About 150 years ago, Bedford Park began as an area of farmland owned by Leonard Jerome–Winston Churchill’s grandfather. Leonard W. Jerome sold the Bedford Park tract in the 1850s and he and August Belmont, Sr. began to build the Jerome Park Racecourse, which is now the Jerome Park Reservoir.
Twenty years after the sale a group of developers built a suburban retreat community made up of 40 suburban homes and named it Bedford after the London suburb. In the early 1900s Bedford Park became more than just a suburban retreat as the Italian and Irish immigrants who helped build the Jerome Park Reservoir started to call the neighborhood home.
The Reservoir project was completed in 1906, in 1914 the Grand Concourse was completed and in 1917 the extension of the Jerome Avenue subway line combined to make Bedford Park a fixture in the Bronx.
Today, Bedford Park is home to several prestigious high schools, colleges, and some of the oldest churches in the city which reflect the diverse population that started this community. Some of the churches in the area include the Bedford Park Congregational Church which dates to 1882 and was designated a City Landmark in 2000, the Roman Catholic Church of St. Philip Neri which was a mission church for immigrant Italian laborers, who also worked on the construction of the Jerome Park Reservoir and the Convent of Mount St. Ursula, established in 1892 (today standing as The Academy of Mt. St. Ursula, an all-girls prep-school).
The schools and colleges in the area include schools located in the area referred to as the Educational Mile, which included three high schools (Walton, DeWitt Clinton, and the Bronx High School of Science) along with the Bronx campus of Hunter College (now Lehman College). Currently, the Walton Campus houses four high schools (Discovery, Kingsbridge International, Celia Cruz High School for Music, and the High School for Teaching and the Professions) and one secondary school (International School for Liberal Arts). Two of the nine specialized high schools in New York City are in the area, which includes Bronx High School of Science and the High School of American Studies at Lehman College.