The Pioneer Building
Illustration of the Pioneer Building from a 19th century newspaper
The Pioneer Building - Present Day
Pioneer Building 1966
Pioneer Building before restoration - c 1970s
Backstory and Context
This 2-story building was constructed to be the home of the New Rochelle Pioneer newspaper, which would become the community’s longest-published weekly newspaper. It was constructed in the Italianate-style that was particularly popular in America’s business districts in the mid- to late 19th century. The two-and a half story building’s bracketed cornices, curved arches over the windows, and low-pitched roof are identifiable features of this style. Capping the building is a metal cornice with brackets and modillions with the name “Pioneer”, and a segmental-arched pediment.
The building’s long, narrow construction in the rear was indicative of a newspaper building, as it allowed for efficiency of the presses. The side-walk level windows posted daily items of interest so that residents did not have to wait until Saturday, when each issue was released, for "the latest" news.
William Dyott, an Irish writer who was exiled from his homeland after denouncing the British government, founded the paper in 1860, publishing the first issue on March 24th. With his son and three daughters he first produced the Saturday paper from the home of his brother, John Dyott, on Church Street. John Dyott was also known on both sides of the Atlantic, as an actor. He was the leading man and stage manager at the Ford Theater the night Lincoln was assassinated. When William Dyott died in 1870, his remaining daughter, Marguerite Major, took over the paper. She continued its publication until 1882 when she sold it to Charles Banks. By this time, the newspaper office had moved to a building on “Lawton Street near Main Street,” as indicated on the masthead of each issue. The masthead also carried the motto, “Charity For All, Malice Towards None.” It was designated the “official Republican newspaper” of New Rochelle . The New Rochelle Pioneer again came under new ownership when two employees, John Steadman, and Henry Sweet, bought it in 1886. The next year Mr. Sweet, then sole proprietor, built the two and a half story brick structure still located at 14 Lawton Street, and had moved the newspaper operations into the building by March 1898. John New, local builder and mason was responsible for its construction . Lawton Street would become known as “Newspaper Row,” due to the numerous newspaper offices located on it during the late 1800s . Once the “official newspaper” of the town and county, and with the largest circulation in both , the New Rochelle Pioneer’s final issue was October 2, 1920. Issues from 1882 – 1919 have been digitized and are accessible through New York Historic Newspapers.
The building would be used for a variety of purposes over the next years, including the home of the New Rochelle Irish Benevolent Society, from 1967 to 1980, when they sold it to the City of New Rochelle. Although much of the block was demolished to make way for the construction of the New Rochelle Public Library and its parking lots, the Pioneer Building was saved, purchased and restored by local resident Sylvia Schur, who adaptively-reused the structure for her innovative Creative Food Service firm. The interior was gutted, original beams exposed and the tin ceiling meticulously renewed. A state-of-the-art kitchen and modern office facilities were incorporated. Ms. Schur was responsible for the building’s listing on the National Register of Historic Places on December 29, 1983. It was sold to the City of New Rochelle in 1992, and after remaining vacant for several years was sold once again for office use, which it continues to house.
 New Rochelle Pioneer, August 30, 1884.
 New Rochelle Pioneer, January 21, 1899.
 Schetterer, June, “’Pioneer’ on Street Once Known as Newspaper Row,” The Standard Star, August 25, 1966
 Biographical History of Westchester County, New York. II. Vol. II. Chicago, Il: Lewis Pub. Co., 1899.
Davis, Barbara. “Pioneer’s Role in City History.” The Standard Star, July 21, 1994.
O’Brien, Austin. “Pioneer Building.” National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, 1983).
New Rochelle Pioneer, December 26, 1885.
Schetterer, June. The Standard Star, April 2, 1984.
Williams, Gray. Picturing Our Past: National Register Sites in Westchester County. Elmsford, NY: Westchester County Historical Society, 2003.
Photo taken by Barbara Davis
From the Collection of the New Rochelle Public Library