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Bedford Village Historic District


The Bedford Village Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [1] Adaptation copyright © 2009, The Gombach Group.

Description

The Bedford Village Historic District, located in Westchester County near the Connecticut border, embraces most of the original 1680 hamlet founded by settlers from the Colony of Connecticut. The village was laid out according to the village green plan typical of New England settlements. Lying at a bend in the Old Post Road (New York Route 22), the present district begins a little west of the green and is bounded by the Old Post Road, the Pound Ridge Road, Seminary Road and Court Road, and includes land on both sides of these thoroughfares.

Large trees, primarily maples, line Pound Ridge Road and surround the green, the village's focal element. On a hillside north of the green is the Old Burying Ground, flanked by an 1805 church (now Historical Hall) and a small "General Store" (ca.1838, now office space). To the east of the green is a short block of public and commercial buildings, dominated by the Court House (1787) and the Presbyterian Church (1872). Between Pound Ridge Road and Court Road is a meadow and a small lake, fed by a stream known in the colonial period as Whipping Post Brook.

South of the green and along Pound Ridge Road are several late 18th and mid-19th century residences, all on large lots. Stylistically these reflect the changing architectural tastes of the 19th century, either by their original form or by subsequent alterations. The few modern structures were designed in a basically neo-colonial style. All the buildings in the Bedford Village Historic District are of frame construction except the stone Catholic Church (1928) and School House (1829) on the green, the brick fire house and a few brick commercial structures.

Court House (1787)

Restored 1965-1970 by the Bedford Historical Society and utilized as a museum, the wood frame Courthouse, sheathed by shingles stands 2-1/2 stories high and covered by a gambrel roof. A square cupola surmounts the structure and a one-story porch (ca.1830's) extends the length of the west elevation. Renovations of 1889 altered windows and other features which have been returned to their earlier appearance.

Historical Hall (1806)

Originally a church, this edifice was moved to its present site in 1837. A three bay by five bay, two-story structure, the Historical Hall is distinguished for its pedimented and pilastered gable end. Within, a balcony, supported by simple, square Doric columns and enclosed by paneling, extends the length of three walls.

Library (1807)

The five bay west elevation of the shingled, wood frame library fronts on the village green. The entrance in the central bay is sheltered by a one bay porch defined by two simplified Doric columns. A large square cupola surmounts the gable roof.

School House

A small one-story stone edifice, crowned by a small belfry, the School House has been refitted with 19th century schoolroom finishings.

Post Office (c.1838)

A small, two-story structure in the Greek Revival style, the Post Office is noted for its projecting classical pediment supported by two Doric columns.

Presbyterian Church (1872)

A substantial board and batten structure in the Gothic Revival style, the Church, too, overlooks the village green. Its main (west) elevation is composed of the structure's pointed gable-end flanked by a square tower and a taller octagonal tower, both terminating in slate-covered spires.

Significance

Founded in 1680 as a Connecticut settlement, Bedford Village, despite the modern development characteristic of much of Westchester County, has survived with its original village green intact and still bordered by vernacular architecture of the preceding two centuries. Encompassing the heart of the old village, the Bedford Village Historic District is illustrative of Bedford's history and architectural development from the last quarter of the 18th through the third quarter of the 19th century when it functioned as the political hub of northern Westchester County and as the economic center for a thriving agricultural hinterland.

Originally a settlement of the colony of Connecticut, Bedford Village was laid out in 1681 with a town common, a village street, and three-acre house plots distributed by lot to the twenty-two original proprietors in accordance with the New England custom. Most of this area as well as part of the "East Field" which was originally farmed in common is included in the Bedford Village Historic District. The common survives today in the Green and Burying Ground; the meadowland near the school is part of the East Field; and "ye Street" of the 1680's is now the Pound Ridge Road, east side of the Green, and part of the Old Post Road.

A significant inland settlement during the 18th century, Bedford served as the Seat of Westchester County government during much of the Revolution. In 1779 the British burned the village center, necessitating a period of concentrated re-building. Two years after the fire, Rochambeau's troops rendezvoused on the Green during their march south to join Washington's forces.

Soon after the Revolution, through the efforts of John Jay, who resided nearby, the village became one of Westchester's two county seats, and it served as such until 1870. The Court House and five residences on or near the Green represent the re-building effort of the late 18th century. Structures such as Historical Hall (1806, Methodist Church), the Library (1807, Bedford Academy), the School House (1829), and the Post Office (c.1838) reflect the prosperity of a thriving agricultural community serving as well as the political center for northern Westchester County. Construction in the 1840's of the New York and Harlem Railroad to the west diverted much subsequent development away from the old village center. The Presbyterian Church and its Manse, bordering on the Green, were built during the third quarter of the 19th century while the village continued in its political capacity.

The railroad and the transfer of county government in 1870 combined after the third quarter of the 19th century to diminish the quantity of new construction, with the result that the character of old Bedford Village has endured. During the 20th century the community was a center for the owners of large country estates, and only within two past decades has it begun to feel the pressure of the more common types of suburban sprawl.

Still bordering on the Green are examples of vernacular architecture of the last quarter of the 18th up to the last quarter of the 19th century, executed with only a few exceptions in wood frame construction. The organizing element in the original village plan and in the present Bedford Village Historic District, the Green provides a spacious setting or context for this assemblage of historic structures readily discernible as a district for the homogeneity of materials, scale and proportion, and for the absence of incompatible 20th century elements. To promote the preservation of Bedford's 19th century visual environment the local government has imposed architectural controls by the establishment of an historic district.

References

Baird, Charles W. History of Bedford Church. New York, 1882.

Barrett, Joseph. "Bedford." In: J. Thomas Scharf, ed., History of Westchester County, NY. Philadelphia, 1886, v.2, pp.574-608.

Barrett, Robertson T. The Town of Bedford, a Commemorative History 1680-1955. Bedford, NY, 1955.

Bedford, NY. Bedford Historical Records. Bedford Hills, NY., 1966-6 v. V.1, Minutes of Town Meetings 1680-1737; V.2-4, Land Records 1680-1830; V.5, Minutes of Town Meetings 1784-1841 (in preparation) V.6, Minutes of Town Meetings, 1862-1899 (in preparation).

Bedford Academy. History of Bedford Academy; prepared by...pupils. Mount Kisco, NY., 1877.

Bedford Historical Society. A Short Historical Tour of the Town of Bedford. 2.ed. Bedford, NY., (1971).

Bolton, Robert. The History of the Several Towns, Manors, and Patents of the County of Westchester. Rev. ed. NY, 1881. 2v.

Bonsal, Stephen. When the French Were Here. Garden City, NY., 1945.

Duncombe, Frances R. & others. Katonah: the History of a new York Village and its People. Katonah, NY., 1961.

Hufeland, Otto. Westchester County during the American Revolution. White Plains, NY., 1926.

Shonnard, Frederic and Spooner, W.W. History of Westchester County. New York, 1900.

Spafford, Horatio Gates. Gazetteer of the State of New York. Albany, 1813.

Wood, James. "Town of Bedford." In: Alvah P. French, ed., History of Westchester County. New York, 1925, v.2, pp.613-61.

  1. Marshall, Donald W., Town of Bedford, Bedford Village Historic District, nomination document, 1973, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.

Bedford Village Historic District Map

Street Names
Old Post Road • Pound Ridge Road • Route 172 • Route 22 • Seminary Road • Village Green

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