Rooms with a History and a View
On December 23, 1680, 22 men from Stamford, Connecticut, founded the Town of Bedford when they purchased fur coats, blankets, wampum, and cloth, and a tract of land three miles square known as the “Hopp Ground,” from several Native Americans, including Chief Katonah.
These Stamford proprietors were New England Puritans who promptly set about planning their new settlement, providing for a meetinghouse and gristmill on the Mianus River, as well as a burying ground. Bedford’s modern Village Green is one-third its original size but the graveyard and surrounding streets remain substantially as they were originally planned in 1681. Bedford became part of New York when England’s King William issued a royal degree in 1700 to settle a boundary dispute. During the ensuing Colonial period, Bedford’s importance grew, serving as the seat for Westchester County during the Revolutionary War, until the British burned the picturesque village on July 11, 1779. The Court House in Bedford Village, built in 1787 and renovated in the 1960s, is Westchester County’s oldest government building.
WHAT DO THE REVOLUTIONARY WAR, A MOVIE STAR, ORGANIC FOOD, ELEGANT AMBIANCE, AND YOGA HAVE IN COMMON? VISIT THE HISTORIC AND BEAUTIFUL BEDFORD POST, IN BEDFORD, NEW YORK, TO FIND OUT.
My first—and foremost—experiences at Bedford Post revolve around yoga, and the beautiful studio which is situated right above The Barn (a relaxed, inviting restaurant complete with fireplace and a wraparound outdoor arbor). The studio space is an incredibly tranquil setting for the practice of asana; but more about that later.
Creating this idyllic setting wasn’t an easy undertaking, but the owners of Bedford Post: actress Carey Lowell, entrepreneur Russell Hernandez, and Hollywood legend Richard Gere were determined to both save the landmark property and create a community gathering place that would foster higher thinking and service. “I always wanted to build a place where people who could change the world could get together,” relates Gere.
Merely one hour from Manhattan and set on 14 acres, the eco-friendly Bedford Post is an historic property that has existed since the 1700s when it was built by American patriot Colonel Lewis McDonald. Originally a tavern, inn, and post office, it is located on Post Road, which was an important route during the American Revolution. Today it remains one of only three homes in the region from that era. The main house, dating back to at least 1835, was originally a rambling private home until the 1920s when it first became the Bedford Green Inn, and was later Nino’s,a popular local restaurant.
Lowell and Gere came upon the property during a horseback ride. They tossed around the idea of buying the property and restoring it. At that point in time, Lowell notes, “It was an eyesore rotting by the side of the road.” In danger of being torn down in 2007, Lowell, Hernandez, and Gere took on the challenge and lovingly restored Bedford Post. They were able to keep much of the original structure intact, including the rustic, original wood beams that crisscross throughout.
Eco-friendly details in the restaurant, café, and guest rooms reveal that this restoration was accomplished with a green mindset and a lot of love. The team used reclaimed wood whenever possible and dug holes in the ground to set up geothermal heating and cooling. “Using geothermal is expensive but it pays off in the long run,” says Lowell. She comments further, “We also use low volatile organic compound [VOC] paints.” The Inn’s windows contain double thermal UV glass which keeps the rooms cool in summer. In place of standard fiberglass insulation, the team opted for natural and soy insulation.
Hernadez adds that the City of Bedford suggested they demolish old barns on the outskirts of Bedford Park for scrap. “We found beautiful chestnut floorboards and beams under the sheetrock that we kept for paneling and highlights.”
These days the Relais & Chateaux property features graceful flagstone pathways dotted with box hedges and blue-violet hydrangeas; blankets of finely manicured green lawns; and secret gardens. Eight luxurious guest rooms, designed by Lowell and Tiffany Vassilakis in traditional Shaker-chic style, feel both familiar and comfortable with working fireplaces and spacious marble bathrooms featuring freestanding claw-foot tubs. A few rooms have terraces, offering lovely views of the surrounding woods.
“I wanted it to feel very serene – like a private getaway up in the country, where you can leave the city behind, and are able to enjoy a cozy home…like you’re all wrapped up in this kind of cocoon,” says Lowell.
Adjacent to the main house, casual dining at The Barn café features baked-on-premises pies, muffins, and breads along with many gluten-free choices. Sunday brunch is a must at The Barn: try the Hammy-Cheesy-Eggy Croissant, mouth-watering French toast, or the savory veggie burger with sweet potato fries if you’re in the mood for heartier fare. The (slightly) more formal Farmhouse Restaurant offers an elegant menu with an emphasis on locally grown and organic fare in a country-chic setting. “We wanted food that’s not fussy – delicious but earthy,” notes Lowell.
Jeremy McMillan, a gifted chef who once served as the restaurant’s sous chef, has developed many popular and delicious dishes including John Boy’s Chicken and Branzino and scrumptious pansotti filled with sweet potato and foie gras; although the dessert menu is short, the selections include a decadent molten chocolate cake, and a parfait of peanut butter mousse with peanut brittle and chocolate gelato.
With a first-rate wine list, the wine tasting room on the lower level of The Farmhouse offers a private dining enclave available for special events. On the main floor, there’s a full private dining room with a private terrace. And a recently installed outdoor grilling station provides the perfect alfresco setting for cocktails and a light bite on the backyard patio for warmer weather.
To my biased mind the true jewel of Bedford Post is the Yoga Loft. After I attended my first class there I thought it must be just about the perfect atmosphere for both student and teacher; and in the interest of journalistic integrity I must confess to being one of the Yoga Loft’s (lucky) teachers. The studio, nestled above the Barn café, is surrounded by raw, natural beauty, while the oversized, rustic French doors slide open to reveal the serenity of a private Zen Garden. Each season reveals spectacular vistas and color palettes, with the sweet smells of spring and summer, the vibrancy of autumn, and the stark purity of winter offering an incredible backdrop for frazzled city dwellers to experience nature at a visceral level. There’s nothing like being lulled into Savasana by the placid atmosphere of this natural environment.
While the owners wanted to provide a space for the community to gather and grow, the project didn’t have a guiding force until the arrival of Rebekah Jacobs, the Loft’s recently hired manager and creative director. “When I came to the Yoga Loft, I wanted to develop strong relationships with the local community, listen to their needs, and instill a platform of balance and trust for the business to recharge,” explains Jacobs, “and I wanted to honor the owners’ wishes to provide a platform for forward thinkers and speakers to present their ideas.”
These days the owners’ dreams and Jacob’s expectations have come true: The Yoga Loft is thriving. “Many of our students drive 30 minutes or more to take classes and workshops with our team of highly skilled teachers. Our vision is to create an exceptional experience. After one year of setting the foundation, bringing in high-level instructors, and fine-tuning, we continue to expand. Our long-range goal is to keep growing and providing imaginative, healing, and cutting-edge offerings to assist individuals on their personalpath,” explains Jacobs.
Future plans include Yoga 101: A Comprehensive Beginner’s Course, Yoga for Men, Little Buddhas (for children four and older), a monthly Friday Night Melt to include restorative yoga and meditation, Advanced/Intermediate Classes, Family Yoga, Meditation, Anusara immersion courses, teacher trainings, and retreats.
Whether you’re a member of the Bedford community, or just passing through, Bedford Post offers a serenely beautiful country nest of peace, relaxation, good food, and most of all, a community to treasure and enjoy.
Rita Trieger is the Editor of Find Bliss/New York, and the author of Yoga Heals Your Back (Fairwinds, 2005). She teaches yoga and therapeutics in New York and Connecticut, and is a lifelong resident of Queens, New York.