By Robin Jovanovich
While the world seems to be in the process of rewriting history, those who value the importance of the past give it more than a passing glance.
Such is the case for many in respect to 365 Rye Beach Avenue, which occupies a prominent place on the corner of Forest Avenue across from Rye Town Park. It’s the suburban equivalent of the Manhattan “classic six”, just three stories high, richly landscaped, and covered in time-tested red brick.
Built just before the crash of ’29, the stately Colonial designed by William Dewsnap — with the offshore breezes and water views in mind — wasn’t occupied until 1931.
According to a history of the house researched and written by Beth Potter, the property was sold at auction two years later, when the bank foreclosed on the mortgage.
A classified ad in The New York Times in 1942 caught the eye of Webster and Marion Stover, who were renting a house in Rye: “Unusual opportunity, mortgagee sacrificing beautiful solid-brick colonial; large plot; perfect condition.”
Dr. Stover was a minister, college professor, and author of a book entitled “How to become a College President.” He is perhaps better known as the man who tried to lower his property taxes ($1,000 by the mid-1950s) by lowering the value of his home. Starting in 1956, he attached a clothesline strewn with rags from the second story of his house to a tree on the street.
Enraged neighbors demanded action by the City. Many clotheslines and much protest later, in 1961, the City passed a clothesline ordinance, which banned front-yard clotheslines. The fine for violating the ordinance was $100 and 30 days’ jail time. Dr. Stover refused to pay and spent 11 days in the County jail before the State Court of Appeals decided to review the case and he was released. By 1963, the case had made it all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court, which declined to hear it. The clotheslines were taken down, and Dr. Stover finished out his prison sentence. He died in Rye in 1984.
Since then, the house has had four owners, all of them good caretakers and neighbors who make good use of their clothes dryers. The current owners enjoy falling asleep to the clanking of the buoys on Long Island Sound. They love the fact that there are often a bunch of kids from the neighborhood playing soccer in their side yard or jumping on the trampoline behind the detached garage. They enjoy the cozy sunroom in fall and winter and family dinners that spill out to the porch in spring and summer. Mostly, they enjoy Rye Town Park in every season. It’s an extension of their front yard.
It’s one of those perfect homes that suited families over 80 years ago as well as it does today. It’s warm and welcoming and one room flows to another. True the billiard room is now a family room and the kitchen was redone for a commercial. But it’s not hard to imagine back to when Rye was a village when you look out from the second or third floor and see rooftops and the Playland bathhouse tower in the distance.
The present owners are moving this summer and the house went on the market this week. The difference this time is that the buyers are lining up. What was new in the 1920s is rare and special nearly a century later.
The front façade of 365 Rye Beach Avenue
The porch gets lots of family and grown-up use.
The light-filled entry