One of Stamford’s greatest landmarks, 545 Bedford Street has graced downtown with its welcoming portico for a century, serving generations of Stamford residents as Bedford Hall (a fashionable inn), Brockton Manor (a popular restaurant), Bouton & Reynolds Funeral Home, and until two years ago the real estate offices of William Pitt.
An application before the Zoning Board seeks approval for the developer, T.R. Eastview, a subsidiary of F.D Rich, to rezone the site and replace the historic building with one more flat boxy building covering the entire site.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
· ATTEND THE PUBLIC HEARING –
Monday, March 3, 2014, 7:00 pm
Municipal Building, 888 Washington Blvd., 4th Floor Cafeteria
· WRITE A LETTER
Re: ZB Application 213-47 to
Norman Cole, Land Use Bureau Chief
City of Stamford
888 Washington Boulevard
Stamford, CT 06901
Let the Zoning Board know that Bedford Hall matters to you and why this new development does not comply with zoning regulations.
Q QUESTIONS? Contact Historic Neighborhood Preservation: Renee Kahn, Founding Director, email@example.com or Wes Haynes, Executive Director, firstname.lastname@example.org
Urge the Zoning Board to Reject ZB Application 213-47
BEDFORD HALL IS HISTORIC
The State Historic Preservation Officeofficially recognizes Bedford Hall to be eligible for the State Register of Historic Places (SRHP). The zoning regulations under which the new building would be built call for preserving SRHP-eligible historic buildings.
Let the zoning board know that you want this historic building preserved and re-used in an alternative development plan.
The master plan and zoning encourage historic preservation. Moreover, the zoning regs provide incentives to adapt historic buildings to new uses by granting special exceptions on setback requirements at the boundaries and the required number of below market rate units (BMRs). The developer is seeking these exceptions even though they are destroying rather than adapting a historic building. Tax credits are also available for adapting historic buildings.
> Don’t reward the developer with special exceptions to practice small scale urban renewal when historic preservation is a viable solution.
This site can support better alternative development. Several parties interested in purchasing it when it was recently up for sale had different development visions which kept Bedford Hall and adapted it to new uses. The building’s own history proves it to be among Stamford’s most flexible buildings in accommodating new uses. Keep and re-use Bedford Hall in a new development.
THE PROPOSED DEVELOPMENT IS WRONG FOR THIS SITE
The new building is not compatible with adjacent construction. This neighborhood is in transition, but the buildings flanking Bedford Hall, as well the greater majority of buildings to its north and west to Hoyt Street are of similar age, massing and/or character as 545 Bedford. Many of these are inventoried as historic resources too. The developer claims that the new building’s flat street facade, clad in cement board and dark corrugated metal is compatible with the newer apartment building across the street. Do we really want to see Stamford developed like this?
> Don’t let the developer redefine the existing character of this neighborhood as an unrelenting street wall of flat metal boxes built out to the street.
The new building needs to be screened by vegetation because it is lifeless, even ugly to some. Who would enjoy walking by or living next to this building? Bedford Hall does not need to hide behind screening.
> Don’t let this development further degrade pedestrian Stamford.
The new development would eliminate existing open space now enjoyed by the public and replace it with private space of no public value. The existing green lawn is a “borrowed” open space visible to pedestrians, a refreshing oasis along Bedford Street which would be eliminated in the new development. To meet the open space requirements in the regulations, the new development proposes that the shallow balconies, a roof garden, and perhaps even the perimeter planting beds used to hide the building from view be considered open space.
> Don’t let this development swap real open space that benefits the public for private amenities.
A Brief History of Bedford Hall
Adapted with Grace
Built between 1900 and 1907 as a single-family residence without the present portico, the earliest documented occupant of 109 Bedford (later renumbered 545) was James Sinclair Jenkins (1871-1918) a prominent Stamford attorney who was assistant prosecuting attorney of the Stamford city court (1897-1900) and a partner in the firm of Taylor & Jenkins. Jenkins lived there with his family from at least 1907 to 1913 prior to relocating to Shippan Point and becoming president of The Shippan Point Land Company, a residential developer instrumental in building one of Stamford’s most architecturally interesting residential neighborhoods.
After Jenkins moved out, the building was adapted to become Bedford Hall, a fashionable guest house. The portico was added at this time. Bedford Hall continued to be operated as a guest house through subsequent ownerships by Charles L. Gerould, Charles F. Maguire and James A. Morrow.
Around 1948, Morrow’s widow or wife sold the building to Maurice Brockway and it became Brockton Manor (aka Brockton Manor Inn) housing Stamford’s leading restaurant on the first floor. The new name was derived from Brockway’s business partnership with Edmund J. B. Bouton. They continued to use the upper floors as an inn. Brockway, the former banquet manager at the Plaza and Ambassador Hotels in New York, brought with him a regional reputation and culinary sophistication previously unknown in Stamford.
The restaurant had a strong Victorian taste unusual at its time. According to his biography excerpted from the dust jacket of his cookbook-memoir Come Cook With Me (New York: Atheneum, 1967), Brockway was raised in upstate New York near the Canadian border, “…in a rambling white house where cooking and eating were given their proper reverence. After college (Ithaca) and a few years in the business world of New York City, he bought an old inn in Stamford, Connecticut, and operated it as Brockton Manor …. He has a talent for being able to ‘cook by ear,’ and can duplicate any dish he has eaten anywhere in the world. This lifelong interest in food is reflected in the nostalgic quality of this narrative about the pleasures of cooking and eating.” Brockton Manor was considered to be Stamford’s finest restaurant, hosting many wedding receptions and patronized by local community and social organizations for luncheons and dinners.
Brockway sold the property in 1952 to Bouton & Reynolds who adapted it for use as a funeral home patronized by many Stamford families. They handled the funeral arrangements for Benny Goodman, one of Stamford’s most celebrated residents in 1986.
Bedford Hall survived urban redevelopment to its south. In 1979 it was first identified and flagged as one of the most important historic resources in Stamford by the noted architectural historian, Alan Burnham, who had previously identified the first group of most important landmarks to designate as such in New York City. In the 1990s the building was sold to William Pitt, a local real estate agency for use as its offices until a few years ago.