Taken from helicopter tour of the area coastline. Photo is of Echo Bay in New Rochelle, New York. 2008. Photo: ITSWEEPS
The town was settled by refugee Huguenots (French Protestants) in 1688 who were fleeing persecution (such as dragonnade) in France . Many of the settlers were artisans and craftsmen from the city of La Rochelle, France, thus influencing the choice of the name of "New Rochelle."
In 2007, the city had a population of 73,260, making it the seventh largest in the state of New York. As of the 2010 Census, the city's population had increased to 77,062. In 2008, New Rochelle was recognized by the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA) as one of the 100 Best Walking Cities in America, and the second best in New York State next only to nearby New York City. In November 2008 Business Week magazine listed New Rochelle as the best city in New York State, and one of the best places nationally, to raise children.
Of all the Huguenot settlements in America founded with the view of being distinct French colonies, New Rochelle most clearly conformed to the plans of its founders. The colony continued to attract French refugees until as late as 1760. The choice of name for the city reflected the importance of the city of La Rochelle and of the new settlement in Huguenot history and distinctly French character of the community. French was spoken, and it was common practice for people in neighboring areas to send their children to New Rochelle to learn the language.
The first national census of 1790 shows New Rochelle with 692 residents, 136 of whom were African American.
Through the 18th century, New Rochelle had remained a modest village that retained an abundance of agricultural land. During the 19th century, however, with the rapid growth of New York City by immigration principally from Ireland and Germany, more American families left New York City and moved into the area. Although the original Huguenot population was rapidly shrinking in relative size, through ownership of land, businesses, banks, and small manufactures, they retained a predominant hold on the political and social life of the town.
The 1820 Census showed 150 African-Americans residing in New Rochelle, six of whom were slaves. In 1857 the Village of New Rochelle was established within the borders of the Town of New Rochelle. A group of volunteers created the first fire service in 1861. In 1899 a bill creating the New Rochelle City Charter was signed by Governor Theodore Roosevelt. It was through this bill that the Village and Town of New Rochelle were joined into one municipality. In 1899 Michael J. Dillon narrowly defeated Hugh A. Harmer to become New Rochelle's first mayor. The recently established city charter designated four wards, a board of alderman (two from each ward), and 10 elected from the city at large.
20th and 21st centuries
By 1900 New Rochelle had a population of 14,720. In 1904 plans were completed for Rochelle Park, one of the first planned communities in the country. In 1909, Edwin Thanhouser established Thanhouser Film Corporation. Thanhouser's Million Dollar Mystery was one of the first serial motion pictures. In 1923, New Rochelle resident Anna Jones became the first African American woman to be admitted to the New York State Bar.
Poet and resident James J. Montague captured the image of New Rochelle in his 1926 poem "Queen City of the Sound". The last four lines of the poem are:
When Nature, seeking upon men
To cast a magic spell,
She looked the world around - and then
She fashioned New Rochelle.
—JAMES J. MONTAGUE
In 1930 New Rochelle recorded a population of 54,000, up from 36,213 only ten years earlier. During the 1930s New Rochelle was the wealthiest city per capita in New York state and the third wealthiest in the country.By the end of the century, the City had begun a massive revitalization of its 'downtown'. In 1999, part of downtown New Rochelle near the Metro North train station was rebuilt with a $190 million entertainment complex, nicknamed New Roc City, which features a 19-screen movie theater, an IMAX theater, an indoor ice-hockey arena, mini-golf, go karts, an arcade, restaurants, a hotel, loft-apartments and a mega supermarket. The complex was built on the former Macy's and Mall which had opened in 1968.
New Rochelle is located at Long Island Sound, bordered on the west by Pelham, Pelham Manor and Eastchester, by Scarsdale to the north and east, Mamaroneck and Larchmont to the east. The city lies 2 miles (3.2 km) north of the New York City border (Pelham Bay Park in The Bronx).According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 13.2 square miles (34.3 km2). The city has a rough triangle shape, approximately 10 miles (16 km) from north to south and 1.5 miles (2 km) from east to west at its widest point., at the southeastern point of continental New York State. It lies on the
19,312 residents of New Rochelle were enrolled in school, with 2,743 in pre-school or kindergarten, 8,105 in elementary school, 3,704 in high school and 5,030 in college or graduate school. Out of 42,872 individuals over the age of 25, 20% (9,766) had no high school diploma, 23% (11,325) were high school graduates, 14% (6,710) achieved some level of college education, 5% (2,347) held an associate's degree, 19% (9,120) held a bachelor's degree and 20% (9,604) possessed a graduate or other advanced degree.
The working population was 35,262, 95.7% of whom were employed. The occupational breakdown had 42% working in 'management', 25% working in 'sales', 17% in 'services', 8% in 'construction', and 7% in 'production and transport'. The average daily commute was 30 minutes, with 60% driving to work, 12% carpooling, 18% traveling via public-transportation and 7% using other means.
New Rochelle is commonly referred to as 'The Home Town' because of the significant amount of single-family, residential development that exists throughout most of the city. While the formerly industrial downtown section is more densely developed, with condominiums, high rises, offices, shopping centers, affordable housing complexes, a medical center, nursing homes, two college campuses and an inter modal transportation hub, the rest of the city consists of sprawling, residential neighborhoods. There are more than 11,500 single family units within the city, more than that of neighboring Larchmont, Mamaroneck and Scarsdale combined. The total number of separate households surpasses 26,000, more than that of neighboring Pelham, Pelham Manor, Eastchester, Scarsdale, Mamaroneck and Larchmont combined.
Some of the country's most expensive real estate can be found in New Rochelle. The north end of the city (10804) is ranked in Forbes Magazines list of the '500 most expensive zip-codes' in the country. According to the list, the average household income was $199,061 and the average home price was over $752,000. Homes in Premium Point, a gated section of the city on Long Island Sound, are priced anywhere from $2 to $20 million. The three newest residential developments, 'Kensington Woods', 'The Greens at Cherry Lawn' and 'Riviera Shores', are all gated communities with single family homes priced from $2 million. With a population approaching 80,000 residents, New York State law dictates that the city provide an adequate amount of affordable housing units for the less fortunate. New Rochelle has historically met and surpassed state requirements, currently working to replace the existing Weyman Avenue Projects with more forward thinking, community centered townhouse-style housing units. By embracing the needs of the poor, New Rochelle sets a precedent for other suburban communities to follow. Neighboring towns including Mamaroneck, Larchmont and Scarsdale neglect to address such concerns, failing to meet the minimal affordable housing requirements set by the state. Popular consenus is that the presence of the poor precludes that of the middle-class and the wealthy. Considering the large number of working-class and affordable housing units found 'Downtown', the high property values prevalent throughout most of the city reflects the true economic diversity of New Rochelle. It is home to the financially disadvantaged and the very wealthy. One of 'the wealthiest people in the United States' according to Forbes Magazine was longtime New Rochelle resident and businessman Sidney Frank.
‘sister city’ is
La Rochelle, France, a city and
commune of western France with a
(population 78,000 in 2004). There has
been a 'friendly relationship' between
the two cities since 1910.