Another Road to Glory Published on January 10, 2014

Barre stage with timber frame coachIt’s a town treasure—actually a national treasure—and the Barre, Massachusetts Historical Society wanted to do right by it.

Close up of wood coach stage artThe historical society acquired one of only 157 remaining Abbott-Downing Concord Coaches. These vehicles, with a novel suspension system of leather straps that was more comfortable than springs, were built in the nineteenth century in New Hampshire but became popular all over the nation and were even shipped overseas. This particular example carried passengers and mail through the towns of north-central Massachusetts, including the town of Barre. A hundred and fifty years ago, the original painted artwork by John Burgum, which blends mythological themes and New England landscape, was a familiar sight to Barre residents.

Ownership of the coach presented the Historical Society with two tough questions. What kind of structure should they build to display their historic vehicle? And should they undertake removal of layers of brown varnish that completely concealed the ornamentation beneath?

Barre coach timber houseAfter careful deliberation—for which thrifty New Englanders are famous—the Barre Historical Society made its decisions, and this December held a special open house to show the results to the public. The layers of varnish have been removed, revealing the original artwork, and the coach made by the famous Abbott Downing company of New Hampshire is now on view within another work of art: a timber frame by Hardwick Post & Beam of Massachusetts.

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