Tag Archives: Ruth Bedford

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…

Y Announces $5 Million Social Responsibility Fund

Pat Riemersma has been CEO of the Westport Weston Family YMCA for only a week. But her 1st announcement was a big one.

The Y’s 91st annual meeting yesterday was highlighted by the formation of a new Bedford Family Social Responsibility Fund.

With $5 million from the estate of Ruth Bedford — out of $40 million in total she bequeathed to the Y that her grandfather, Edward T. Bedford, founded — as well as from past president and longtime trustee Allen Raymond, the fund will provide grants in areas like child welfare, substance abuse, community service and military outreach. It will also work with faith-based organizations, and serve residents of Westport, Weston, Norwalk and Bridgeport, in cooperation with neighboring Ys.

The first funds will be distributed in June 2016.

Riemersma’s announcement was made at a fitting site: the Y’s Bedford Family Center is on Allen Raymond Lane.

The Westport Weston Family Y hosted its 1st annual meeting at its new home yesterday.

The Westport Weston Family Y hosted its 1st annual meeting at its new home yesterday.

Westport Y: Suddenly $40 Million Richer

A capital campaign for a new Westport Weston YMCA  fell short of its goal earlier this decade. So the Mahackeno facility — called the Bedford Family Center — was broken into 2 phases.

Phase I opened last fall, with an airy fitness center, gleaming new pool, well-lit exercise rooms, nice new gym and a much-needed child’s play space. The site was purchased decades ago — with the generous help of Frederick T. Bedford, Ruth’s father.

The new YMCA -- known as the Bedford Family Center -- at Mahackeno.

The new YMCA — known as the Bedford Family Center — at Mahackeno.

But the new Y lacks other amenities, like childcare, gymnastics and racquetball. And the locker rooms are badly cramped. Y officials promised they’d be added some vague time later, during Phase II.

Phase II suddenly seems a lot closer to reality.

The Y announced today that it has received $40 million from the estate of Ruth Bedford. The last surviving granddaughter of Edward T. Bedford — a director of Standard Oil and founder of the Westport Y, among many other philanthropic projects — died last June, at 99.

Norwalk Hospital logoYet this is not Ruth Bedford’s only astonishing gift. She also left $40 million to Norwalk Hospital. She loved that institution too — and volunteered there, logging almost 17,000 hours in the gift shop, over 5 decades. (A previous gift from E.T. Bedford, decades ago, enabled the hospital to double its patient capacity.)

But wait! There’s more! Another $40 million bequest — believed to be the largest ever to an all-girls’ school — went to Foxcroft, a tiny private girls school in Virginia that was Bedford’s alma mater.

The Y’s plans for the fallen-from-the-sky money are not yet set.

Officials say they will use it for “current and future capital development needs” — perhaps including new locker rooms? — and “to endow programs for wellness and youth in a way that honors the tradition of the Bedford family legacy.”

For nearly a century, that legacy has enriched Westport. It continues to do so, even after death.

Saying Goodbye To The Bedford Estate

The Bedfords giveth.

And the Bedfords taketh away.

One of the town’s most philanthropic families — think the YMCA, schools, the Westport Woman’s Club and much, much more — has long owned property on Beachside Avenue.

But Ruth Bedford died last June, at 99. Now her estate, at 66 Beachside, is slated for demolition.

Bedford demo

The sign notes that 3 buildings are intended to be torn down. All are 114 years old.

The Bedford family also owns a 2-story house at 225 Green’s Farms Road, opposite the Nyala Farms office complex. It too was built in 1900.

And it too is slated for demolition.