When the Ravena -Coeymans-Selkirk Central School District closed the Cedar Hill School in 1962, it became a “surplus” building. As the 1859 building was architecturally pleasing and the oldest schoolhouse in town, a small group of concerned citizens set out to save it. Bethlehem officials were convinced to accept the gift of the building in order to give it a “useful community life”. In 1964, residents of the former school district #1 voted unanimously to transfer ownership to the Town of Bethlehem.
It was expected that the building would be used both to display documents of historic value and to house a newly proposed historical society. An arrangement was made. The town agreed to do the necessary repairs and assume responsibility for maintenance of the building and grounds while the new historical group would care for the interior rooms.
In May 1965, following several organizational meetings, the new Town of Bethlehem Historical Association adopted its first constitution and received a provisional state charter. There were approximately one hundred forty charter members. A dedicated core group worked diligently to meet expectations of the Regents to create and maintain “an institution of educational usefulness and character”. The association was granted its absolute charter from New York State in 1968.
Today BHA continues to be an active all volunteer membership organization. We appreciate the use of the Cedar Hill Schoolhouse building and maintain responsibility for the museum. BHA depends on the support and engagement of the community as we work together to discover and share the town’s history.