Pound Ridge, New York is a small town about 50 miles outside Manhattan or, as they say, 50 miles and 50 years away from the hustle of the Big Apple. Well, they don’t say it, but it’s the distinct feeling one gets when venturing north from the city for a day of Americana.
In 1750 the name, Old Pound Ridge, began appearing in state and city records most likely as a reference to an animal pound established by the Wappinger First Nations tribes on a hill within the territory. But the origins of what is now simply Pound Ridge are less auspicious than its bucolic setting and the rural lifestyle of its current residents might indicate. The history of Pound Ridge is a snapshot of early America, from settlement through evolution to a democratic nation.
As European settlers increased in numbers and landholdings, whether through purchase from First Nations tribal chiefs, including the Siwanoy, Tankiteke, and Kitchawong members of the Wappinger Confederacy, a loosely defined group of tribes, or sovereignty, tensions over land use rose. The Wappinger War, a full-scale conflict between the First Nations tribes and the settlers, broke out in 1640 and ended in 1644 when a Wappinger village on the site of what is now Pound Ridge was attacked by Dutch and English soldiers. About 700 members of the tribes were massacred. The soldiers lost one man. Peace was declared. Until the tables turned and the American colonists were fighting for their land and freedom. In 1779, British soldiers attacked the American revolutionists. The outcome at the time was uncertain, despite skirmishes and raids and loss of life on both sides. Homes and commercial buildings in Pound Ridge and neighboring towns were burned down by the British. The colonists retaliated. And so it went, until the revolutionaries won in 1783. During the Civil War (1861 – 1865), 109 men from Pound Ridge left to fight for the North; they suffered 41 casualties and only 68 men returned.
By 1920, the town’s population had dwindled to about 500. Trains and major roadways bypassed Pound Ridge and it remained remote. But, with the 1925 purchase of 4,000 acres by Westchester County to develop the Ward-Pound Ridge Reservation, and the Civilian Conservation Corp that resided there from 1933 to 1940 building roads and bridges, shelters, and a museum, things in Pound Ridge began to turn around.
Today, the town is still small and still remote—but that is exactly what its residents want to maintain and why they choose it as a great location to live. The closest Metro-North Railway stations are in New Canaan, Connecticut, served by the New Haven Line, and Katonah, Bedford Hills, and Mount Kisco, New York, served by the Harlem Line. The drive to any of the stations from Pound Ridge takes about 20 minutes and the train ride is about an hour and 10 minutes. Most residents have cars; the drive via Interstate-684 to Midtown Manhattan from Pound Ridge takes a little over an hour.
Pound Ridge is an artisanal town and its shops reflect that vibe. Scotts Corners on Westchester Avenue is the business and commercial district and location of Pound Ridge Square. From vintage treasures to chic home goods shops to one-of-a-kind boutiques and cheese shops and wine merchants and florists, all run by locals, the shopping on the square is as unique as the town itself. Eateries, including the Northstar Restaurant, which offers live music, Di Nardo’s Ristorante Italiano, and The Kitchen Table are on Westchester Avenue, too.
Nature lovers have access to the Ward-Pound Ridge Reservation, a 4,315-acre park that is the largest in Westchester County. In addition to the hiking and walking trails throughout the park, there is the Trailside Nature Museum and, in the park’s administration building, Gallery in the Park, which hosts exhibitions of accomplished regional artists throughout the year. The Pound Ridge Land Conservancy in partnership with the Westchester Land Trust maintains 18 nature preserves, totaling more than 360 acres in and around the town.
Living in Pound Ridge is a select choice; the median home price is US$925,000. Most of the population—62 percent—is older than age 45, with 23 percent of that group older than 65. Homes in the range of US$1 million and higher occupy large lots in the rolling hills and deciduous forests that have characterized the Pound Ridge experience since it was first settled. The residential architecture is stately, often featuring Colonial-style brick work and wood columns on the exteriors and period details, including plank floors, exposed beams, and fireplaces in the interiors. Stone Hill Road has estates well above US$5 million; Midway Lane has elegant more modern homes, many with views of Blue Heron Lake, in the US$2-million range.
Residents with school-age children are served by the Bedford Central and Katonah-Lewisboro School Districts, with five elementary schools, one middle school, and one high school in those districts. Only one public elementary school is in the town of Pound Ridge.
If you are desirous of a rural setting, for a lifetime or an afternoon, with quaint shops and friendly merchants, Pound Ridge—long peaceful and idyllic since its bloody beginnings—is now the place to find it.
37 percent of residents hold a Master of Arts degree or higher
39 percent of residents hold a 4-year college degree