Development of Rye's Economy
From the initial settlement of Rye until the middle of the 19th century, the majority of Rye's residents were farmers. Many farmers augmented their income, particularly in the winter, by also serving as wheelwrights, carpenters, saddlers, tailors, hatters, weavers and rope makers. The population remained small throughout this period, ranging from 722 in 1710 (including both Rye and Port Chester) to 986 in 1790. The opening of the Erie Canal in 1825, which allowed for the shipment of agricultural products to Manhattan from more competitive farms in western
New York, led to the decline of farming in Rye.
Rye had an unusually large number of mills in the late 1600s and 1700s. The brooks in Rye had a much greater flow of water before the New York City reservoir system was built in the mid-1800s. The first mill in Rye was built in 1656 on the Blind Brook near Oakland Beach Avenue. At the time of the Revolutionary War, 15 or 20 mills were operating in Rye and Port Chester, including one behind the Square House.