Bus tour groups traveling through southwestern Pennsylvania will want to schedule a stop in this historic city, site of the famous Whiskey Rebellion – one of the first tests of America’s new democratic government.
In 1794, David Bradford, a successful local attorney and the Deputy Attorney General for Washington County, led frontier farmers in protest of the high federal whiskey excise tax in what would become known as the Whiskey Rebellion. In response, President George Washington sent General “Light Horse Harry” Lee, along with 13,000 troops, to quell the insurrection.
Bradford eluded arrest and escaped to what is now Louisiana, while 150 “whiskey rebels” were taken back to Philadelphia. President Washington pardoned all participants – except for Bradford, who was finally pardoned for his role by President John Adams in 1799.
Bradford’s Pennsylvania home, which came to symbolize the rebellion, also reflected its owner’s high social standing. The stone for the exterior was quarried near Washington, while the interior decorations came from the east and had to be transported across the mountains at great expense. The magnificent mahogany staircase and the interior wood finishes show remarkable craftsmanship. When it was completed in 1788, the home was an architectural showpiece, especially given that the majority of the town’s residents lived in small log cabins.
Restored to its 18th century glory in 1965, today, the Bradford House’s beauty and heritage are preserved as a museum for visitors to experience. The house was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973 and designated a National Historic Landmark in 1983.
Bradford House Museum is open to the public Wednesdays, April through November, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Saturdays, May through September, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Group tours can be scheduled throughout the year with 48 hours’ notice, except for Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. The two-story home has a parlor, dining room and warming kitchen downstairs and three bedrooms upstairs, and the grounds include a garden and a replica of the home’s original outdoor log cabin kitchen.
Buses can unload at the museum’s entrance and park for free on either side of the street. A step-on guide can provide an introduction if requested. Bus passengers are divided into smaller groups for the tour, with one beginning upstairs, a second downstairs and a third outside. Trained docents in 18th century attire guide tour passengers through the house, garden and kitchen cabin, and they can adapt the presentation for any group or interest. The museum has no elevator, but the downstairs and outdoor features are handicap-accessible and can accommodate wheelchairs.
Tour planners should allow 1 to 1.5 hours for a guided tour. Bradford House can accommodate groups up to 100. For larger groups, museum staff suggests a combined tour with the nearby LeMoyne House, Pennsylvania’s first National Historic Landmark of the Underground Railroad; a walking tour of historic downtown Washington; or a tour of the historic Washington County Courthouse, built in 1900 at a cost of $1,000,000 and still in use today. Cost: $5 per person for Bradford House only; $10 per for both museums; $10 for both museums and a walking tour. The tour escort and bus driver are admitted for free.
A variety of Washington restaurants, both local eateries and national chains, welcome large groups. Favorites among tour groups are Angelo’s and SpringHouse Market.
Tour groups can spend a few hours, a day or several days in Washington. Bradford House Museum is located at 175 South Main Street, close to other historic sites and places of interest for tour groups. The Duncan & Miller Glass Museum features a stunning collection of glass, glassmaking tools and memorabilia from 1870-1955, when the glassmaking company was in operation. The Pennsylvania Trolley Museum offers a four-mile trolley ride, tours of display buildings with nearly 50 trolleys, video presentations, exhibits, a museum store and picnic area. Both are within three miles of Bradford House. Within walking distance are Mingo Creek Craft Distillers, Red Pump Spirits and The Washington Winery. Combined tours can be planned with any of these establishments.
Tour passengers visiting Washington can also indulge in some gaming at the Meadowlands Racetrack & Casino or get some retail therapy at the Tanger Outlets Pittsburgh. In addition, several bus-friendly cities offering historic sites and museums are within 20 miles of Washington, including the Meadowcroft Rockshelter & Historic Village in Avella and the Museum of Western Expansion in Venetia.
To learn more about Bradford House Museum, visit online at bradfordhouse.org For information about bringing your tour group to visit Bradford House Museum, phone (724) 222-3604 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.