Home Bensalem Times African American Museum set to occupy permanent home in 2025

African American Museum set to occupy permanent home in 2025

County project and diversity officer Bernard Griggs shared an update on renovations at Boone Farm

Forever home: After a decade of operating as a “mobile museum,” the African American Museum of Bucks County is preparing to set up shop at Boone Farm. Source: Bucks County Government Livestream

By this time next year, the African American Museum of Bucks County is expected to be settled into its first-ever permanent home. 

Following a decade of operating in mobile fashion, driving to schools, libraries and other public spots across the county to display artifacts and other educational items that honor the legacy of the African American experience in Bucks and beyond, the AAMBC is closer than ever to setting up shop at Boone Farm, located on Langhorne-Newtown Road (Route 413) near St. Mary Medical Center in Langhorne. 

The museum was approved to lease the property, which dates to the early 1700s and features several structures listed in the National Register of Historic Places, in September 2020. A ceremonial groundbreaking took place in November 2022, and construction officially began in February 2023. 

During the recent Bucks County Commissioners meeting, Bernard Griggs, the county’s project and diversity officer, provided an update on the progress of this renovation. Since the property has been unoccupied for some time, it’s proving to be a massive undertaking.

So far, much has been accomplished, including the completion of a new parking area, a major cleanout of the basement and a new three-level porch with steps around the building, just to name a few finished tasks. 

Upcoming construction includes floor rebuilding, a new exterior, and the installation of plumbing and drain lines, all of which should be done by mid-March. Then, mechanical, electrical and plumbing work will be in full swing, followed by the interior buildout. The latter, said Griggs, is expected to run about six months.

“If we’re able to keep our schedule on track, by this time next year, the project should be done 100 percent,” he said, adding that working on a 17th-century structure has been a career highlight. “It’s really gonna be a showpiece when it’s finished.” 

Exciting updates: Bernard Griggs, the county’s project and diversity officer, said renovations at Boone Farm should be completed by this time next year. Source: Bucks County Government Livestream

For the AAMBC, getting to call Boone Farm home is pretty special, as it was a vital local part of the Great Migration. When African Americans fled the south in search of better opportunities, many were able to work at Boone Farm, where they earned fair wages and made a living for themselves. 

The property was acquired by Bucks County in August 2000 in an effort to preserve its history and significance, but it has been unused for quite some time. Though renovations are timely and costly, with the AAMBC launching a capital campaign to raise $2 million this year, vice president and board member Bill Reed believes it’s all going to be worth it. 

“We have spent 10 years packing and unpacking, setting up and taking down, loading and unloading vehicles to attend the various events from Lower Bucks, Central Bucks and Upper Bucks. It has been laborious, but it has been a labor of love,” said Reed. 

Still, he explained that most of the museum’s charter members are getting older, and being on the road has become wearisome for them. They prayed for a more effective way to continue their mission, and their prayers were answered in the form of Boone Farm. Soon, the community can come to them, rather than the other way around, to learn about moments in history that might not be found in the average textbook.

“We have shared nuggets of stories that are no longer taught in our schools or disseminated through our various news media,” he said. 

Making progress: A before-and-after shot of construction being completed at Boone Farm. Source: Bucks County Government Livestream

Since its inception in 2014, the AAMBC has shared African American history with over 6,000 students and countless community members. Reed and the other leaders of the museum can’t wait to grow those numbers, and know that, despite a long road of renovations ahead, it will come to fruition.

“Some have said that this is impossible, to raise the funds to occupy the building,” he said. “But the move is on. The fundraising is afoot.”

At the conclusion of the meeting, Bucks County Commissioner Bob Harvie voiced his support for the AAMBC’s efforts and overall mission: “What we’re doing is not telling a specific kind of American history. We’re just telling the stories that haven’t been told, and we’re doing it hopefully before they get lost. As people pass, the stories they know, the stories they lived, pass with them unless they’re passed onto someone else.”

Samantha Bambino can be reached at sbambino@newspapermediagroup.com

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