Washington nonprofit wants historic Bradford House

April 17, 2014
The historic David Bradford House on South Main Street in Washington - Scott Beveridge / Observer-Reporter Order a Print

There won’t be a rebellion in Washington over which group will take over the historic David Bradford House.

The Bradford House Historical Association was the only organization that sent a “request for interest” letter to the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission to take possession of the 226-year-old building from the state.

PHMC spokesman Howard Pollman said that basically sets the stage for the Bradford House to be donated to the association so it can continue to be used as a museum and historical site in Washington.

“There’s still work to be done, but they were the only people who submitted a letter,” Pollman said.

The Bradford House was among six historic sites in Pennsylvania that were put up for sale last month, as the state Department of General Services requested letters from potential bidders. PHMC and DGS officials met Wednesday afternoon to review all of the letters of interest for the six sites as they prepare for legislation to be drafted this term to formally hand over the properties to qualified organizations. Pollman did not know if the other five sites in the state received multiple offers.

The Bradford House Historical Association submitted its letter March 26.

There is no timeline for the home to be turned over to the association, although Pollman expected it to be completed this year.

Clay Kilgore, who was director of Bradford House Historical Association until April 1 and is still affiliated with the group, said Wednesday’s development is important for the region.

He said the association, which managed the property for 30 years, will continue to expand on previous events, such as the Whiskey Rebellion Festival and fundraising dinner, now that it is expected to have possession of the house.

“Those things will continue and that was the reason we wanted to get the home,” Kilgore said. “It’s such a big part of Washington County history, and the history of the nation.”

Kilgore does not expect the detachment from the state will affect the viability of the Bradford House. The association lost $8,000 in state funding per year and was left to bear the sole responsibility for the house’s operating costs beginning in 2009 during the funding crisis and national recession.

However, the community’s response through fundraising events and donations helped the organization, Kilgore said, and will need to continue.

“We’re going to rely more on the community and their support,” Kilgore said. “We can run with that and will continue to need their support and make this more of a community institution.”

In fact, he thinks being independent of the state will ultimately be beneficial for the Bradford House.

“We might have a little more freedom with what we will do,” Kilgore said. “That will be our (house). We can shape it, tell a different side of the story and step outside of the Whiskey Rebellion and tell the entire story. We’re really excited to get going.”

The stone house at 175 S. Main St. was built in 1788 by David Bradford, an attorney who led rebels in a protest of a federal tax on whiskey produced on area farms. Bradford fled to the South after the rebellion ended in 1794 to avoid being arrested.

Mike Jones has been a news reporter since 2005, covering crime, state and municipal government, education and energy. In addition to working at the Observer-Reporter, he also has spent time at the Charleston (W.Va.) Daily Mail and Patch.com. He holds a journalism degree from West Virginia University.

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