Preservation underway for historic Bedford church

Since 1832, the white church building that sits high on the hilltop in the center of Bedford has served as a beacon in the community, welcoming people of all backgrounds through its wide doors for concerts, lectures, Boy Scout meetings, weddings, funerals, senior luncheons, craft fairs, counseling and recovery programs.

Bedford history cannot be told without countless mentions of Bedford Presbyterian Church.

While the church itself, founded in 1749, is thriving, the foundation upon which it was built is literally crumbling. Drive by and you’ll note the commanding pillars are gone; the portico is now held up by steel beams. The front steps – what remains – is a pile of rubble.

The building, which was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2007, is now undergoing a major restoration. Repairs are underway to make the entryway safe again. The church plans to repair or replace pillars, pilasters, plinth blocks, railings, steps, trim and molding, and repaint the exterior. The roof was replaced last year.

How far the church goes with repairs over the next three years will depend on how much is raised. The church has begun a capital campaign to raise money from the roughly 280-member households, with a target of $550,000. And a public GoFundMe campaign has begun with a target of $150,000.

The building’s significance is impressive. Its Federal-style architecture is expressed in its three-stage tower with arched belfry and domed octagonal lantern. The Ionic portico is a Colonial Revival-style addition, executed in 1894 according to design by noted Boston architect Alexander Wadsworth Longfellow Jr. The exterior has been changed only by sympathetically executed additions and retains its original detailing.

Inside, the church has retained much of its original woodwork along with its box pews and rear gallery.

The clock in the church tower was installed in 1898 and is still wound manually once a week. In 1942, the church bell was approved as an air raid signal.

The public is invited to participate by sharing memories of the church building and by making donations at www.gofundme.com/bedfordpc.

For more information about the church building, its history and its place in the history of the town of Bedford, visit bedfordpresbyterian.org or bedfordpresbyterian.org/files/3513/7069/3550/Book-of-Remembrance-Bedford-Presbyterian.pdf.

For more information about Bedford history, visit ia700407.us.archive.org/25/items/historyofbedford00bedf/historyofbedford00bedf.pdf or ia600501.us.archive.org/4/items/cu31924028812852/cu31924028812852.pdf.