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I am history. I am tall and stately and, if I say so myself, I am again as beautiful as I once was. But the world can be challenging, and there was a time when I thought my life was over. Mine has been a story of rebellion, a story of family, a story of perseverance, and yes, a story of love.
People were born, lived, and died within my walls. My best memories? The smells and the stories that crept into my walls when I was a grocery store; the sadness when I was an undertaker's parlor.
I am named for my creator. I am the David Bradford House.
I was built stone by beautiful stone in 1788, lovingly brought to life by David Bradford. I was home to him and his wife Elizabeth and their four engaging children, proud to be the first stone house on Main Street.
Every elegant lady loves her nails — mine were handmade wrought iron. I'm not bragging, but my cornice work was made in England, my steps cost a guinea apiece, and all my woodwork is mahogany. I had a circular staircase to the servant's quarters, yes I did!
I cherished my family — the children's laughter tickled my timbers. Then one day Mr. Bradford went away. I sheltered his wife and children, keeping them safe and warm as they cried for their Daddy. But Daddy didn't come back. And then I suffered a shock, one that still takes my chimney's breath away. As a young house, I did not know that the Bradford's were not my forever family. They packed their belongings, loaded them on wagons, and left me.
I was sold.
I felt so abandoned, but then learned to adapt as I sheltered family after family. There was Mrs. Andersen and her child — the whispers! A woman living alone without a man! I hid them from the impertinent eyes of nosy neighbors.
Soon, the National Road ran right past my front windows! Stagecoaches and big, lumbering Conestoga wagons covered my windows with their dust.
How I cherish my memories of the Wilsons — seventy-eight years, four generations under my protection. I rejoiced in that magic moment when a woman's pain turns to joy and her baby cries for the first time. The energy of each baby's birth still reverberates off my walls.
I remember little Amy sitting by the window with her beloved doll, and the Irish immigrant maids who prayed in their "luv-ly" accents.
But everything changes, and when my favorite family packed their belongings, I thought my hearth would grow cold. I felt important when a banker bought me, but he only lived three years and then there was a new family with children, the Finns. I became a grocery store. People in and out all day! Such excitement! My walls definitely have ears. I knew all the gossip, triumphs and tragedies in town; I overheard every secret plot, plan and promise.
Then I became a house of sorrow, offering solace, comfort and warmth to those who had lost loved ones. We gave the dear departed a proper sendoff. I am happy to say that none of them were restless enough to stay on as ghosts.
One of the younger Finns took over and made me back into a grocery store. Ahhhhhh — the gossip! I was fun again!
I was aging. Badly. My walls were buckling; my chimney sagged. When Charles William McWreath bought me in 1946, he found out how expensive I was. I overheard him discussing my fate — I was to become a parking lot. My shutters… shuddered.
Then I met my one true love. What can you say about the man who saved your life? James Lyon took one look at me and we both fell in love.
The state historical commission bought me and James (Mr. Lyon — may I call you James?) lovingly oversaw the work to bring me back to my former glory. My fireplaces warmed again. My walls were steady and strong. My glass sparkled.
Fifty years ago, I became an historic house. Because of the generosity of the people of Washington, my current trustees have a chance to buy me from the state. Now I am a museum — and this time it IS forever! They love me and I can assure you, the feeling is mutual.
Carriages and Conestogas once passed me by. Now yellow school buses bring me children whose joy rocks my beams.
Come and see me. Bring me your curiosity, bring me your love of history, bring me your sense of tradition.
Feel the energy in my walls, hear my stories, my secrets, my hopes, my memories. I am the David Bradford House, in service to my beloved humans for more than 200 years.