Restored buggy is pride of Carroll farm museum

After 3 months, $3,400, horse-powered vehicle looks like new - for 1860

July 08, 2004|By Brian Patterson | Brian Patterson,SUN STAFF

For more than three decades, a mid-19th-century buggy has been part of the Carroll County Farm Museum's transportation exhibit, but now it has become the centerpiece of the display after being decked out with a new custom-designed leather interior and a paint job.

The restoration of the horse-powered buggy took three months and cost $3,400.

The buggy is a unique and important piece of the collection because it is the best example of early transportation the museum owns, said Victoria Fowler, farm museum curator.

The interior, restored by Jim and Dolly's Upholstery Co. of Hampstead, was fitted with new leather that resembles that of the buggy's era. Company owner James Norris said he normally works on more modern merchandise, like furniture and cars, but this project provided a change of pace.

"I really enjoy working on antiques like the buggy," said Norris. "For the blue trim on the inside of the buggy I used handmade leather imported from Amish country in Pennsylvania to give it an authentic look."

New black leather was used on the interior passenger seats as well as the exterior driver's seat. The tapestry on the inside was also replaced.

"Working on the buggy was an educational experience," said Norris, who learned about the buggy's history during the restoration.

Fowler said the buggy has been dated to the 1860s and the oldest piece of leather found inside was stamped with the year 1881. When the Carroll County centennial was held in 1937, the buggy was used in the parade to celebrate the occasion.

It was donated to the farm museum in 1966 from a private collection and this is the first time major restoration has been performed on the buggy, she said.

"It really needed some work, and the restoration has brought it up to par with the rest of the pieces in the exhibit," Fowler said.

This model, commonly known as a rockaway buggy, was made by the H.H. Babcock Co. of Watertown, N.Y., which specialized in buggy production during the late 19th century and in automobiles later on.

A rockaway buggy was a common vehicle usually owned by a family and had an enclosed passenger area. It was driven by the head of the household and used for family outings, Fowler said. The driver's area was open, but the buggy at the museum has an extended roof that would have protected the driver from the elements. It has two doors and curtains that provide privacy for the riders.

At the museum, Fowler repainted the exterior wood trim and now the buggy sits alongside other vehicles from the same period, including a doctor's buggy, sleighs, and mail and funeral wagons.

"The goal was to give the buggy a brand-new look, but also to keep it in the period," said Fowler. "We are pleased with how it looks now; it shows how people used to travel."

The buggy and the rest of the transportation exhibit are housed in the Mearing Barn and can be viewed as part of the museum tour.

The museum, at 500 S. Center St., Westminster, offers guided tours of its 1850s-style farmhouse, and artisans demonstrate old-time, rural skills.

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