A Day in Bedford County is a Reviving Trip Back in Time
By Rege Behe, PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Monday, June 21, 2010
Bedford, a little more than 120 miles east of Pittsburgh, might be best known for being the stop on the Pennsylvania turnpike before Breezewood. But this charming town, settled in the early 1750s, is awash in history and nostalgia. First known as Raystown, the town took its current name from the British fort established there in 1759. It became a key site in the Whiskey Rebellion, with President George Washington arriving there in 1794 with 13,000 troops in tow.
Today, it’s a cozy small town that looks and feels like a Norman Rockwell painting. The shopkeepers are friendly, the town is clean and manageable, and there’s even ample free parking for visitors.
Old Bedford Village successfully re-creates the feel of an 18th-century village, with about 50 buildings on the grounds reassembled from sites in Bedford County. There’s everything a family from that period would need — a doctor’s office, carriage house, general store, schools and a church — along with period-specific crafts such as a whitesmith (a tin maker) and a basket shop. Re-enactors often are present, notably the blacksmith and coopersmith. Feather’s Bakery serves great cookies and other snacks, and, on certain days, the Pendergrass Tavern (modeled on the pub that sat outside the walls of Fort Bedford in the 1750s) serves simple repasts from days of yore. Make sure you say hi to Jack, the white cat with brown, black and gray markings, who roams the grounds as the unofficial mascot.
Upcoming events include Gunfiight at the OK Corral on Saturday and Sunday, and an 1820s Weekend on July 17 and 18.
Old Bedford Village, 220 Sawblade Road, Bedford. Hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily through Labor Day; closed Wednesdays. After Labor Day, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursdays to Sundays. Admission: $10 adults, $5 students, under 6, free. Details: 800-238-4347 or here.
Head south to Bedford, just a few minutes away. The downtown area has the feel of mid-20th century America, with small shops and restaurants lining the streets.
For lunch, stop at the Green Harvest Company, which features a variety of teas, coffees, pastries and breakfast and lunch entrees. The decor is simple but comfortable, and many of the menu items are fit for the health-conscious. Notable was a tropical shrimp wrap ($6.65), which featured chilled shrimp, greens, pineapple, coconut, onions and green peppers.
For bargain hunters and antique collectors, Founder’s Crossing is a must. Located in a building that once was home to a G.C. Murphy’s store, the co-op of 145 dealers features three floors of crafts and collectibles, from old photos to housewares and jewelry to knickknacks. Plan on spending at least an hour here browsing through the many items. There’s also a small cafe, The Eatery, on site.
Details: The Green Harvest Company, 110 E. Pitt St.. Hours: 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays to Saturdays. Details: 814-623-3465 or here.
Founders Crossing, 100 S. Juliana St. Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays to Saturdays; noon to 3 p.m. Sundays. Details: 814-623-9120.
Stop at the Bedford County Convention Bureau for a walking tour. From a Civil War monument to Fort Bedford to the Espy House, where George Washington commandeered troops to quell the Whiskey Rebellion, it seems there’s a remnant of history on almost every street corner. A self-guided walking tour of downtown Bedford takes about 30 minutes. Every Friday through the end of October, free guided tours are offered at 3:30 p.m. starting at the convention bureau, and lasting about 90 minutes.
There are 14 covered bridges in Bedford County, ranging from Turner’s Bridge, which sits off a gravel road near Mann’s Choice, to Snook’s Bridge just north of Spring Meadow. Ten of the bridges still are drivable (four are privately owned, but accessible for photos). A complete tour takes up to three hours, but shorter tours can be mapped that last half that time. It’s possible to visit just one or two bridges. Maps and other information are available at the Bedford County Convention Bureau.
Details: Bedford County Convention Bureau, 131 S. Juliana St. Details: 800-765-3331 or here.
No visit to Bedford County is complete without a stop at the refurbished Omni Bedford Springs Resort & Spa. Since it opened in 1806 as the Bedford Springs Resort, the property has hosted presidents, diplomats and celebrities, many of whom came to be nourished by the renowned restorative powers of the nearby springs.
The venue has been refurbished and re-opened in 2007 after years of decline. There are tempting dining options, notably in the elegant Crystal Room or the cozy Frontier Room, and live entertainment is offered on weekends. The setting, no matter what you’re there for, is simply breathtaking.
Details: Omni Bedford Springs Resort, 2138 Business Route 220. Details: 814-623-8100 or here.