Bedford Historical Society’s wine gala raises $9K for Stevens-Buswell project

A festive Wine Tasting Gala and Silent Auction, hosted on May 1 by the Bedford Historical Society, drew bidders for scores of wondrous items contributed by local sponsors. The event, a second annual, was held at the EastPoint Executive Center, 264 South River Road.

The event, hosted by the Perfecta Wine Company with Master of Ceremonies John Clayton, raised more than $9,200 for the continuing renovation of the Stevens-Buswell Community Center, a two-story structure that formerly was a school. It is located alongside Town Office at 22 N. Amherst St.

The Candia Road Brewing Company was new to the event this year, but dozens of local businesses returned for the second time to support the project. Accordion tunes by wandering musician David Moore, of Bedford, made a lively background. Participation from bluAqua restaurant, Cupcakes 101, The Fresh Market, Harvest Market, Laurel Hill Jams & Jellies, Shorty’s Mexican Roadhouse and Tek-Nique restaurant made the evening extra special.

Photographer Nelia Gibson captured the beauty of floral decorations by PJ’s Flowers and many of the evening’s activities. The logo for the event’s program booklet and various posters used to garner publicity were rendered by Kristie Poltronieri, whose sepia image of two tilted wine glasses, touching as if in a toast, each bore inside their globes an antique photo of the Stevens-Buswell School, circa 1921.

Moore and his girlfriend, Sabrina Avedisian, praised the event. They operate the Moore School of Music.

“It was really fun,” Moore said. “I saw familiar faces and met some nice folks. The food was amazing and there were quite a few auction items. You could walk around and see all the different items up for bid.”

Some photos of the Stevens-Buswell School, named for Willis A. Stevens and Frank A. Buswell, who died in World War I, were displayed at the event. The landmark building once was a bustling, educational hub for local youth.

The school eventually closed. The building slid into disrepair. Rafters rotted. Leaks encouraged mold to grow in its dark interiors. Some of its glass panes lay in shards on the ground around the perimeter. Nevertheless, the school’s role in the history of Bedford was not forgotten by those who would become its stewards – members of the Bedford Historical Society.

Sponsor Sue Stretch, of Laurel Hill Jams & Jellies, said she will welcome the completion of the new community center. She made three kinds of wine into jellies for the occasion. Each bore a label commemorating the Second Annual Bedford Historical Society Wine Tasting and Silent Auction.

“It takes a lot of planning and organization to host an event like this,” Stretch said. “It’s a good time. I get to see people I may not see until we meet up at the Bedford Farmers Market, starting June 17.”

The volunteers from the Bedford Historical Society chatted with visitors at the event. All agreed the community center project has seen steady forward motion. Efforts between volunteers, business enterprises, civic organizations and foundations focused on the preservation of history and culture, along with the concern of many individuals have gone far to resurrect the old school.

According to the society’s website, a new roof is in place. Asbestos removal and mold remediation are completed. New basement windows are installed. A new electrical system, including new wiring, switches and plugs, is finished.

Other work, including the framing of partitions and work on the housing of an elevator shaft, plus the installation of new, buried utilities and the repair of a concrete floor in the basement now are jobs completed. Numerous vintage accents, such as antique lighting fixtures and an antique chalkboard almost as wide as one of the interior walls, are wrapped, stored and awaiting their reintroduction to the building.

Efforts to secure heating and air conditioning systems, plus a generous amount of money-saving insulation are ongoing. The dream awaiting fruition is to have a community center where people will enjoy meetings, concerts, educational classes, club gatherings, banquets and many other types of assemblies.

Event organizers of the wine tasting and auction included Bedford Historical Society co-presidents Joan Shaw Reeves and Margaret Wiggin and past-president Susan Tufts-Moore. The trio expressed, on the greeting of an attractive event booklet, the hope that proceeds raised will help continue the preservation and rehabilitation of the Stevens-Buswell School for use as a community center.

The building was constructed in 1921. It was enlarged in 1938 and currently is owned by the town. It was noted on the welcome that the society began the building’s rehabilitation in September 2010 and is currently the building’s lease holder. Some $200,000 is needed to complete the work. Many major improvements already have been finished.

The fundraiser went far toward helping with the goal. The event brought together participants who sampled a wide variety of wines. In addition, visitors could buy a wine bottle tagged with a label that corresponded to a prize valued at $20 or more. Guests meandered through the EastPoint Executive Center to view the items up for bidding.

Three large rooms in the Executive Center were filled with exhibits of auction prizes and raffle prizes. Many reflected Bedford themes. The Bedford Zoo auction room, the Stevens-Buswell auction room and the John Goffe’s Mill auction room held treasures ranging from artwork to gift baskets to tickets for sporting events.

The Stevens-Buswell Room was especially bright with colorful auction items. A set of four tickets to NASCAR races in July at New Hampshire Motor Speedway were tagged with a value of $360. A basket of edible delights from Bedford’s Fresh Market, valued at $95, needed only a bottle of wine to be a picnic in the making.

The evening ebbed and a lightly falling rain suspended its drizzle until folks were safely ensconced in their cars. Brendan Kelley, of Tek-Nique restaurant at the Village Shoppes of Bedford, deemed the event one not to miss.

“It was a great event,” Kelley said. “It was our second year doing it and it was great to give our support back to the community.”

Victoria Wisner, chair of the wine gala for both years of its presentation and an active member of the board, said the wine gala was a huge success.

“We would like to thank the sponsors and the community alike,” Wisner said. “Old friends and new friends gathered to raise money for the Stevens-Buswell Community Center. We raised over $9,200 to go towards the work.”

The Bedford Historical Society, based in one of the town’s original schoolhouses alongside the Town Office on North Amherst Road, will host another big event from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 2.

That day, the group will present its ninth annual Antique & Classic Car & Truck Show, on the grass at Sportsman Field, across from Bedford High School.

Meanwhile, those with an interest in local history may consider visiting the society’s museum, open 10 a.m. to noon Wednesdays.

For more information on joining the Bedford Historical Society or on its efforts to preserve the Stevens-Buswell Schoolhouse as a community center, visit