Having grown-up summering in the Hamptons and watching its metamorphosis over the years, I was delighted to escape to Bedford when my husband George and I married in 2014. Just one hour north of Manhattan, Bedford offers the perfect village and country lifestyle for those who work in the city. Golf, tennis, horseback riding, gardening, it’s a perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of New York City without having to deal with all the traffic driving out East. The only thing I truly missed was the ocean, which is why we also love Palm Beach.
Established in 1680, Bedford has long been home to celebrities including Glenn Close, Alec Baldwin, Bobby Kennedy, Jr., Bruce Willis, Chevy Chase, Christopher Reeves, Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins, Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds, David Letterman, Paul Shaffer, Clive Davis, Joseph Mankiewicz, Stanley Tucci, Hank Azaria, Chris Wedge, Lasse Hallstrom and Lena Olin, Jennifer O’Neill, Fred Gwynne, Brendan Fraser, and Felicity Huffman. They keep it all very low key.
I’ll never forget running to the grocery store only to be met by a very familiar voice in front of me. When I looked up, it was Catherine Zeta-Jones. She and Michael Douglas were living on Guard Hill Road. Fatal Attraction (1987) was filmed in Bedford and that’s apparently how they and Glenn Close ended up here.
Ralph Lauren has called Bedford home since the 1980s when he purchased the Normandy-style Tudor built by landscape architect Robert Ludlow Fowler, Jr. in 1919. In his biography of Ralph, Genuine Authentic: The Real Life of Ralph Lauren (HarperCollins, 2003), Michael Gross wrote that when Ralph bought the house, all he had to do to make it his own was remove the “F” from the RLF (as in Robert Ludlow Fowler) engraved on the corner stones.
Out of curiosity I called our friend, Angela Fowler, who is godmother to my husband’s daughter, Abigail. Angela is the granddaughter of Robert Ludlow Fowler. She laughed about it, telling me her brother Luke gave that quote to Michael and she actually wasn’t sure. Whatever the fact, she said that they did enjoy living in the house with their grandparents back in the 1970s. She added that the Laurens have been buying up more and more property around the house which abuts Martha Stewart’s property.
Dylan Lauren and her husband Paul Arrouet recently joined the club here, as he is apparently a golfer; perhaps they plan to build their own home on the property. Meanwhile, Lauren Bush and David Lauren have been “in residence” with their two adorable sons, Max and James, while Ricky and Ralph have been at their ranch in Colorado. Some of Lauren’s “stories” on Instagram about being an at-home working mom during the pandemic have been priceless. You can follow her @laurenblauren or @feed
As for Ralph Lauren, the company, with revenues plummeting 65.9% due to the Covid-19 shutdown, the company, now led by president & CEO Patrice Louvet, is using the crisis “to drive new areas of growth.” I imagine that means renewed focus on the home category and digital. You can follow them @RalphLaurenHome
Martha Stewart lives across the road from the house George’s father, John G. Ledes, owned on Maple Avenue in Katonah until his death last October. Whenever we see Martha she always thoughtfully reminds us how much she loves the fragrance he owned, Fracas by Robert Piguet.
Currently up at her oceanside estate in Seal Harbor Maine, Martha spends much of the summer between Seal Harbor, her house in East Hampton, and her home in Bedford. Here on her farm, she’s been cooking and entertaining us on Instagram @marthastewart and @marthastewart48.
As her millions of fans know, she also recently launched a new series called Martha Knows Best, which premiered this past week on IGTV. Produced here in Bedford, Martha gives viewers a behind-the-scenes look at some of the gardening projects she’s been working on during the pandemic — from planting trees and a vegetable garden to building a stone path. In her project she offers solutions to every home-owners’ challenges.
Many people have moved to Bedford since we moved to Palm Beach for the winter. “New York City is a disaster. If they’re not leaving New York altogether, they’re at least moving out of the city, and Bedford is the logical choice,” said one local resident. “Last summer, people couldn’t give their houses away, now real estate values have soared.”
I spoke to Jim Renwick whose firm, Renwick Real Estate, has been serving this community for four generations, since 1879. “In February, it looked like it would be a slow year. But then in the end of March, city-dwellers started to seek rentals in the country, and this soon became a wave of buyers wanting to secure a safer and more appealing place to be quarantined.”
Since the Recession in 2009, it’s been a Buyer’s market. Today — “if only for a short window —inventory/supply is low and demand is high.”
In Greenwich, Jim told me, where the luxury market is more like $5M and above, “back country” area which abuts Bedford and Mt. Kisco is depicted by estates on large parcels. Dormant for the last several years, it is now very busy.
Sellers are trying to “make hay while the sun shines.” Right now, in Northern Westchester, there are 395 sales pending closing and 30 are $2M and above.
So what’s it been like here in Bedford during the pandemic? Matty Fructman, the pharmacist at The Bedford Pharmacy, told me that overall Bedford has been pretty fortunate. “People have generally been very careful and it shows,” she said. “Pound Ridge has apparently had the fewest number of cases in the county.”
Normally, we would be traveling back and forth working weekdays in Manhattan and spending weekends in the country. Times have changed!
On arrival at LaGuardia we were handed a form to fill out for the Department of Health which basically asked how we were feeling and where we were staying.
Since we were feeling fine and heading home, we thought we were good. But just two days later, we each received calls from the DOH again asking how we were feeling, and informing us that we were required by law to quarantine for 14 days. We were then sent emails reiterating that, and daily text messages checking in. They also informed us that someone could show up at any time to check on us. So we hunkered down and did our part to help stop the spread of the virus.
When we finally got that last text from the DOH on the 14th day of our quarantine, we rejoiced! We were also tested for both Covid and its antibodies and fortunately were negative. Just in time to play in the Southside Open at the club!
We also prayed for friends and family in Palm Beach facing Hurricane Isaias, not expecting it was actually Bedford that was in its path!
When I went for my walk the next morning, the wind was really picking up. Sometimes I like to walk through the Bedford Union Cemetery where George’s dear wife, Allison Eckardt Ledes, rests. Allison had been editor of the magazine Antiques. I love reading the names and epitaphs and the history of the place. Some of the early families here include the Lounsberys, the Lyons, and the Robertsons.
After the storm’s departure, we had no power or water at home. So I moved to the club which very thoughtfully left doors open for members to use the facilities. George and I were lucky. Other friends were left with “the outdoors in …”
After five days in purgatory, we saw a light at the end of the tunnel, but it will be a while before things are back to normal. Wait! This is the new normal!