Prior to 1976, there had always been people active in preserving and researching Rye history. The library was the repository of any gifts, artifacts, and printed material. Rye residents have always been very familiar with Langdon Parsons' History of Rye, NH (1623-1903). In particular was William Varrell, who wrote Rye on the Rocks: The Tale of a Town Which Resorted to Resorting. This 1962 informal history of Rye evolved from Bill's interest in Rye's "golden age" of hotels and boarding houses at the turn of the twentieth century. Mr. Varrell also published two other books relating to Rye history. Additionally, Louise Tallman, beginning in the 1960s, did tremendous research over the next half century.
Organizations had always been active in preserving Rye history. In particular was the Every Other Tuesday Club, which sponsored an old house documentation project. The Bi-centennial in Rye required a permanent legacy "beyond" the great event. And that is when Jessie Herlihy suggested the creation of a historical society. Thus RHS was born in 1976.
Collaboration with the Rye Public Library began in 1976 with programs, displays, and storage of documents/artifacts in the MacDonald Room. The Library's New Hampshire Room today is testament to that history. RHS appreciates the support from the RPL since 1976.
In 1986, the town gave the Rye Historical Society space in the Town Hall for display cases. RHS was soon reorganized, and by the middle of the decade, Co-chairs Bonnie Goodwin and Alex Herlihy learned of the library expansion in the late 90s, which led to a former antique shop (1930) and current apartment building becoming expendable. Even though it was a very long and difficult process, by the end of 1997, the current Town Museum had been moved a few hundred feet to its current location, adjacent to the Town Library. The building was given to RHS by the town, moved, renovated and opened in July 2002 as the Rye Town Museum. The town of Rye, NH, owns the land and reserves the right to take over the building if RHS dissolves.
Funds to move and renovate the building were raised by house tours RHS had organized since 1976 and some very generous donations. We are all indebted to Bonnie Goodwin, who presided over the five-year moving project with great perseverance and charm.
In July of 2002, the doors were finally open at the current location at 10 Olde Parish Road in Rye, NH.