Cool Street: Main Street

What makes the city of New Rochelle particularly unique is that it is both urban and suburban, and everything in between. Within its downtown, the Main Street is a must-visit. It contains buildings and historical remnants from every period of the city’s 330-year history, making downtown New Rochelle one of the oldest Main Streets in the nation. “Every architectural style is represented in this community,” says Barbara Davis, the city historian, as she walks us around the neighborhood. The heyday of downtown New Rochelle, says Davis, was really between 1880 and the Great Depression. As such, New Rochelle’s downtown has one of the most contiguous collections of Art Deco architecture in the area, according to historian Frank E. Sanchis, author of American Architecture, Westchester County.

How did New Rochelle come by such a concentration of notable architecture? The answer lies in the city’s proximity to New York City, with an economy fueled by and in support of it, enabled by the railroad. Davis says that “by 1938, New Rochelle was the wealthiest city per capita in New York State and the third wealthiest in the country. No expense was spared. They used the best materials, the best architects to lure in the money. And it was a thriving downtown.”

The scale of the street, even despite new development, gives Main Street a quaint, Americana feel. Wooden Colonial Revival buildings stand side-by-side with buildings in the Federal, Romanesque Revival, Neo-classical, Italianate, and Art Deco styles. There are even a few Art Moderne and mid-century buildings.

Look out particularly for the Loew’s movie palace at 587 Main Street, now being turned into a 28-story mixed-use development by RXR Realty that will retain the original facade, the original New Rochelle Public Library, an Andrew Carnegie library that is now a publishing house at 662 Main Street, the Art Deco Palace Building at 518 Main Street, and the former National City Bank of New Rochelle at 491 Main Street, designed by Henry Bacon, architect of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. For a touch of the new, Main Street is also home to Encore, the first eSports center to open in the county.

And stay tuned next month for our walking tour guide to downtown New Rochelle.