Bedford is one of many Iowa communities that have been named a Main Street Community. A lot of the focus of the Main Street program is “economic development within the context of historic preservation,” in other words, using a town’s past to build for the future.
As correspondent Dan Kaercher tells us, Bedford is doing that and more.
Like many county seat towns, the centerpiece of downtown Bedford is it’s courthouse.
The 1892 structure is on the National Register along with a number of other older buildings -- and the town’s red brick streets.
From the Lenox Round Barn at the Taylor County Museum to the many antique shops downtown, in the 1990s, the town worked together to build on its history.
Today, Bedford has followed up its designation as a Main Street community with another revitalizing step. Recently it participated in the Horizons program, an 18-month course that trains local leaders how to solve their community’s economic challenges.
One practical result of that experience was the Bedford Area Development Center. It’s housed in the 1927 Spanish mission style Conoco Station, also on the National Register.
Deann Hensley, Executive Director, Bedford Area Development Center: “The horizons program really came at the perfect time for Bedford. We had recently lost our Pamida store downtown and then Gear For Sports closed. And I think it gave kind of a sense of negativity and despair, you know, what are we going to now?”
Horizons helped change that and there is plenty of positive spirit here now.
It was the community, individuals of all ages, and businesses,that turned a burnt-out old eyesore downtown into this Memory Garden. There are plans to transform another vacant lot across the street.
This mural – a replica of a 1930s photo -- was the result of another community fund-raising effort.
These sorts of amenities definitely add to the quality of life. But a town also needs some more practical things, which is why a committee is working to build a new, modern motel.
Judy McClintock, Bedford Lodging Committee, Bedford Area Development Center: “We're a very family oriented community and when extended family come there's a real deficit in our lodging. And also for the business and industry area, their associates can come and be able to stay here. And with that in mind hopefully it will keep them coming back.”
Even without such an “improvement” though, Bedford has already attracted transplants from out of state.
One is the Lindenmeyer family. Natives of California, they moved here in1998. And they’re working on this turn of the last century home they recently bought.
They do like less traffic and a lower cost of living. But Bedford is more than that.
John Lindenmeyer: “I liked the relaxed mornings like today and things like that. The easy going lifestyle in a small town.”
Kari Lindenmeyer: “And I just like the fact that it’s a small community, and football games are a lot of fun and people really gather around for events like that.
The Lindenmeyers say the school also offers more opportunities for their children. In March 2008, their two sons were on the first Bedford High School boys basketball team to ever go the state tournament. And it does well in other athletics.
The school also has a solid record in academics and the fine arts. With local financial support and a Vision Iowa grant, the school’s 1926 auditorium was recently restored and serves the whole community.
What also contributes to the good life in Bedford is Lake of Three Fires State Park – just a few miles north of town.
A unique attraction here is the horse trail which circles the lake. That’s just one of many outdoor actitvities available, along with a lodge and cabins. And public hunting on adjacent land has drawn people from all over the country.
The area is, of course, rooted in agriculture. And like many rural towns it’s population and fortunes have fluctuated in recent years. But today, Bedford is moving forward again.
The Horizons program has made a difference, energizing people and giving hope. Still the Publisher of the Bedford Times-Press says, in the end, it’s the people that make thedifference.
Colleen Larimer, Publisher, The Bedford Times-Press: “Has to be the people. All of the things that have happened in Bedford is because of people willing to give of themselves unselfishly.”
Since Out and About visited early last fall, the Lindenmeyers have settled into their home.
Additional Images: Pete and Sandy Goudie