History of the Bradford House
David Bradford and his house have been an important part of local history from the very beginning. Washington County was erected out of Westmoreland County in March 1781, and Washington, the county seat, was laid out by David Hoge later that same year. It was in the following year, 1782, that David Bradford, born in Maryland about 1760, came to town. Court records show that in April 1782 he was the sixth attorney to be admitted to the Washington County Bar. The brilliant young lawyer quickly established a very successful practice, by 1783 he had been appointed deputy attorney-general for Washington County. In 1786 he began building the first stone house in Washington. In 1788, when it was finished, it probably ranked as a mansion by frontier standards . The magnificent stairway was solid mahogany; the mantel-pieces and other interior furnishings, imported from Philadelphia, were transported across the Alleghenies at considerable expense.
David Bradford did not actually receive the deed for the land (Lots Nos. 16 and 17) until March 16, 1801. In those days "a man's word was considered as good as his bond". At the time of the deed transfer, David Bradford had been living in Spanish West Florida for over six years but the Hoges were as good as their word.
The house was sold to Mr. Kerr in 1803 for 230 barrels of flour and in 1804, the Bradford House became a dry goods store owned by James Blaine and his wife, the former Rebbeca Wilson. They both lived in the house until their deaths. Rachel, Rebecca's sister, married Richard Harding whose daughter Rebecca Harding Davis was born here on June 24, 1831, and later became a novelist. Rebecca Harding Davis's son, Richard Harding Davis became a war correspondent.
In 1900, the Bradford House was owned by Patrick Finn who had a store in the front of the house. From there, the Bradford House became the Washington Furniture Store, a barber shop, and the Liberty Grocery and then the Ryan Grocery Store.
The numerous owners altered the historic structure considerably and through the years fell into a deplorable state of disrepair. During the 1940's the house was partially restored. Finally in 1959 the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission acquired the property and restored the building with another restoration in 1963 to make the house the architectural eighteenth-century showplace that it once had been. It is now the oldest building in Washington and one of the most historic sites in the county.
Shown on the left, below is the "Livery Feed and Sales Stable" owned by W. T. S. McDonough. The next building is the Clarence Ryan Grocery Store (Bradford House) which opened around 1920. The building on the extreme right is the U. S. Express Co.
By the 1960's much had changed. Here the store(Express Co.) on the right of the Bradford House (the Ryan Grocery store) is being torn down to permit the remodeling and preservation of the Bradford House - 1960.
By 1963 the Stable to the left of the Bradford House (Ryan Grocery Store) had come down. This picture may show some of the additions to the building during the late 1800's or very early 1900's such as: stained glass windows, decorations over the second story windows, decorations by first floor windows. We assume that the large first floor windows were installed before 1920 when the Ryan Store opened.
The newly restored house in 1965 just prior to its official opening.
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