Old Bedford School
Old Bedford School, located at 2400 School Lane, signifies one of the earliest traces of Bedford as a community. Constructed in 1914-1915, the original Old Bedford School was an important physical, social, educational, and cultural landmark within Bedford, which was once a small, dispersed, rural community.
The school is also a symbol of small, unincorporated settlements to improve public educational opportunities within their respective communities in the early 20th Century, and a rare link to pre-World War II architecture in northeast Tarrant County.
The Early Years
The original building was completed in July 1915 by the Bedford Common School District and was made possible through a $5,000 bond election. It's first staff comprised of three trustees, four teachers, and a principal who also taught classes. During the 1919-20 school year, the Old Bedford School had three teachers and was considered an eight-grade school. Up until World War II, the school fluctuated between being an eight, nine, or ten-grade school, depending upon the size of the community. In the early- to mid-20th Century, it was relatively small with an estimated 40 people living in the Bedford community in 1924.
Post World War II
Most new construction to the school occurred following the rise in Bedford's population during and after the war. A series of bond elections were passed in the 1950s, which led to a cafeteria on the west side of the building, an additional classroom to the east and a gymnasium to the west, along with a remodeling.
In November 1958, the Bedford Common School District was annexed by a narrow vote to become part of the Hurst-Euless Independent School District - thus creating the Hurst-Euless-Bedford Independent School District. The consolidation allied Bedford with nearby cities with small populations and allowed the smaller communities to remain relatively independent from the larger Fort Worth and Arlington school districts. The move also reflected Bedford's emergence as one the of "mid-cities" in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.
A New Chapter
The Old Bedford School served the community's educational needs until 1969, when HEB ISD closed the facility due to its smaller size and relocated students to the new Bell Manor Elementary School nearby.
The City of Bedford purchased the building and surrounding 13-acres in 1973 from HEB ISD, which was using it as a garage and warehouse at the time.
Fire and Restoration
In January 1991, for the third time in the history of the site, a fire ravaged the building but this time it did not completely destroy it. The fire began on the second level where police records were being stored and it was assumed arson was the cause. The damage was extensive, leaving only a fragment of the original building intact. The walls and interior finishes on the second floor were completely destroyed along with the entire roof. Damage to the first floor was only secondary primarily due to weather exposure from above.
The City spent more than $500,000 to renovate and restore the Old Bedford School to its original floor plan and exterior design, but modified to meet current code and accessibility requirements. The second-floor auditorium had seating for 135 people, with original stage placement of the 1957 building. After it was restored in the 1990s, it was used as an interpretive museum depicting early- and mid-20th Century school life in rural northeast Tarrant County, and an event venue.
Today, the bottom floor is used for senior programming. The top floor is used by community arts groups and features an auditorium.
In 1980, the site of the original Old Bedford School became a registered historical site with the Texas Historical Commission. There is a marker to the southeast of the building that reads:
The first Bedford area school met in a log building during the early 1860s. After the Civil War, classes were held in a frame structure at Spring Garden, north of this site. After it burned in the early 1880s, Milton Moore (1828-1914) deeded land here for construction of Bedford College, an elementary and high school academy. In 1893, it was also destroyed by fire and local citizens raised funds for a new elementary school nearby. It was replaced in 1915 by a two-story brick schoolhouse. The school consolidated with the Hurst-Euless District in 1958 and the building was used as a school until 1969.
Pre-1914: The site is situated in the Cross Timbers region, which overlaps the Blackland Prairie region, an area of deep, rich soil. This overlapping geographical region allowed Bedford to flourish as a farming and cattle ranching area. In 1859, Milton Moore placed a claim for a farm that grew to more than 200 acres north of Bedford Road, near Barr Drive. Moore later donated portions of the land, some of which was used for the location of the first school of Bedford.
1914: Bond election was held (Passed 28-2 votes) by the Bedford Common School District to construct “a public free school building of brick, concrete, or stone material.” The bond package totaled $5,000. A four-acre tract of land was identified for the school, which was previously owned by Bedford College, for the construction of the school. Construction is thought to have begun later that year.
Students went there from first through eleventh grade. The school had a wood-burning stove and children sat in double-desks (two students per desk). There was a 50-gallon barrel set-up on a stand outside. It had four faucets around the base, from which the children could drink. There were two outdoor privies on the school grounds, one on the east side (girls) and one on the west (boys).
1940s: It’s believed the building was wired for electricity in the early 1940s.
1952 – 1958: Four bond elections were approved to renovate the school. A cafeteria was added on the west side. An additional classroom was added on the east side, along with a gymnasium on the west side. A one-story restroom addition was also added.
1958: The Bedford Common School District was annexed by the HEB ISD, transferring ownership of Old Bedford School to the school district.
1969: HEB ISD closed the school because it was too small, relocating students to the new Bell Manor Elementary School nearby.
1969 – 1973: The school district used it as a garage and warehouse. During this time, the gymnasium was removed.
1973: The school and surrounding 13-acres were sold to the City of Bedford for $72,000. The City used it as a maintenance warehouse and storage facility until 1991.
1980: The site of the original Old Bedford School became a registered historical site with the Texas Historical Commission. There is a marker to the southeast of the building that reads:
The first Bedford area school met in a log building during the early 1860s. After the Civil War, classes were held in a frame structure at Spring Garden, north of this site. After it burned in the early 1880s, Milton Moore (1828-1914) deeded land here for construction of Bedford College, an elementary and high school academy. In 1893, it was also destroyed by fire and local citizens raised funds for a new elementary school nearby. It was replaced in 1908 by a two-story brick schoolhouse. The school consolidated with the Hurst-Euless District in 1958 and the building was used as a school until 1969.
January 1991: Fire ravaged the building but did not destroy it. It is said the fire began on the second floor where police records were being stored and it was assumed arson was the cause. The damage was extensive and only a fragment of the original building was left intact. The walls and interior were destroyed along with the roof. Damage to the masonry walls was relatively minor but the original parapets have been partially removed. Damage to the first floor was only secondary, primarily due to the weather exposure from above. Plans were approved to restore the building to its original appearance, as much as possible.
1993: Construction began on a three-phase project to restore and renovate Old Bedford School, returning it to its original floor plan, but complying with ADA guidelines. The northeast classroom was restored to a period depicting an original 1915 classroom, complete with period furnishings. The southeast classroom served as a visitors’ center for the City of Bedford and had a gift shop, and historical information about Bedford.
1995 – 2017: HEB ISD worked with the then Bedford Historical Commission to start a program for third graders to visit the Old Bedford School to learn about Bedford history and life in the early days. Coordinated by the City, a group of retired teachers became docents for the program. That program stopped in 2017, when it was discovered the roof had significant damage and the building was declared unsafe to occupy.
November 2000: The Old Bedford School Auditorium was dedicated and renamed the Evelyn Fitch Auditorium. Evelyn Lavern Fitch (1917 – 2006) was related to Bedford’s founder W. W. Bobo by marriage. Bobo’s son-in-law, William R. Fitch, was her father. Evelyn and her husband Walter ran the Fitch General Store (by the Old Bedford Well). The store closed in 1963, after being in the Bobo/Fitch family for 90 years. Evelyn dearly loved the Old Bedford School and contributed a great deal to the restoration of the auditorium, working with the chair of the Bedford Historical Commission, Gordon Doggett.
1997: In August, The City entered into an agreement with the Bedford Historical Commission to manage the facility. In September, the schoolhouse was listed on the National Register of Historic Places under Criterion A.
2018: The roof was replaced to preserve the building.
2019 - Present: The school’s historical items and desks were moved into storage and the bottom floor began being used for the City’s senior programs and events. This was necessary because the City needed to remove the building that was being used as a Senior Center, on the Bedford Boys Ranch property as the park was being reimagined.