A little over two years ago, the African American Museum of Bucks County received some exciting news. After serving as a “mobile museum” since its inception in 2014, bringing exhibits and artifacts to schools, libraries and other spots across the county, it would finally have a permanent home at the historic Boone Farm in Middletown Township.
Now, following months of preparation and planning, construction is about to be underway. Recently, museum officials, including president Linda Salley, the Bucks County Commissioners and residents gathered at the site, located on Route 413 near St. Mary Medical Center, for a groundbreaking ceremony.
“At this time of year, when we’re supposed to be giving thanks, I am truly so thankful to see this project continuing to move forward,” said commissioner vice chair Diane Ellis-Marseglia. “The African American Museum of Bucks County does a tremendous job educating Bucks County residents about history that far too often goes overlooked, and I’m so excited to see the work they can do once settled in their permanent home.”
In September 2020, the Bucks County Commissioners announced a contract with the roving museum that would allow it to rent the Boone Farm property for $1 per year through September 2030. For Salley, it was the perfect spot. During the great migration, when African Americans traveled north seeking work, many found employment at the farm.
Salley said at the time, “We are extremely grateful to the Bucks County Commissioners for this wonderful opportunity to bring our shared history to the Bucks County community. This physical location will enable us to host school children, families and individuals to better serve the museum’s mission of educating the public and honoring the legacy of the African American experience from African roots to the present day.”
Built in the early 1700s, the property operated as a farm until the mid-20th century. It hosts one of the earliest known houses in the county and features several structures listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Though the late Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick had aspirations to rehabilitate the farmhouse during his time as a county commissioner, the extensive upgrades required put his efforts on an indefinite hold.
That is, until now.
Over the past several months, the commissioners approved a $2.39 million contract with L.J. Paolella Construction Inc. for restoration work and a separate $201,000 contract with Hirschberg Mechanical to perform plumbing and fire protection work.
Site improvements are slated to begin very soon, with building renovations expected to start in the new year. It’s estimated that construction work will take approximately 12 months.
Not only did the commissioners believe that the museum deserved a stable facility to expand its efforts, but so did the community. Earlier this year, the Langhorne-based Samuel Staten Sr. Charitable Trust presented the AAMBC with a $10,000 donation to be used toward the development of its new brick-and-mortar home.
“It is so important that the treasured artifacts, educational programs and special exhibits that are currently a mobile museum have a permanent home and a wider audience,” said Samuel Staten Jr. “The new home of the African American Museum of Bucks County will help spread the knowledge of the rich legacy of the African American experience to a much wider audience. The Samuel Staten Sr. Charitable Trust is proud to support the AAMBC and hope to continue our support in the future.”
Once complete, the museum is set to host six exhibition halls. On the first floor, plans include a library, educational video display hall featuring videos produced by AAMBC and a historic timeline exhibition. The second floor will have an exhibition hall featuring the achievements of the African American community, an activity classroom and a rotating exhibit hall. Outside, there will be picnic benches and tables for visitors to enjoy the landscape and class trips to eat their snacks or lunches.
Until construction is complete and a grand opening date is announced, the museum will keep doing what it’s done best since 2014 — travel the county and share stories that honor the legacy of the African American experience.
“While the development of the museum’s new permanent home in Middletown Township is moving along, AAMBC as a mobile and virtual museum remains an important educational resource throughout Bucks County,” said Salley. “While work moves forward at the new building in Middletown Township, a gifted lease from the Bucks County Commissioners, we will continue our active and extremely busy role in the community.”
Visit infoaambc.org for more information and updates.
Samantha Bambino can be reached at email@example.com