History of the Hamlet
Katonah with its unique and rich history, is one of three hamlets within the township of Bedford, New York. Once populated by Native American tribes, the area began to be settled by Europeans in 1680. By 1812, some families were moving down the banks of the Cross River, just above its entrance into Croton River. Squire Wood and John Burr Whitlock set up a mill there and "Whitlockville" came into being. Whitlockville was a thriving village in 1847, when the railroad pushed its tracks north and attracted business a scant mile to the east. In 1852, this new hamlet was named Katonah in honor of the Indian chief from whom the town's land had originally been bought.
This ever-growing community began to boom with the arrival of train transport. Up until this point, its people were predominantly farmers, with some engaging in domestic manufacturing. With trains, villagers could send perishable produce to New York City. In the 1880's, dairying grew enormously with two carloads of milk being shipped daily. Livestock waiting for delivery in pens at the railroad station were a common sight. The gristmill in Whitlockville became an iron foundry before becoming an optical factory. A silk mill in Katonah wove ribbons and commercial shirtmaking in the home moved every woman to demand a sewing-machine.
A more enjoyable employment for the housewife was the entertaining of summer boarders. Even the well-to-do took in visitors and season after season, the countryside came alive with cycling parties, croquet games, hayrides, fishing, hunting, horseracing and boating. New York City's "thirst," however, changed all of this. The city purchased land for its reservoir system, planning to flood Whitlockville and Katonah villages to make way for the new Croton Dam. Instead of dispersing, these enterprising villagers in 1895 carefully planned a new village that combined residential and commercial areas. Some chose to bring their buildings with them, moving houses, barns and stores over a track made of long timbers and pulled by horses. All in all, 55 buildings were moved in 15 years! With its new location, Katonah also had a new look. Dairying was no longer the primary industry as more farmers began to sell their land to New York City and White Plains residents for their "summer places." The population of 312 that Whitlockville had in 1865 has grown to more than 5,000 today.
Located in the northeastern corner of Westchester County, Katonah is an hour and ten minutes by train from New York City. Its Historic District, listed in the National registers of Historic Places, encompasses the Bedford Road area, a section of the hamlet designed by landscape architects, G.S. and B.S. Olmstead. Many of the originally moved homes are found along the broad tree-lined residential street of Bedford Road, which parallels the business area of Katonah Avenue where two and three story Victorian buildings are now stores and offices. The hamlet has an excellent library and several cultural attractions including the Katonah Museum of Art, Caramoor Center for Music and Arts, and John Jay Homestead, retirement home of John Jay, first chief justice of the United States Supreme Court.
The past is always present and continues to define Katonah. However, it is not only the architecture that gives this hamlet its old-time charm, it is the welcoming friendly nature of the people that live and work in Katonah.
The township of Bedford consists three hamlets - Katonah, Bedford Hills, and Bedford Village - each with its own personality and rich history. The town of Bedford covers a total area of 39.3 square miles and has population of about 18,000. Although it is usually associated with pastoral horse farms and stylish country estates Bedford really has something for almost everyone: wonderful shopping, culture, history and beautiful natural areas.
Katonah, Bedford Hills and Bedford Village are all governed by the Town of Bedford, a five member board, made up of the Supervisor and four Town Board members elected at large, functions as the legislative body of the Town and is responsible for the "health, safety and welfare" of its residents. The Town of Bedford's departments are located at 425 Cherry Street, office hours are weekdays, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
*compiled from the Katonah Chamber of Commerce website
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