BEDFORD, incorporated as a town in 1837 and as a city in 1930, is about 12 miles southeast of downtown Cleveland, bounded by MAPLE HTS. on the northwest, WALTON HILLS on the southwest, OAKWOOD on the south, and BEDFORD HTS. on the east. Originally part of Bedford Twp. (est. 1823), it comprises about 5.5 sq. mi. The rushing waterfall of TINKER'S CREEK, a tributary of the CUYAHOGA RIVER, powered the first gristmill (1815), and other industries. In 1816 Benjamin Fitch arrived and began making splint-bottom chairs, developing the industry that eventually became TAYLOR CHAIR (est. 1844, inc. 1885). Bedford was named by Daniel Benedict after his hometown in Connecticut. The population in 1840 was 2,021. Hezekiah Dunham plotted the town center, with lots for a public square, town hall, and a school; Dunham's own house remains opposite the square. The town hall (1874) became the home of the BEDFORD HISTORICAL SOCIETY after the dissolution of the township in 1951. Bedford was the birthplace of ARCHIBALD M. WILLARD, painter of the SPIRIT OF '76, and the home of Dr. THEODATUS A. GARLICK, eminent surgeon and scientist.
The opening of the OHIO & ERIE CANAL (1827) and the Cleveland & Pittsburgh Railroad (1852) encouraged industrial development. In 1901 the 100' high stone arch railroad viaduct, built in 1864 over Tinker's Creek, was largely buried with fill when the rail line relocated; in 1993 the State Department of Transportation planned to develop the viaduct area as a park. In 1881 the Conotton Valley Railroad opened through Bedford; the Akron, Bedford & Cleveland interurban line operated between 1895 and 1932 (see INTERURBANS). Local INDUSTRY included HOLSEY GATES's Bedford Roller Mill (1876-1908), B. L. Marble Chair Co. (1894-1985), McMyler-Interstate Co. (pioneers in the design, development, and manufacturing of ore- and coal-handling equipment) (1910-29), Owen Tire & Rubber (1918-28), Bedford Distilling Co. (1934-42), Ben Venue Laboratories (pharmaceuticals) (1938-2013), and, after World War II, manufacturers of machine parts, china, and precision instruments. In the early 1950s, automobile dealerships began opening along Broadway Ave. In 1956, the Bedford Automile Dealers Assn. organized to promote the Bedford Automile, whose dealers in 2019 employed more than 1,700 people.
The City of Bedford adopted a charter and the city manager plan of government (effective 1932). The population in 1940 was 7,390. By 1960 the city’s population had more than doubled to 15,223. Like Cuyahoga County as a whole, Bedford’s population peaked in 1970, at 17,552. The population fell in each successive census, reaching an estimated 12,561 by 2018, the lowest since the 1950s. Bedford experienced significant racial transition in the early 21st century. Its population was approx. 17.6% African American in 2000, 42% in 2010, and an estimated 53.5% in 2016. The Vincentian Sisters of Charity came to Bedford in 1928, erecting the Villa San Bernardo in 1932. In 2020, Bedford had 18 churches and 1 mosque, and was home to the Southeast Branch of the CUYAHOGA COUNTY PUBLIC LIBRARY SYSTEM. Portions of the Bedford Reservation of the CLEVELAND METROPARKS SYSTEM lie inside the city limits. In spring 2003 the city hall moved into a new municipal complex constructed at 165 Center Road.
Updated by Mark Souther
Hubbell, Ned. Life in Bedford (1971).
“History of Companies in Bedford,” https://bedfordohiohistory.org/history-of-companies-in-bedford.
See also SUBURBS.