the wall. An entry hall in colonial times was a basic utilitarian space that could hold tables and chairs if the tavern room was overcrowded.
The tavern room in the Square House was frequented mostly by men. The room served as a type of restaurant, bar, and social center for men of the community. They could relax, play games, read the newspaper, pick up their mail, and enjoy drinks such as hard cider, rum, beer, toddy, and wine. Weary travelers could enjoy a simple meal, have a drink, and talk to locals. The tavern room was also used as a meeting place for political and church groups.
The Square House’s warming kitchen was one of the building’s two kitchens. An extension at the back of the house, which was removed in 1908, was possibly another, larger kitchen. Kitchens were the household production centers of the home. They were where clothing was washed, candles made, where spinning and weaving took place, and where food was prepared and preserved. Women’s work centered in this room, and young girls were taught the domestic skills necessary to run a household.
The council room and the ballroom were both added to the house in the 1780′s. When the village of Rye was established in 1904, the Square House became the municipal hall. This room became the council room, where the council met. In 1964, a new city hall was built, and the Rye Historical Society was created to take care of the Square House. The room also holds photographs of the “presidents” and mayors of Rye from 1904 to 1964.
The tavern keeper’s bed chamber was a room where friends and guests would be entertained. Therefore, the bedroom was where items of wealth were displayed. A bed and textiles were some of the most valuable items a family could own. An entire family slept in one bedroom, with the parents in the bed and the children on mattresses on the floor. Rooms were often cold and drafty at night.
The hands-on room represents a bedroom for travelers in the 18th century. Accommodations were often uncomfortable, and lacked privacy. As they paid for the bed, and not the room, travelers would commonly share a bed with up to four people. The rooms were sparsely furnished with only the essentials, and mattresses were stuffed with straw or cornhusks.
The hands-on room allows visitors to pretend to be a traveler from the 1700′s. Feel free to lie in the bed, sit in the chairs, or touch the artifacts. Everything in the room is an accurate reproduction of what an 18th century tavern bedroom would have been like.