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The 1964 Rye City Hall Dedication, John Motley Morehead & The History of Rye

Two Mayors Two Ryes

(PHOTO: At the 1964 dedication, the Mayor and Mayoress of Rye, England William S. Macer and then Rye Mayor and Mrs. H. Clay Johnson.)

This Wednesday, Rye City will gather to recognize the 50th anniversary of Rye City Hall. The building was a gift to the city from former Mayor John Motley Morehead. One of the finest artifacts of Rye City history this writer has seen, the December 5, 1964 Dedication Program for the then new Rye City Hall is a 15 page gem.

1964 dedication crowd 1

(PHOTO: The dedication ceremony in 1964. Some residents might recognize former Mayor John Carey in the front row, second from left.)

Anyone interested in the people and character of Rye, its place in American history, the life of John Motley Morehead or our city hall and how it came to be should take a moment and read the program. Just a few of the highlights:

  • Invocation by Rabbi Samuel H. Gordon of the Rye Community Synagogue and comments from many religious leaders across Rye;
  • John Motley Morehead, in his 90s at the time with a broken hip, was unable to attend the ceremony recognizing his gift and then Mayor Johnson reported "we have made arrangements with the Telephone Company to have these ceremonies "piped in" to his home where he will be able to hear all that goes on over a loud speaker";
  • A detailed history of our connection to Rye, England that dates back to 1661 including an explanation of all the pieces of Rye's official seal;
  • Comments from the visiting Mayor of Rye, England William S. Macer;
  • The history of the connection between Rye's Christ Church and the Parish Church in Rye, England as recounted by Reverend Dr. Wendell Phillips of Christ Church that includes the story of the settlement of (our) Rye;
  • The then Westchester County Executive and former White Plains Mayor Edwin G. Michaelian bestowing Rye credit for the very existence of White Plains;
  • The role of Benjamin Franklin, John Jay, George Washington and the Marquis deLafayette in Rye history;
  • The story the the Rye Square House, erected in 1731, that served as Rye City Hall prior to the current building;
  • The story and lineage of former Rye Mayor and forever benefactor John Motley Morehead.

Livingston Platt presents check to Mayor Clay Johnson

(PHOTO: On behalf of John Motley Morehead who was ill that day, Livingston Platt presents then Rye Mayor Johnson with the "final installment" of Morehead's $500,000 gift to construct Rye City Hall.)

The 1964 ceremony does not disappoint. Anyone who realizes how fortunate we all are to live here will enjoy this piece of history. Many thanks for current Rye Mayor Joe Sack for calling attention to this artifact. Sack told MyRye.com "This 1964 program was given to me by the daughters of Nora Mitchell, who was the longtime secretary to the City manager and who passed away in her 90’s last year.  When I read it, it was the inspiration for me conceiving of the re-dedication ceremony for Wednesday night."

Read the 1964 dedication program (download it here).

  1. How nice to see this posted on the MYRYE page….I will send the link to my sister in Rhode Island. I’m sure she’ll love seeing it as well…When my father passed away I gave the “gold” shovel he used to break ground for the new City Hall building to my other sister, who has since passed away…I also have several Rye, England ashtrays, presented to my father by the fellow from England on his visit…The article reminds me of the great controversy which took place when my father’s opponent in his mayoral race pointed out the fact that the Johnson residence was actually in Portchester and therefor Clay Johnson should be prohibited from running..It made headlines in the then Daily News for days as the bantering went back and forth…Finally, it was decided he resided in Rye and he went on to win the election….
    Great memories..thanks again…Michael Clay Johnson

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