The Bedford we love today wouldn’t exist without the Bedford Historical Society. And the Historical Society can’t exist without members who support it. Join us and help continue our mission of preservation.
Our History - one hundred years of preservation
The Bedford Historical Society was founded by nine community-minded residents who answered Bedford’s first call for preservation – to save the 1806 Methodist Episcopal Church on the Village Green, now known as Historical Hall. In December of 1915, Thatcher T. P. Luquer, successfully negotiated the purchase of the building from a developer who planned to turn the building into tenement housing. The developer, Andrew Salinzki, had outbid Luquer at public auction. But Luquer was not deterred and appealed to Salinski telling him that his group wanted to convert the building into a community house. In exchange for an additional check in the amount of $150 intended for the Polish War Relief Fund, Salinksi released his claim and on the building and it was sold to Luquer for $2625.00 on April 3, 1916.
At the first meeting of the Directors on April 15th, Luquer transferred the deed to the Bedford Historical Society, which had been incorporated by its founding members on February 5, 1916. After the purchase, repairs and improvements were made to the building and the Society began to use it for their meetings and community events. To cover the costs of preservation, private rentals were permitted, a practice which continues to this day.
In 1917 the Bedford Historical Society assumed responsibility for The Bedford Museum. Established in 1913 by the Bedford Agassiz Society, it was housed in the “Stone Jug” School House on the Green, which was the Village School from 1829 until 1912. The expanded museum was moved to the second floor of the 1787 Court House after its restoration in 1970. The School House was restored as a 19th century one room school house site museum and it is used extensively in the Society’s educational programs.
In 1946, the Society answered a second call for preservation and purchased the c.1857 Jackson House (at the corner of Court Road) to protect the adjacent Court House. The Court House, built in 1787, was restored by the Historical Society, the Town of Bedford and New York State between 1965 and 1970. It is the oldest extant Westchester County government building and one of only three 18th century court houses in New York. Court sessions were held here, alternately with White Plains, until 1870, by which time the railroad had made two county seats unnecessary. The Court House is owned by the Town of Bedford which maintains its exterior while the Historical Society has responsibility for interior maintenance and for the museum. The memorial garden was recently reimagined and is lovingly cared for by the Bedford Garden Club.
Concerned about development in neighboring areas, the Historical Society worked to protect Bedford’s original settlement centered by the Village Green. When Randall Trumpy closed his Antiques store in 1968, the Society purchased the 1838 General Store, next to the Old Burying Ground. By 1972, the A&P had left its longtime home at the 1906 Lounsbery Building and moved to Hunting Ridge Mall. The Post Office needed more space and their lease had not been renewed by the trustees of Mrs. Colgate’s estate. The Historical Society raised the alarm and the $100,000 to purchase both the 1838 Post Office and the 1906 Lounsbery Building. Creative planning and a significant addition assured the residents that the Post Office would stay in the Village. The 1807 Bedford Free Library, formerly Bedford Academy, was given to the Society in 1972.
Having assured the preservation of these landmark buildings, the Society’s next step was to encourage the Town to create a historic district to protect the entire area around the Village Green. In 1972 the Bedford Village Historic District was created and in 1973 the Historical Society filed the application for a listing on both the State and National Registers of Historic Places which was granted that same year.
In 1977, through the efforts the citizens of Bedford, two acres of land surrounding the Bedford Oak was purchased to protect it from encroaching development. The Oak had been deeded to the Town in 1942 by Harold Whitman in memory of his wife, Georgia Squires Whitman. This two acre buffer was conveyed to the Historical Society to preserve the land that belongs now and forever to the Bedford Oak.
On the corner of Guard Hill and Succabone Roads stands the Sutton Clock Tower. This 1879 E. Howard Clock Company clock with its 550 lb. bell was installed in a barn by James Sutton so that his wife, Florence Macy, who was homesick for New York City, could still hear the bells chime every hour. After Mrs. Sutton’s death, the property changed hands and the barn burned down but the clock was rescued. Neighbors raised the money to build the Clock Tower and it was given to the Town in 1939. Since 1985, the Historical Society has leased the tower and maintains the clock. A group of neighbors, known as the Clock Winders, takes turns winding the clock.
During our first 75 years, the Society was able to preserve numerous properties through acquisition. Our work also centered on the Bedford Museum, annual lectures of historical interest and community events like ‘Tis the Season. In the early 21st century, with fewer properties threatened by development, the Board of Directors turned its attention to educational programs to allow the Society to share its unique collections of buildings and artifacts. Footsteps in the Past is offered to fourth graders while younger children typically visit the School House for a morning of 19th century education. Events like the Bedford Village Treasure Hunt and the series, History Matters, bring history to life for many young families. Our adult series, Profiles in Preservation, has included programs highlighting preservation of historic stone walls, restoration of a Bedford farm house and celebrated speakers on photography, architecture and design.
In 2008 we refreshed the museum exhibits at the Court House and digitized and stored our collections in accordance with accepted museum practices. We also renovated the Bedford General Store and moved from the Lounsbery Building to create a permanent headquarters for the Society. This location allows us to display smaller exhibits, host educational programs and continue to contribute the community. Most importantly, in our new location at The Bedford Store we are now more accessible to you and our many visitors.
For 100 years the Society and our members have fulfilled the promise of preservation. To ensure that Bedford’s historic character endures for another century, we are counting on you to help us keep that promise. Thank you for your past, present and future support. Huzzah!