The Bradford Landmark Society
30 Years of History
Nineteen ninety-nine marked the 30th anniversary of the founding of the Bradford Landmark Society. Established on May 27, 1969, the Society was incorporated that following July, and elected Jack Coit as its first president.
The basis for such an organization really began back in the 1920s, when the McKean County Historical Society was founded by Rufus Stone, a noted historian of Bradford history, and a well-known lawyer in the city. This first historical society was located in the basement of the Carnegie Library, and was instrumental in its efforts to collect memorabilia and historical documents from Bradford's early years. In 1942, however, following the reconstruction of the McKean County Courthouse which had burned the previous year, the McKean County Historical Society moved its headquarters to Smethport, believing that a central location in the county better served its goals as a county-wide organization.
Bradford was a part of that society, but as the years went by, several people expressed a desire for Bradford to once again have its own historical society. Mrs. Marion Bromeley, David Pytcher, and others were convinced that the city needed its own society to preserve Bradford's unique history, and in 1969, such an ideal became a reality.
Those early years of the Bradford Landmark Society were busy ones, as the society raised money to support its activities and goals. An annual antique show, beginning as early as 1961 was held, with over 20 dealers from neighboring counties and towns displaying their treasures. First held in the Emery Engineering Building at the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford (the Old Emery Hardware Building), later shows were held at McDowell Gymnasium on Campus Drive, and in 1979, in the St. Bernard's School auditorium.
In 1969, Heritage Days were established, with house tours, cook tours, and a Firemen's Museum, located over the present day Fire Department building on Chestnut Street. Admission to the Firemen's Museum was 50 cents for adults, and 25 cents for children, and featured all sorts of fire memorabilia, uniforms, helmets, and equipment.
In 1973, a Craftsmen Fall Foliage Fair was held in the Producers Bank & Trust parking lot adjoining the Herbig Bakery on East Corydon Street. Craftsmen such as weavers, candle makers, blacksmiths, carvers, and others demonstrated their crafts, and tours were held in the Bakery. This festival was a direct forerunner of the "Lost Arts Festival" which was held at the Crook Farm each fall.
In 1979, the first Crook Farm Country Fair was held, and was so successful that all other fund raising activities were stopped, and all efforts concentrated on this late summer event. It celebrates its 27th anniversary this year, and is staffed by many volunteers from all types of social organizations in Bradford, who support the Bradford Landmark Society.
Meanwhile, efforts to establish a collection of historical artifacts and documents were underway. Mrs. Virginia Loveland Miles, owner of the Herbig Bakery, one of the first bakeries established in Bradford, and one of the oldest wooden frame buildings still standing in the city, saw to it that the Landmark Society headquarters were moved into the building in 1970. The Society has been there ever since, and during the bicentennial year, 1976, was open from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM five days a week. Currently, hours are 11:00 AM to 2:00 PM on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
The Society purchased the Crook Farm in 1972, and through its restoration efforts, saw the farmstead nominated to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976. Today, the Crook Farm is the pride of the Society. In May through June, the farm is the scene of an educational experience, as over 2000 school children from Pennsylvania and New York State visit the farm to learn about "the good old days", make candles, attend a one-room school, weave, and, for a day at least, live like the children did at the turn of the century. A replica of the first bank in Bradford, the Whitney Wheeler bank, was erected beside the schoolhouse in 1998.
In the Herbig Bakery, the main headquarters, things are being constantly organized, cataloged, and preserved. Research on Bradford's past is an ongoing project, and more is known now and documented than at any other time in Bradford history. An historical, computerized database is maintained and has over 8,000 entries. The staff gives walking tours of Main Street, gives speeches and seminars, answers inquiries, and does research for a variety of individuals and organizations, including The Bradford Era, neighboring colleges, and internet inquiries. Two historical photograph books, Around Bradford I and II have been published and were received with great enthusiasm in the city. A limited quantity of Volume II is available, however, Volume I is completely sold out.
The Landmark Society enters its 37th year with three goals in mind: collection, preservation, and education. Now that the 21st century has arrived, it becomes more important than ever to grasp hold of the past, as we move into the future.