The African American Museum of Bucks County (AAMBC), the only museum dedicated to sharing the rich history and heritage of the African American experience in Bucks County and beyond, has found a permanent home to house its treasured artifacts and to present educational programs and special exhibits to a wider audience.
Founded in 2014, the AAMBC, currently a mobile museum, has presented over 50 programs to residents and visitors to Bucks County in schools, libraries, senior centers and corporations, and special exhibits, as well as conducted historic tours of Bucks County landmarks.
The museum’s most recent exhibit, “Building on the Dream: From Africa to Bucks County,” is currently running through Sept. 7, at the Bucks County Visitor Center in Bensalem.
The museum’s permanent home is on a historic property on Durham Road in Middletown Township, via a lease from Bucks County.
The property, which is recognized today as Boone Farm, hosts one of the earliest known houses in the county and features several intact historical structures listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
It is home to the Godfrey-Kirk House, the only house yet documented in Bucks County with two stone sections that were constructed before 1719. Named after the mason who built it, The Godfrey-Kirk House, was initially built as a residence for artisans and was later converted into a farm.
The house is adjacent to a small carriage house, which was converted into a residence, and the stone foundation of a barn from c. 1850. The rural historic property, which operated as Boone Farm until the mid-20th century, is located near the juncture of the Core Creek with the Neshaminy Creek in Middletown Township.
The buildings are set back on a grassy hill off the historic Durham Road (now known as Newtown/Langhorne Road or Route 413), on several acres next to a suburban development.
The land, owned by Bucks County, is being leased to the AAMBC, under an agreement that specifies a fee of $1 per year. The electrical, plumbing and drainage systems of the houses require updating, but the overall infrastructure of the buildings remain in remarkably good shape.
After hearing the news, Linda Salley, president of the African American Museum of Bucks County, related the untold historical significance of Boone Farm to African American history in Bucks County.
“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, N.C., South Carolina, Virginia, Delaware and Maryland.
“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.
“After hearing their incredible stories, in 2006, we put together an annual award banquet honoring Bristol historic African Americans. The theme was ‘For our People.’
“At that time, I didn’t know where Boone farm was located. Harvey Spencer, the father of the African American Museum of Bucks County, pointed the land and building out to me many years ago, but never said it was Boone farm.
“When I met Diane Marseglia, we talked at length about the museum and I asked her about the building as a possible home for the museum. When she called a few months ago and said, ‘It is a possibility that you might get the Boone farm,’ I was shocked to find out that the building I had asked about was in fact, the Boone Farm.
“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 further added, “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.”
Marseglia, chair of the Bucks County Commissioners, remarked, “Many years ago I learned of the late Congressman Michael Fitzpatrick’s interest in rehabilitating Boone Farm (when he was a Commissioner). 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.”
The African American Museum of Bucks County, (AAMBC), honors the legacy of the African American Experience, inspiring pride in heritage, educating the public about the diverse and difficult journey of African Americans, and sharing stories that depict our shared ancestry, thus enriching the lives of Bucks County families. For information on the museum and its upcoming programs, or to learn about membership and volunteer opportunities, and donation options, visit: infoaambc.org. The AAMBC is a 501c3 organization and all contributions are tax deductible to the full extent of the law.