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

 

Museum Availability:
Any time by appointment. 

To make an appointment, call 203-266-5196 or 203-266-5188 and leave a message.

 

See "About The Old Bethlem Historical Society"

below for more details.

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

Located on the northeast corner of the green on Route  61, the museum is the former town office building and fire department.   The society has exhibits during the summer months.

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



As previously announced Bethlehem's Bloss Family Quilt will be featured in the upcoming Connecticut Quilts and Quiltmakers book compiled by the Connecticut Quilt Search Project.  The work tells the history of our town and its remarkable quilt.  Here's an excerpt: "...the Bloss family was instrumental in the establishment of the Episcopal Church in Bethlem.  Planning meetings began at the home of George Bloss (whose name is on the quilt) on Carmel Hill around September 1806...By 1831, Christ Episcopal Church of Bethlem was built and consecrated.  The Bloss quilt is undoubtedly the finest signature quilt in the Album pattern documented by the...project...The colors of the printed fabric are still vibrant.  There are 36 names inscribed on the quilt.  The most frequently appearing surnames are Allen, Bloss, and Bishop.  The Bloss family arrived from the town of Killingly in 1765 and established one of the first apple orchards for commercial purchase."  Past president Doris Nicholls, who had received the quilt in 1989 from Esther Candee Beach in Arkansas, brought it to the first documentation day of the project back in 1993.  Like the Noah Benedict 1790 eulogy for Joseph Bellamy, the Bloss Quilt was lovingly kept safe for over a century and returned by distant people who fondly remembered our town.  "Fortunately for Connecticut's quilt history, it found its way back home."  And Old Beth is privileged to be the guardian of these two well-traveled treasures.

Carol Ann Brown, President

 


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, or you may telephone 203-266-5196.  Tours take approximately one-half hour.

District #1 Schoolhouse is open during the Christmas Town Festival the first weekend in December and before and after the Memorial Day Parade.  Both society buildings, the museum and the schoolhouse, are open any time by appointment by calling 203-266-5196 or 203-266-5188 and leaving a message.   The District #1 Schoolhouse was built in circa 1850 and was one of eight in Bethlehem.  Later the town's library and a storeroom for the Christ Episcopal Church, the society has restored the building to be used as a living museum.

 

Membership: Individual - $10    Family - $15     Life Individual - $150     Life Couple - $200

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 the Antiquarian and Landmarks Society 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 probably built around 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.  On the right is the Old Post Tavern for years known as the Risley House built 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 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 is 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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