To City Historian Barbara Davis, there's more to the area's history than its French Huguenot founders and founding father Thomas Paine.
"I don't think a lot of people know about our history from the Civil War to the Great Depression," she said. "That was New Rochelle's period of incredible transformation. It went from an agricultural community to becoming one of America's first premiere suburbs."
To highlight that transformation, Davis put together a book of photographs chronicling the city's history from about 1860 to 1930. "Images of America: New Rochelle" will be available next week at local retailers and Web sites such as Amazon.com.
The New Rochelle book in the "Images of America" series is the latest Arcadia Publishing book showcasing Westchester County's history. Last month, the publisher released a similar book on Mount Vernon.
Though the Huguenots in the 1600s and Paine in the 1700s are a rich and vital part of the city's history, Davis said it wasn't until the late 1800s that the city underwent the tremendous growth that ushered in waves of new immigrants.
"It was when New Rochelle became incorporated," Davis said. "All of the city's infrastructure came together during this period of time, including our neighborhoods."
The book was compiled using hundreds of photos on file at the New Rochelle Public Library and comes at a critical time in the city. Fort Slocum was torn down late last year, and last week the Thomas Paine Museum relocated its best artifacts to Manhattan. The city's Armory and the downtown Post Office face possible destruction because of planned developments.
"My personal goal for the book is to promote awareness and preservation of the history of New Rochelle," Davis said. "This city has such an extraordinary history. I don't think everyone knows it, but those who do, it really enhances their feeling of being a New Rochelle resident."
Preserving artifacts in New Rochelle can be challenging, she said, because "there isn't one way to look at the community." Davis said there aren't as many generations of people who were born and raised in the city as there are in places like Bedford or Hastings-on-Hudson, and getting people to appreciate the city's history without family ties to it can be tough.
But what everyone can appreciate, Davis said, is one quality of the city that hasn't changed since its founding.
"New Rochelle, despite its growth and size, has always had a small-community feel to it," Davis said.
Information about the New Rochelle and Mount Vernon books is available at www.arcadiapublishing.com.