A Tale of 3 Hamlets: Bedford Village, Bedford Hills, Katonah

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Photo Credit: Contributed by Bedford Historical Society

BEDFORD, N.Y. -- According to the New York Division of Local Government Services, "a hamlet is an unincorporated area in one or more towns that is governed at-large by the town it is in. A hamlet is divided into neighborhoods, which are informal geographic areas."

In the town of Bedford, three hamlets grew from the original settlement of 1681. Each has its own unique character and history detailed below.

Do you know that one development played the most significant role in the growth of Bedford Village, Bedford Hills and Katonah? Or that at one time Bedford had a larger population than White Plains?

Find out more about the three hamlets at our Annual Meeting on Monday, May 6.  Starting at 6:30 at Historical Hall there will be a photo exhibit and presentation and you can share your memories and make new ones at our free, informative event.

Three Hamlets  - One Town

The Town of Bedford consists of three hamlets, each with its own unique and important history. 

Bedford Village is the original settlement, laid out in New England fashion in 1681 by 22 men from Stamford.  Here this small farming community grew over the next 98 years until that dreadful day in July of 1779 when the entire village was burned, save one house belonging to a Loyalist. 

Refusing to leave their lands, the citizens rebuilt their town over time in much the same way as it was originally.  Some of the oldest houses around the Village Green were built on the charred timbers of their predecessors.

The Bedford 1787 Court House was built as a Westchester County Court and Bedford shared half-shire status with White Plains until 1870 when the railroad made travel easier.  By this time White Plains had become a near metropolis while Bedford remained a quiet village. 

By serendipity, the New York and Harlem Railroad placed the station that was to serve Bedford’s residents about four miles north of the village in 1847, offering the dual benefit of allowing the original settlement to remain while bringing growth to another area of the Town. 

This area became known simply as Bedford Station, although at that time, there was not a single building in sight and it was more a “stop” than a station.  A stage ran regularly between the Bedford Village and the station carrying passengers and mail.  Walker Adams built a store there which served as general store, post office, and ticket office until the station was built about 1906. 

Transportation meant progress and the area close to the railroad grew itself into its own hamlet.  On April 1, 1910, Bedford Station legally adopted the name “Bedford Hills” to acknowledge that the area had grown far beyond the station itself.

North of Bedford Station, another stop on the railroad became known as Katonah.   Earlier settlements in the area were Cherry Street and Whitlockville which was a thriving community of homes, a school, a church, stores and a grist mill.

But the train stop was placed about a mile from Whitlockville, causing the town to relocate itself nearer to the train.  It was known for a brief time as Mechanicsville but later named Katonah.   Old Katonah bustled along like other railroad towns until the need to grow New York City’s reservoir system called for new dams along the Croton and Cross Rivers.  Threatened to be flooded by the dams, Old Katonah was condemned.

 Again, the citizens refused to be driven from their homes; they simply decided to move them.  The Katonah Land Company was incorporated to purchase new land about a mile south of the original village and to coordinate the years’ long effort of moving all the homes to the new village which had the benefit of some early urban planning. 

This planning is why “new” Katonah is graced with a railroad station across from commercial and retail shops, the Parkway connecting it to the residential area along Bedford Road.  On April 5, 1897 the Harlem Division train made its first stop in New Katonah.

TIMELINE
Bedford Village, Bedford Hills & Katonah
  
1680 ~ Twenty-two Puritans from Stamford, Connecticut purchase the three miles square "Hopp Ground" from chief Katonah and eight other Native Americans.

1683 ~ The name "Bedford" first appears in town records.

1700 ~ King William III of England made Bedford part of New York to settle a boundary dispute.

1775-1782 ~ American Revolution. After the Battle of White Plains, Bedford became the county seat of Westchester County.

1779 (July 11) ~ Bedford burned by the British.

post American Revolution to 1870 ~ Westchester had two alternating county seats: White Plains and Bedford.

1787 ~ the Court House in Bedford Village built, Westchester's oldest government building and oldest jail cell.

1801 ~ John Jay, the first chief justice of the United States Supreme Court, remodeled a house for his retirement home in Katonah.

by 1812 ~ a few families moved down the banks of the Cross River (just above its entrance into Croton River). Squire Wood and John Burr Whitlock set up a mill and thus began "Whitlockville," (later Katonah).

1847 ~ the railroad came to Bedford Hills, known then as Bedford Station. It also came to Whitlockville.

1852 ~ the name of Whitlockville changed to Katonah in honor of the Indian chief.

1880's ~ dairying became a major industry of the area. Katonah shipped two carloads of milk being shipped daily. Other industries were an iron foundry and a silk mill.

1897 ~ Katonah was moved to its present site to make way for the building of the Muscoot reservoir.

1910 ~ Bedford Station becomes Bedford Hills.
   
1927~ the Town House built in Bedford Hills (the government seat of Bedford).

1929 - 1939 ~ Walter Tower Rosen and his wife Lucie Bigelow Dodge built Caramoor. The Rosens furnished their mansion with European and the Far Eastern art treasures.

1965 - 1970 ~ Bedford Village's Court House renovated.

1957 - Lawyers Otto E. Koegel and Oren Root, and Judge Frederick P. Close founded the John Jay Homestead Fund to prevent the public sale of the Jay house and the surrounding acres.

1965 – New York State Parks formally dedicated the John Jay Homestead State Historic site.

1971~ the Caramoor mansion opened to the public.

1972 ~ the Bedford Village Historic District established. It is listed on both the New York State and the National Register of Historic Places.

1983 ~ Katonah's Historic District designated. It is listed on the State and National registers of Historic Places.

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