Long-time Board Member and Volunteer Honored for Service
Written for the Observer-Reporter by Katherine Mansfield
Rachel Gladden is the heartbeat of Bradford House.
After nearly three decades of service to the grand brick home along downtown Washington’s Main Street – a National Historic Landmark since 1983 – Gladden recently retired her post on the Bradford House Historical Association board.
“She has devoted herself to the house for about 30 years,” said Denise Cummins, president-elect of the BHHA. “She’s one of the most sincere, genuine people that I have ever met.”
Gladden first set foot in the Bradford House nearly 30 years ago, after a neighbor invited her to join the board of directors.
“I thought, ‘Oh, do I really want to do this?’ And then there wasn’t any choice. When I walked in the house, I was caught,” recalled Gladden. “It just really caught me off guard at first. It’s a beautiful place. It’s a show place. The best thing of all is that it’s history and it’s right here in Washington, Pennsylvania, and it happened right here under our very noses. That’s what makes me love the Bradford House so much. As soon as you walk in the door, you’re caught.”
Built in 1788 by David Bradford, Deputy Attorney General of Washington County and major player in the Whiskey Rebellion, the Bradford House became a museum under the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission in 1965. By the 70s, the one-time grand home, which through the years also served as furniture and grocery stores, had fallen into disrepair, helped along by financial mismanagement.
“It was kind of rough for a while,” said Gladden. “When I first went on the board, the board was going through some hard times. There were some hard financial times for the Bradford House.”
Government grant money couldn’t stretch as tall as the two-story building needed. So, as legend goes, Gladden donned an apron and baked some pies.
“She is known for baking apple pies,” said Tracie Liberatore, executive director of the Bradford House Historical Association. “She said that there were years … she felt the house would close unless she personally did something, so she would do bake sales. She’s the one who started (the calendar fundraiser) and ran it. She has a tremendous spot in the community. Any time we need something, she was like, let me write a personal note, let me call them.”
Gladden laughs when she recalls that for many years, folks in town called her “The Apple Pie Lady.”
“I don’t know why, but I started to make apple pies. We’d sell them on the street,” she said.
In 2017, Bradford House Historical Association acquired the Bradford House from the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, who had owned the building since 1959. It took four years for Bradford House Historical Association to assume ownership, during which time the board worked to implement changes, including expanded educational opportunities and the opening of the Whiskey Rebellion Education & Visitor Center in May 2021.