New Rochelle was founded in 1688 by French Huguenots — Protestants seeking religious freedom in the Americas. The chief Huguenot stronghold was La Rochelle, a thriving port community on the Atlantic coast, so when it came time to name their new settlement, the Huguenots had an easy choice, and New Rochelle was born. La Rochelle and New Rochelle have maintained a connection ever since, with cultural exchanges and visits of dignitaries marking important anniversaries on both sides of the Atlantic.

In 1911, exactly one hundred years ago, the people of New Rochelle presented their French counterparts with an exceptional gift, a statue of Jean Guiton, the heroic 17th Century mayor who defended the Huguenots when La Rochelle was under siege. The statue still stands in the courtyard of La Rochelle’s City Hall.

To commemorate the centennial of this gift, La Rochelle has invited us to send a delegation of citizens for an official visit in October. The trip is being arranged by the New Rochelle Sister City Committee, which hopes to select a balanced, representative delegation of about 20 community leaders and cultural ambassadors. They are particularly interested in having some Huguenot descendants along. The trip and all associated arrangements will be privately funded.

To learn more, please attend an informational meeting on Tuesday, May 31 at 7:30 pm in the City Hall Annex Room B-2. All are welcome. If you have any questions or if you cannot make this meeting, then please contact the Sister City Committee at

I wish that I could go myself, but the layered demands of government, the upcoming campaign, and young children make that impossible. But I will be wishing a fond “bon voyage” to the fortunate group who will represent our city abroad.