After several years of searching, the African-American Museum of Bucks County has found a home.
The Bucks County Commissioners voted to allow the African-American Museum of Bucks County to rent the empty Boone Farm for $1 per year until 2030. The property sits along Langhorne-Newtown Road (Route 413) near the intersection with Bridgetown Pike in Middletown Township abutting Core Creek Park.
The building, which has been empty for years, is being hooked up with water service. Parts of the building date to 1716.
The African-American Museum of Bucks County plans to share the rich history of the Black experience locally and beyond, said Linda Salley, president of the African-American Museum of Bucks County.
The property has structures listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The Godfrey-Kirk House was constructed as a residence for artisans and later converted to a farm. The structure adjacent is a carriage house, which was later turned into a home. The site also features the stone foundation of a barn from 1850.
The property is now called Boone Farm. The Godfrey-Kirk House is named after the mason who constructed it.
“The electrical, plumbing, and drainage systems of the houses require updating, but the overall infrastructure of the buildings remain in remarkably good shape,” a statement from the African-American Museum of Bucks County said.
The African-American Museum of Bucks County is in the process of getting designs and plans finalized to convert the empty buildings into the museum space and offices while keeping the historical aspects.
Salley said she was shocked when she heard the Boone Farm was being considered by the county for their museum because she was familiar with it.
“After retiring from the New York City Board of Education in 2003, I was asked to volunteer as a teacher for 12 incredible ladies from Bristol Township who were interested in learning how to quilt. The group was called ‘The Young at Heart.’ These ladies had great stories to tell. They were from the rural South: Roseboro, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Delaware and Maryland,” Salley said.
“They often talked about Boone Farm and how they came up north in the middle of the night leaving the Southern states looking for work. That is when I realized they were a part of the great migration. They settled in Bristol in a little area now called The Terrace. They described how a truck would come pick them up and take them to Boone Farm. They would work all day and the truck would return them back home each night. All they wanted was a better life for themselves and their children.”
Diane Ellis-Marseglia, chairwoman of the Bucks County Commissioners, let Salley know the county was considering leasing the museum the Boone Farm recently.
“The story that was never known — how African Americans left the South and worked on Boone farm to get their start in Bristol — has come full circle and we are thrilled to be able to tell this and many other untold stories,” Salley said.
Ellis-Marseglia and fellow commissioners Bob Harvie and Gene DiGirolamo shared their excitement that the African-American Museum of Bucks County has found a permanent home.
Former commissioner and congressman Mike Fitzpatrick, who died in January, had an interest in rehabilitating Boone Farm when he served the county years ago, Ellis-Marseglia stated.
“It is an honor to be able to see something Mike cared about be revived, relived and rehabilitated in such an appropriate and remarkable way,” she said.
Since being formed in 2014, the African-American Museum of Bucks County has worked to find a home. The group currently operates a mobile museum and presents programs to residents, visitors, companies and students.
The African-American Museum of Bucks County currently has its exhibit “Building on the Dream: From Africa to Bucks County” open for free to the public at the Bucks County Visitor Center on Street Road in Bensalem. The exhibit runs through Monday.