Thursday, July 7, 2022

Much to Explore in Bedford, Pa

If you love history and you're looking for something special to do on a long weekend, Bedford, Pennsylvania is sure to fit the bill, from a village that takes visitors back in time, to a museum that commemorates the construction of the original French and Indian War Fort built in 1758, to a hotel that was built to take advantage of the healing waters of the area.

My first recommendation upon entering town, however, is to stop at the Visitors' Center, which, you'll discover is larger than most and is full of pamphlets and helpful guides who can describe the many diverse activities available to those in the area.

One of the first things my husband and I did last time we visited Bedford was to take the 90-minute, self-guided tour, which combines walking and driving to visit various places.  Founder's Crossing, located on Juliana Street, is one of the first stops on the list and is home to an array of merchandise from home goods, to antiques and collectibles. Look down upon entering and you'll see a reminder of a store that once operated there.

G.C. Murphy once operated at Founder's Crossing.
Founder's Crossing carries home decor, antiques, collectibles and more.
Also, on the tour is the Anderson House. Built in 1815 for Dr. John Anderson by Solomon Filler, designer of the nearby Bedford Springs Resort, the courthouse and the art museum, the Anderson House is characteristic of the Federalist style of architecture.
The Anderson House built in 1815.
And no trip to Bedford would be complete without a glimpse of a piece of programmatic architecture, also referred to as mimetic architecture and even as "ducks." The famous "Coffee Pot" has been the site of many a selfie and was built in 1927 by David Koontz. It was slated for demolition in the 1990s, but cooler heads prevailed and it was saved and restored in 2004.
The Coffee Pot in Bedford, built in 1927.

After becoming familiar with the area on the architectural tour, you can continue your history lesson by visiting a living history site known as Old Bedford Village. Old Bedford Village opened in 1976 and portrays life in Pennsylvania from 1700 until 1899.

Old Bedford Village Welcome Center

Visitors are provided with a map upon arrival to help them navigate their way around the sprawling village. On the back of the map is a short description of the 40 buildings situated on the site, some of which are authentic and others which are reproductions. 

Old Bedford Village is especially attractive to families with children of all ages because they can take off and run from building to building, while learning from re-enactors who are skilled in commanding tots' attention.
Log homes like these are the first structures visitors see on the self-guided tour.

The first house on our stop was the Biddle House and inside was a re-enactor who explained the concept of Bedford Village and how it became a mixture of old and replicated structures to assist in aiding visitors to understand what life was like in the days of yore.
A re-enactor at an 18th-century log farmhouse moved from an area nearby called Dutch Corner.

The 8-square (sided) public school built in East St. Clair Township in 1851 by Quaker Nat Hoover.
It closed in 1932.

The Pendergrass Tavern

The Pendergrass Tavern is a recreation from a historical novel titled, Bedford Village. The original Pendergrass Tavern operated just outside the walls of Fort Bedford in the 1750's.

The volunteers/re-enactors are extremely dedicated to sharing their knowledge of history with all guests who visit. The gentleman above drives from West Virginia to share his passion. Everything displayed on the table is crafted by him.

The tin shop.

Children are invited to engage in various activities around the village. In the tin shop they can try their hand at making their own tin punch by choosing from a variety of patterns ranging from liberty bells to puppies and hammering away on the wooden blocks in the shop.

Families can visit Bedford Village Memorial Day Weekend through October 31, Thursday through Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Another educational site located in Bedford is the Fort Bedford Museum, built in 1958 to commemorate the construction of the original French and Indian War fort in 1758. Today the museum houses approximately 4,000 artifacts.
The Fort Bedford Museum houses thousands of artifacts.

In 2019, the museum decided to bring to life the story of "Indian Eve" Ernst, whom guests will learn about when they visit. "Indian Eve" spent nine years in captivity before being able to return to her hometown of Bedford. Below is a small, deer-hide covered trunk that she took with her when she was able to head for home. It was donated by the family.

Indian Eve's trunk manufactured in 1777.

A model of Fort Bedford.

The "Becoming Bedford" exhibit displays many relics of days gone by like the items shown below.

An early mail sleigh.

Another exhibit titled, "Cave to Empire," helps guests understand the clash of cultures that set the stage for the French and Indian War in the mid-1700's. 

Those interested in visiting the Fort Bedford Museum will find it at 110 Fort Bedford Drive. Hours and admission prices can be found at the website by clicking here

The Omni Bedford Springs

The history continues, only this time we skip ahead quite a bit to the Omni Bedford Springs. You may recall Dr. John Anderson who was mentioned earlier. Dr. Anderson was also responsible for purchasing the 20,000-acre property where the Omni now stands after learning about the eight mineral springs onsite. He then set about building bathing facilities for his patients there, offering them prescriptions for their ailments and housing them in tents on the property.

As "taking the waters" grew in popularity, Anderson decided to take the next step and erect a hotel for his guests. In 1816, Attorney James Buchanan visited the Springs for the first time, followed by Thomas Jefferson, who suffered from acute rheumatism. By 1842, the resort had earned luxury status. Frequent guests included Presidents Andrew Jackson, William Henry Harrison, James K. Polk and Zachary Taylor. Other dignitaries included Daniel Webster, Henry Clay and John C. Calhoun. As the hotel gained a reputation as a retreat for the elite, it attracted top businessmen and industrialists, including such luminaries as Henry Ford and John Wanamaker, who maintained a suite on the first floor. 

Buchanan famously used the resort as his "Summer White House" from 1857-1861 and received the first transatlantic cable from England's Queen Victoria while staying at the Bedford Springs Hotel in the summer of 1858. 

Guests can explore the springs themselves. Of the eight springs on the property, three are capped: the Sweet Spring, the Sulphur Spring and the Crystal Spring. The Sweet Spring was used by the early hotel for cooking and washing and is marked by a lion's head sculpture. The Sulphur Spring, formerly known as the Yellow Spring, was used to treat moderate bleeding, constipation and chronic diseases. The Crystal Spring, located south of the resort, was once compared to the "Carlsbad of Europe." Part of a mammoth was also discovered nearby during an excavation.

The Iron Spring is one of eight springs on site.

Non-capped springs include the Magnesia Spring, the Limestone Spring, the Black Spring, the Iron Spring and the Eternal Spring. The Magnesia Spring, located behind the wedding grotto, was demonstrated to have many curative properties and was used to treat liver disease, malaria and stomach and kidney disease. The Black Spring is said to contain the most potable water and is responsible for the irrigation of the golf course. The effervescent Iron Spring contains iron and common salts and was used for blood and bone disorders. The Eternal Spring was discovered beneath the hotel during the most recent renovation. It feeds the indoor pool and the on-site spa. 

One courtesy that the Omni generously offers non-guests is the opportunity to explore the springs on the property. They are also encouraged to take advantage of any scheduled tours and are welcome to visit the restaurants on site as well.

Let's Go Shopping

In addition to Founder's Crossing mentioned earlier, there are many other shops in the walkable town of Bedford. One of the first shops I usually make while visiting is Bedford Candies. The small business located at 132 East Pitt Street has been making handmade, hand-dipped chocolates since 1929. The bright and cheery store was operated by the Sotirokos family for three generations before employee Tammy Wiley and her son Adam assumed ownership. She continues the daily tradition of making products onsite using old family recipes.

Bedford Candies run by Tammy Wiley and her son Adam.

Next up, is Pigeon Hill Studios on Juliana Street, for those who enjoy art. Below are a few works that commanded my attention while visiting.  I love how they repurpose horseshoes here. 

A stool crafted with horseshoes.

More local art.

Also located on Juliana Street is the Peppercorn Market where you'll find an array of jams, jellies, olive oils and more to purchase for yourself or a foodie friend. The owner is very friendly and so are her customers; we all ended up having a lovely conversation when I visited.

The Peppercorn Market carries an array of jams, jellies, olive oil and more.

Another fun shop for the foodie is LifeSTYLE, which carries everything from pasta, to Pannettone and pesto. One item that stands out to me now after I had a chance to get a good look at the picture below is the pasta made with hemp flour. Hemp flour is notable for being high in protein--a good choice if your goal is to increase your protein levels. I have yet to try it, but if any of you have, please let me know what you think. 

LIFeSTYLE carries an array of Italian specialties.

Other downtown shops include the BellaTerra Vineyards, Hebrews Coffee Company, KJ Seasonals and Juli's Wearable Art to name just a few.
BellaTerra Vineyards and tasting room below.

Juli's Wearable Art offers artisan and vintage apparel.

A Trip to the Art Museum

The Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art
The Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art (SAMA) was founded in 1976 and operates the longest-running museum satellite system, with facilities in Altoona, Bedford, Johnstown, Ligonier and Loretto. It maintains a permanent collection of more than 7,500 works of local, regional, national and international artists. 

When we visited the Bedford location, the work of Michael Mosorjak was on display.  The Johnstown artist is skilled in working with oils and several of his pieces are shown below.

Middle Street, by Michael Mosorjak.

Red on Blonde, by Michael Mosorjak

Christmas Amaryllis, by Michael Mosorjak

Upstairs, the museum usually offers classes for the community. While I visited, a group of ladies were working on fiber art.

Fiber art class.
The SAMA is open from Wednesday to Sunday and admission is free.

The Golden Eagle Inn is within walking distance of most destinations.

Accommodations in the heart of the action can be found at the Golden Eagle Inn. Our room was bright, spacious and comfortable. Free breakfast is offered at their onsite restaurant, which is known for its excellent food. 
The room at the Golden Eagle.

These are just a few ideas you may want to consider on a trip to Bedford and are ideal for a three-day weekend. For more ideas, I'll invite you to visit the Bedford Visitor's Bureau website at: