Bedford Corners School House Renovation
The Bedford Corners School House project began in 2001 when Col. Charles O. Eshelman deeded the
property and its historic building to the Portville Historical and Preservation Society. It was his hope
that the schoolhouse would be preserved and developed into a community resource for educational and
heritage tourism purposes.
|The Portville Historical and Preservation Society
|17 Maple Avenue
Portville, NY 14770
The Bedford Corners School House, circa 1918
Originally built in 1864 for children in the rural farm areas
in the northern part of the Town of Portville and
neighboring Little Genesee, Bedford Corners School House
got its name from Jacob Bedford, who deeded the land for
the new school to the Joint School District No. 7. The
school was used for education until 1949, when the
students were transferred to the newly constructed
Portville Central School, a consolidation of all the schools
in the Town and Village of Portville begun in 1942. The
building had many uses between 1949 and 1965, when
Col. Eshelman obtained the property. He began the
restoration of the building privately, which had fallen into
disrepair due to general neglect and damage to its
foundation during the Flood of 1942.
Due to Col. Eshelman’s ambitious preservation efforts, the
Bedford Corners Schoolhouse remains intact and in fairly
good condition today. Its historical significance is
underscored by the fact that it is the only remaining one
room schoolhouse of the original ten schools in the Town
and Village of Portville. Unfortunately, there are only a
few original one-room schoolhouses remaining in all of
Western New York.
In 2003, we hired a preservation specialist firm, Flynn and Battaglia, of Buffalo, N.Y., to evaluate our
project and provide an Existing Conditions Report in order to apply for an Environmental Protection
Fund grant from New York State. We were not chosen to receive this particular grant, however, the
Flynn and Battaglia report gave us the basis to start some of the work on our own. Our progress
toward the restoration of the building between 2003 and 2006 included a new roof and chimney
repair, electrical wiring upgrades, and some carpentry work and painting preparation in the interior of
In 2006, we applied for and were awarded another grant, again sponsored by the New York State
Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation. The OPRHP grant funds will allow us to
complete a good deal of the remaining restoration work. The main areas of work include stabilizing
the wood shed, a dilapidated structure on the back of the school house, installing a heating system and
insulation to allow year-round activities, providing ADA-compliant wheelchair access, reconstruction
of the original belfry to house the school bell, repairing and repainting the interior, and repairing and
repainting the exterior.
With grant funds and committed volunteer labor, the Bedford Corners School House will be returned
that will protect the interior and provide comfort and safety to the public, without detracting from its
historic significance. The important addition of a ramp, designed to blend into the front entry, will
ensure that everyone in the community, including persons with disabilities, will have ready and easy
access to the schoolhouse.
The total cost of the complete renovation of the Bedford Corners Schoolhouse is projected to be
$21,456.41. The $15,000.00 grant from New York State will encompass all phases of this
restoration project with any costs over the $15,000.00 being funded through charitable donations to
the Portville Historical and Preservation Society.
We are completing our restoration efforts as quickly as possible so that we can open our door to the
public in the near future. In addition to general admission and docent-led tours, we plan to offer
educational programs through the school system, as well as other community functions and events.
The actual programs have not been developed or scheduled at this stage of the project. However, to
develop our curriculum, we are looking at similar established programs at other historic places in
The Bedford Corners School House Restoration Project is a significant step toward revitalizing local
interest and tourism in the historic Allegany River area of Portville and its surrounding communities.
The Portville Historical and Preservation Society is intent on preserving not only an historic
landmark, but preserving the character of our community while renewing an important resource for
Portville’s future growth. Focused on the portrait of life and learning in the late 19th and early 20th
century in Western New York, the School House’s programs, tours and events will expand
preserving one of the area’s oldest examples of the early parochial experience, we will succeed in
creating a strong catalyst for the restoration and redevelopment of other historic, cultural buildings,
while instilling pride in our accomplishments and providing hope for a stronger and more vitalized
NEW UPDATE ADDED NOVEMBER 2013
In order to protect and continue preserving this unique
historical site, as well as the other buildings at Bedford
Corners, the Portville Historical and Preservation Society
applied for and was granted certification by the New York
State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation.
On May 12, 2003, this area became the “Bedford Corners
Historic District” and was listed on the State Register of
Historic Places. We were nominated and accepted to the
National Register of Historic Places on July 5, 2003.
The overall appearance of today’s school house has most
However, over the past century, many changes were made
that need to be undone to complete the restoration.
The bell tower was removed and its bell was mounted
inside the attic; minor modifications to the interior were
made; damage to the walls and ceilings has occurred over
time; and structural deterioration has threatened the
stability of the attached woodshed/storage room.
Portville, New York