E.T. Bedford’s Horse Track

The Bedfords — for a century one of Westport’s foremost families — have been in the news a lot this year.

Ruth Bedford — who died at 99 in June of 2014 — left $40 million to the Westport Family YMCA, Norwalk Hospital, and Foxcroft School in Virginia. That’s $40 million each.

And the Bedford estate — at 66 Beachside Avenue — is now slated for demolition. So is the family’s 2-story house at 225 Green’s Farms Road, opposite the Nyala Farms office complex.

Alert “06880” reader Neil Brickley has long been interested in the Bedfords. Growing up in Westport, he often heard of their wealth and generosity.

Neil is an engineer. He loves examining aerial photos of old Westport to figure out what went where — before, say, I-95 came through. Comments on “06880” about the Bedfords’ land-holdings piqued his interest.

He was particularly intrigued by this 1934 aerial shot, showing a horse track smack in the middle of Green’s Farms.

1934 aerial photo Wynfromere track

To get oriented: Green’s Farms Elementary School is in the upper right corner. At the upper left, Hillspoint Road runs into the Post Road (McDonald’s would be there today.) Center Street and Prospect Road meet Greens Farms Road at the bottom of the photo.

Neil found that the track encompasses over 10 acres.

However, he was thrown off by a photo in Woody Klein’s history of Westport. A caption of Edward T. Bedford — Ruth’s grandfather, and a director of Standard Oil, the founder of the Westport Y and namesake of Bedford Middle School — is shown riding his horse, Diplomat, over a track “on the spacious grounds of his home on Beachside Avenue.”

Edward T. Bedford

Edward T. Bedford

Neil saw no signs of the track on the aerial photos of Beachside. It’s hard to envision now — with I-95 in the way — but Bedford’s property extended northward, from Beachside Avenue to Nyala Farm and on into the West Parish area.

In fact, there’s a Bedford Drive off West Parish that could have been the south entrance to the track.

The track was called “Winfromere” — believed to be a reference to the term “win from here.” Today, Wynfromere Lane is just north of Bedford Drive.

Neil then found “taking maps” for the Sherwood Island Connector. To build it, they took the property that included the  Wynfromere horse track. The owner was indeed Frederick T. Bedford.

Neil was surprised to see enormous on/off cloverleaf entrances and exits proposed from Greens Farms Road — called “Shore Road” on the taking maps — to the connector. Bedford owned a large swath of land from the railroad tracks up to Hillandale Road. Neil surmises it went only that far because he had previously given the portion at the Post Road for the state police barracks (now Walgreens).

Neil noted the enormous amount of property owned by the Bedfords on Beachside Avenue too, as well as in the Morningside-Clapboard Hill area.

Now, about that story that E.T. Bedford also had a landing strip on his Beachside estate…

14 responses to “E.T. Bedford’s Horse Track

  1. LuAnn Giunta

    Dan, this is an extraordinary piece of history. Thank you.

  2. Bob Weingarten

    There seems to have been a few trotting tracks in the Greens Farms area owned at one time by E. T. Bedford according to Judge Adams. According to the Judge, E. T. Bedford purchased 15 acres of land from Albert Relyea in 1903 on the West side of West Parish Road. Bedford continued to acquire land in the area from Sarah L. Sherwood and J. William Shaw until he owned over 40 acres of land extending from Hillandale Road to the Frederick Wakeman property. Another half mile trotting track was built on the property and one on Turkey Hill Road was abandoned. Bedford built a stable for the trotting horses on the property and it was named Wynfremere Farm. There is a house on West Parish which may have the “viewing” stand for the trotting track in their back yard.

  3. I have always thought the the curve on Wynfremere (win from here) near West Parish is the curve of the track. mmm

  4. Fascinating!

  5. Fun piece. Also of interest is the little golf course on Center and Hillandale and the “infestation” of trees on what was once farmland (look at a current Google Earth view). Of course the farmland was created from clearing forests.

  6. Based on the map, it looks like the horse track is on the piece of land now occupied by the transfer station. Right?

    • Jerry MacDaid

      Looking at google earth pictures, it looks more like the connector just touches the far west end of the track. Transfer station is also further south.

  7. Suzanne Solon Aubin

    In the NYT archives, there’s a June 6, 1921 article reporting on a major fire at the Bedford estate in which several racehorses perished. The racetrack’s location is listed as Greens Farms.

  8. Helen Ranholm

    My Grandfather Howard R. Avery and father Joseph G Avery trained some of Mr. Bedford’s horses at Wynfromere Farm. They lived on the property that contained both the stable and the track. The track was on West Parish Road plus the house sits close to the road and one used to have drive in front of it to get to the stable and track. This was a private track which serve the purpose of train the trotting horses. My father could telll many stories about the Bedford’s and their daughters.

  9. Eric William Buchroeder SHS '70

    The track and stables to the west of West Parish Rd. were intact well into the 60’s. As a child, my friends and I used to play there. The stables were vacant by then. You used to be able to stand on the Hillandale Rd. bridge over the Sherwood Island connector and look down on them.

  10. Sally Palmer

    I grew up around the corner on Center Street and remember the track well.