Town of Bethlehem Connecticut

 

Old Bethlem Historical Society, Inc.
PO Box 132
Bethlehem, CT 06751
(203) 266-5196

cbrown@bethlehemct.org

Museum Availability:
Any time by appointment. 

To make an appointment, call 203-266-5196

and leave a message, or send an email to cbrown@bethlehemct.org.

 

 

 

See "About The Old Bethlem Historical Society" below for more details.

Located on the northeast corner of the green on Route  61, the museum is the former town office building and fire department.  

(All photos courtesy of Old Bethlem Historical Society, Inc.)

STATEMENT OF PURPOSE
To preserve and protect Bethlehem's historical sites and pertinent information.


The Lauren Ford poster of "Epiphany in Bethlehem" is available by mail by sending a check for $20 made payable to OBHSI and mailed to:

Old Bethlem Historical Society
Po Box 132
Bethlehem, CT  0675l


 

About The Old Bethlem Historical Society:

Old Bethlem Historical Society was established in 1968 to promote and preserve Bethlehem's history.  The Old Bethlem Museum was established in 1976 when the society bought from the town the former town office building and fire department. This 1941 brick building was designed by resident George Hatch and built on the foundation of the Methodist Church built in 1840 (which was razed in 1929.) Totally refurbished in 1987 for the Bethlehem Bicentennial, the museum houses an assemblage of costumes, tools, and articles used during the late 19th and early 20th century.  Of special note is the large church bell on the front lawn and the stones which edge the lower parking lot.  They were saved, by the Root family, from the Methodist Church.   The Roots, recognizing the historic significance of these artifacts, donated the stones and bell to the Society in 1976.  The bell, which has an excellent resonance, is rung for special occasions. 
 
A tour of the Museum may be pleasantly combined with a picnic on the Green, lunch at one of Bethlehem's restaurants, a visit to the Bellamy-Ferriday House and Garden (which is across the street) and a drive through the Litchfield Hills. Special Group Tours may be arranged in advance by writing to the Old Bethlem Historical Society, Inc. PO Box 132, Bethlehem, CT 06751, calling us at 203-266-5196, or
emailing us at cbrown@bethlehemct.org. Tours take approximately one-half hour.

The District #1 Schoolhouse is open during the Christmas Town Festival, the first Friday & Saturday in December, and before and after the Memorial Day Parade. The schoolhouse was built circa 1850 and was one of eight in Bethlehem. It was later used as the town's library and then as a storeroom for Christ Episcopal Church. The society has restored the building to be used as a living museum.

Both society buildings, the museum and the schoolhouse, are open any time by appointment. Make an appointment by calling us at 203-266-5196, or emailing us at cbrown@bethlehemct.org.

Membership: Individual - $15    Family - $20     Life Individual - $150     Life Couple - $200

Senior/Student - $10    Business - $50    Corporate - $100

 

Donations may also be made to the Arnold E. Smith Memorial Scholarship, or the Roy Shapard Archival Photo Preservation Fund

Mailing Address: OBHSI, PO Box 132, Bethlehem, CT  06751

   

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ARCH BRIDGE

Built 1886-1887 over Wood Creek, which flows into the Weekeepeemee River, the bridge cost $1050.00. Photo taken in January 1887

 

BETHLEHEM FAIR 1946

John Morrissey on the left of the sign with Milt Grabow  right of sign, an unidentified man, and Paul Johnson, longtime fair president on the far right. After World War II, the fair society bought Benedict Field.

   

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THE BENEDICTS

Part of the Benedict Farm became the Bethlehem Fairgrounds.  This is a photograph of Mr. James Benedict and his seven sons.  The photograph has been given by Mrs. Neal Benedict.  Standing: Henry (died when 19 years old), Neal (New York businessman), Lorenzo (wealthy banker of New Jersey).  Seated:  Roswell (attorney and musician), Edgar (farmer) Samuel (business man), James (the father, Civil War veteran and loved his greenhouse) and James (head of the Smithsonian).

BELLAMY-FERRIDAY HOUSE

Built in 1754 for the Reverend Joseph Bellamy, it is the site of the first theological seminary in the United States.  Aaron Burr was one of Rev. Bellamy's pupils.  Philanthropist Caroline Ferriday was the last owner of the house which is now a property of Connecticut Landmarks and open to the public. Photo circa 1890.

   

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BIRD TAVERN

More recently known as the Woodward house at the northwest corner of the green, it was built by Samuel Church in 1740.  At one time it served as a Post Office. Photo circa 1920

THE CENTER STORE

Bethlehem's oldest mercantile building, its exact age is unknown, but it was probably built in about 1830. Photo circa 1900.

   

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THE GREEN

Three of Bethlehem's oldest houses. The Backus House, on the left, was moved from the Bellamy property. The Old Post Tavern, on the right, was known for years as the Risley House. It was built in about 1738. Photo date unknown.

HARD HILL SCHOOL

The only brick schoolhouse built on Thompson land in 1856 with Mary Ames, age 16, as teacher (later to be mother  of Viola and Ames Minor).  One attempt to reopen it as a school (with Italian to be taught) failed, and the town was forced to tear it down in the 1950's.

   

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CHRIST CHURCH & DISTRICT #1 SCHOOLHOUSE

The schoolhouse has been restored by the Old Bethlem Historical Society. It served as the town's library for many years. Photo circa 1900.

BETHLEHEM'S CONSOLIDATED SCHOOL

 

In 1922 the state required the town to consolidate its schools into one new building. On September 7, 1926, the new school opened with four classrooms and 93 students.

   

"CENTRE" SCHOOL -

AMERICAN LEGION HALL

Built in 1840 as a town office building on Jackson land south of Christ Church, the upstairs was eventually used as a school along with the chapel across the street as the population grew.

BLESSING OF THE HOUNDS

CHRIST EPISCOPAL CHURCH

This Thanksgiving morning tradition was sponsored by Christ Episcopal Church.  John Lemay, longtime master of the hunt and the Litchfield County Hounds, leads the way around the green and into the fields.

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