Movin’ On – Bedford Historical Society Packs Up for Relocation to Old Town Hall

Display cases crowd the hallway outside the Bedford Historical Society’s office within the police station ~ Image (c) JMcCT 2021 all rights reserved ~ Click to view the image at full size

 

Volunteers and staff work side by side in the office – Click to view the image at full size

Woburn-based Spry Moving & Storage likes to be challenged. “We are professional office movers, hospital, laboratory and equipment handlers, packers, home, and piano movers,” announces the firm’s website.

But wait – there’s more: “We have relocated many state agencies, including the Registry of Motor Vehicles, Department of Revenue, the Department of Public Health, the administrative offices of the trial courts.”

So Spry shouldn’t be intimidated by a four-foot-square handmade diorama depicting the skirmish at Bloody Angle in Lincoln that unfolded on April 19, 1775. That location is embedded in Bedford’s historical memory – that’s where Jonathan Willson, captain of the Minutemen, lost his life during the British retreat from Concord.

The diorama, crafted by former Bedford Library caretaker Ralph Hayes, is one of the more unusual items in the vast Bedford Historical Society archives that will be transported by Spry Moving from the police station to the first floor of Old Town Hall, probably around the end of October. The move could take as long as a week.

The relocation is necessitated by the imminent construction and renovation of the police facility, which has been the home of the Historical Society and its collection for decades – preceding the conversion of the building to a police station.

Currently, the vacant ground floor space in Old Town Hall is being used by the Fire Department for storage, some in connection with Covid-19 testing. The departure is targeted for this autumn, said Facilities Director Taissir Alani.

Curiosities in the Collection

 

The collection of documents, photographs, and historical items will have more room to breathe at its new destination – at about 1,200 square feet, the ground floor is about three times the current space allocated to the society’s offices and storage.

But the ground floor is still considered a waystation because the society’s long-range plan is for a town museum on the first two floors (with displays also on the top floor). The idea has been under consideration by town officials for several years but is stalled because the second-story space serves as the studio and offices of Bedford TV.

Don Corey, who chairs the Historical Society Board, and Tom Kinzer, president, met recently with Mike Dorr, operations manager at Spry, to review the details of the move. “As with many things, the move seems to be getting more complicated as time goes on,” Corey cracked.

Corey, who has made so much Bedford history himself as an elected official and volunteer leader for almost five decades, is the Historical Society’s point person for the relocation.

Here are some examples of the unusual items that Spry might want to add to its website promotion:

  • The musket belonging to Nathaniel Page, cornet of the Bedford Minutemen, who carried the Bedford Flag on April 18, 1775. “He didn’t just go to battle with a flag,” Corey pointed out. There’s also an older musket that belonged to the Stearns family.
  • A patent for an invention by Jonathan Bacon. The patent was signed by President Andrew Jackson, who, Corey joked, “apparently had nothing better to do than sign patents.”
  • A cobbler’s bench and other remnants of the shoemaking industry, an early 19th-century craft that helped change the town’s character. There are also relics from the many dairy farms, some of which did their own marketing, Corey said.
  • “A lot of things that are unique to Bedford,” such as items from the Bedford Springs resort and the Lexington Park zoo.

Part of the transfer is straightforward: thousands of documents are stored in archival boxes. There are also 10 shelving units with a capacity for about 300 boxes. Then there’s another shelving unit with historical clothing items. Currently “those literally go up to the ceiling,” Corey reported. There are many old books and microfilm records.

Documents and Books

Also on the moving list is an inventory of furniture, such as a glass-front bookcase that measures 77 inches long and more than seven feet tall. The movers also will be handling other glass-front bookcases, storage cabinets, an antique desk, tables, and chairs.

Before the Historical Society moves in, Alani said, the rooms will be cleaned and painted. The Society also wants surveillance cameras and window and door alarms installed. Corey said security is an expense covered under Community Preservation funding and is used at the Job Lane House and the freight house at Bedford Depot.

Some things are older than others

 

“At the ground level, it would be easy to break through those windows,” he observed. More than two decades ago, he related, an intruder took a musket belonging to Lt. Eleazar Davis – the namesake of Davis School — through a broken window. That was before the police station was at the address.

Corey pointed out that moving the Historical Society to the ground floor of Old Town Hall restores space lost to the group when the police station moved to the current location. That reduced the space from 1,200 square feet to less than 400, and one result is archives stored in corridors, the barn at the Job Lane House, and the homes of society officers, Corey said. “We are moving into about the same space the town gave us 46 years ago.”

Will the Bedford Minuteman remain on guard in the Historical Society’s new headquarters

Once the relocation is complete, the public will have some access to the new quarters, Corey said. He hopes the Historical Society can put together wall displays for ground-floor corridors and other parts of the building, including the front foyer that is only accessible as an exit from the third floor.

“It makes sense to have our regular program meetings upstairs in the Great Room,” Corey said, referring to the top floor, and the society is working out a schedule with Fay Russo, Town Center director, who manages the schedule for the Old Town Hall.

Corey thanked other society officers and members for helping with the transition – Town Historian Sharon McDonald, Kara Kerwin, Paul Purchia, Jan van Steenwijk, Lee Vorderer, and Executive Director Kristine Moore.

Mike Rosenberg can be reached at mike@thebedfordcitizen.org, or 781-983-1763


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