Armstrong House Project: History



The Armstong House was built as a 3-season retreat at a time when Pound Ridge was known for its artist community. It is located on Route 121 near the Ward Pound Ridge Reservation and overlooks the Cross River Reservoir.

The Armstrong tract was a part of the Van Cortlandt Manor referred to as “the undivided lands behind Bedford.” It included about 3,800 acres in Pound Ridge which had been occupied by “squatters” since the 1740s.

In the late 1600s, a series of overlapping patents granted by the Crown resulted in the heirs of Stamford Patentees and those of Stephanus Van Cortlandt both claiming valid title to the tract.

In 1789, after more than twenty years of pursuing suits of eviction in the courts, clear legal title was finally granted to General Philip Van Cortlandt. Between 1802 and 1839, he had sold off most of the farms and in 1818, he sold about 90 acres to Lyman Cook which included the Armstrong land.

Catherine Armstrong was born in 1915 in Denver, Colorado and her family moved to Oklahoma when she was sixteen. She received her Bachelors degree from Stevens College in Columbia, MO and a graduate degree in Medicine from Chicago University in
1942. While there, she met and married John Seward.

From the beginning, their relationship was stormy and strained. He selfishly demanded she give up her plans for a career in medicine believing that life as a physician would take her time and attentions away from him and their family.

While John went off to serve in WWII, Catherine and her infant son, Rovert, fled to Texas where she changed her name and completed her residency in Pediatrics at Texas Childrens Hospital. For many years she resided in Carlsbad, NM with her son Robert and practiced medicine there. Tragically, Robert died in a car crash one week after graduating from high school.

John Corbin (1870-1959) was an American drama critic and author, born in Chicago, educated at Harvard and Oxford, and an established writer in New York City. From 1897 to 1900, he was an assistant editor of Harper’s Magazine, acting also as drama critic for Harper’s Weekly; in 1902, he wrote the drama reviews of the New York Times and in 1905-07, those of the Sun. From 1908 to 1910, he was literary manager of The New Theatre, during the short life of which his efforts contributed much towards notably artistic productions. He served as secretary of the Drama Society of New York until 1916. In 1914, his play “The Forbidden Guests” was produced on Broadway by Oliver Morosco, but closed after only five performances and in 1916, he produced Shakespear’s Tempest (with full text in the Elizabethan manner). From 1917 to 1919, he was drama critic of the New York Times and after 1919, editorial writer for the same paper. Besides magazine stories and articles on the drama, he was author of ten books between 1895 and 1922. (Source: Wikipedia)

John was married to Amy Foster which accounts for the initials on the old photo album which was given to the Pound Ridge Museum by the PRLC. On December 1, 1908, he purchased the thirty acre “Daniel Hunt Place” in Pound Ridge from Mary M. Hunt of White Plains. (It wasn’t until after John and Amy’s death fifty years later, that a survey requested by their executors discovered the thirty acre parcel had really been thirty six and seven tenths acres). In 1909, John and Amy completed construction of a guest house and purchased an additional four acres from neighbor William Hunt. The main house was completed about 1914. It is believed that Corbin had intended to build a large stone house on the highest elevation of the property near the water tanks, but financial losses in the market crash cancelled those plans. Johh and Amy both died in 1959 and are buried in St. Mathews Chuch Cemetery in Bedford. In 1960, the property passed to his nephew Lawrence Paul Corbin of Carlsbad, NM and a niece Polly Corbin Grasel of New Orleans.

Dr. Armstrong was acquainted with Lawrence in Carlsbad and that was how she and her sister Betty discovered the Corbin property. On October 27, 1961, John Corbins heirs sold the 43.8 acre property (40.5 acres in Pound Ridge and 3.3 acres in Bedford) to Dr. Catherine A. Seward of Carlsbad (she was still using her married name) and her sister Betty Coe Armstrong of 150 E. 40th Street, NYC.

Dr. Catherine Armstrong died in 1999, and in 2001, the executors of her estate honored her wishes and transferred title to her entire Pound Ridge property (with the exception of two and three tenths acres which she had sold to her good freiend and neighbor, Josh Fischer) to the Pound Ridge Land Conservancy.

Submitted, October 28, 2007

Philip A. Pessoni

Pound Ridge Town Historian