This page created by Angela Fronzaglio and Liz Mulholland
The David Bradford House, located on South Main Street, Washington, has been a Washington County landmark since its construction in the late 1700s. After fleeing from arrest warrants during the Whiskey Rebellion, Bradford left his newly-built home, and through the years it has changed hands but always been well-preserved (except in the days when coffins and furniture were sold from it!). Today the house is a historical landmark, with a non-profit organization founded for its preservation. The house and its surrounding land have been restored to historical likenesses, and it is open to the public as a museum highlighting its historical significance to the Washington area.
This house was built for David Bradford, a successful lawyer, businessman, and Deputy Attorney General of Washington County. Construction on the house began at the site on South Main Street in 1786 and was completed in 1788 at the same location on which it still stands. David Bradford and his family lived in the house from 1788 until 1794. Their stay was not as long as they had originally planned, due to the local chaos of the Whiskey Rebellion. It was rumored that troops were to be sent to David Bradford's home to arrest him, so he and his family fled to the South to avoid the arrest.
Today, the house still is standing, restored and preserved, at its original location on South Main Street. The house is now under the care of a non-profit organization where volunteers assist in the preservation and public awareness of the history behind the house and the Bradford family.
Since its construction in 1768 to its acquisition by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission in 1959, the Bradford House has been a landmark of importance in the Washington area. Testaments to the house's significance have been the awarding of grants to restore and preserve the house to 18th century standards, as well as the time spent and loving dedication given to the house and its foundation by the volunteers who want the house to retain all of the original glory that it has held in its 200-year-plus history. The Bradford House, during its operating months of May through October, is open four days each week to guests for tours and field trips. In keeping the house open to the public, the organization hopes to educate the house's neighbors and tourists not only about the history of the Washington area itself, but also the historical significance of Bradford's role in the Whiskey Rebellion, as well as that of the house itself.
Each year the Bradford House gives exposure to local artists and celebrates the Washington community with the sale of illustrated calendars; the calendars feature seasonal depictions of local historical sites, and proceeds of the sale benefit the organization for the upkeep and ongoing projects of the house. The Bradford House organization also sponsors a symposium focused upon the culture of the Washington area (and the other areas like Washington that were then considered the "frontier" of the country!) in the context of the 18th century, the time in which the house was built and its owner lived.
There are a few W&J students whose love of history has led them to volunteer at the Bradford House. These students volunteer by participating in reenactment scenes within the house for visitors to watch. There is also a tie between Washington & Jefferson College's History Department and the Bradford House. Some students found out about this opportunity to volunteer through the W&J History Club. During the fall semesters in the past, Freshman Forum classes have also visited this house and were given a tour and lectures on the history of David Bradford and his house.
This October 25th the Bradford House and Washington & Jefferson College will be co-sponsoring a "Call for Papers" for a symposium event on the politics, religion, and culture of the territories west of the Alleghenies between 1750 and 1800. The papers are to be submitted by June 30, 2008 and winning papers will be presented at this event. It is important for Washington & Jefferson College to impress upon its students the importance of the historical background of the surrounding community.
While a nonetheless impressive work of masonry, and obviously built to last, the David Bradford House by today's standards seems dwarfed and antiquated - and depending on your opinion of 'old things,' that may either be a positive or negative aspect of the house. However, take one look at the house and there will be no denying that it deserves the special place it holds among the other architecture of South Main Street in Washington. The structure itself, standing tall with centuries-old tan stones that have held tightly in place since the late 1700s (with windows and a roof all trimmed with charming antique cornice work), seems to embrace the way in which it stands as an anachronism, with businesses on either side, overlooking an incessantly busy street in downtown Washington. The blue and gold sign on the front walk that announces the house's significance to both the history of the Washington area, as well as to the then-newly founded country, appears to call out to quickly passing pedestrians (and even quicker-passing drivers) to stop and look at the house. And while you might personally despise history or dismiss it as a the desperate grasping of old men to days gone by, it would be difficult for you, regardless, to glance at the house and the sign and ignore either of them. The house has seen two centuries of pedestrians (and barely one century of drivers) pass it by, and though the sign seems to embody a sense of urgency, the house just as much seems to embody patience: it will wait to tell its stories until you, or any of the other busy passersby, are ready to hear them.
I get to wear funny, old costumes! I love the fact that as a college student at W&J I am still playing dress-up. Some people might imagine a volunteer opportunity at the Bradford House as boring and low key but that is not what you would find. Myself along with other members of the W&J History Club volunteer with other members of the community to reenact the escape of David Bradford. We wear traditional clothing from his time and memorize scripts. We like to put a twist on what we are reading so we graciously change some of the words around for our amusement.
I got involved with the Bradford House because I thought it was a great opportunity that not many students would have the chance to do. The idea was proposed during a W&J History Club meeting. Although I have not encouraged any students to get involved thus far I did volunteer with a good handful of people and would recommend this opportunity to anyone interested in history, acting, or the city of Washington in general.
It is easy for anyone to get involved that wants to. All you need to do is contact the Director of the Bradford House, Clay Kilgore, and ask for information about the reenactment. They may be able to use volunteers at any time, and of course, people can also get involved by visiting the house and supporting the site! The Bradford House is part of Washington's proud heritage and I'm sure the city holds it dear but I'm not sure about how often the city and the Bradford House work together for certain events. Even though the Bradford House does enlist the help of W&J students occasionally, many students don't know anything about the Bradford House and it would be nice to see W&J promote the Bradford House, along with other important sites in Washington, to the students.
Head north on South Lincoln Street towards East Beau Street
Turn left at East Beau Street
Turn left at South Main Street
End at 175 South Main Street
Phone: (724) 222-3604
Mail: The Bradford House
P.O. Box 537
Washington, PA 15301
The Bradford House's home page
A great site to check out for the history of David Bradford and the Whiskey Rebelliion
Special thanks to Hilary Miller and Jeff Tomaino for their help with this page!