I have always been interested in Concord Coaches, long considered to be the best stagecoaches ever built. I certainly am not an expert, but I have done some reading and have been fortunate enough to see several of these beautiful stagecoaches in various museums. A few weeks ago I interviewed Tom Howard, who IS an expert on Concord Coaches. You can watch and listen to that interview at http://blog.eogn.com/eastmans_online_genealogy/2009/05/video-interview-tom-howard-and-the-concord-coaches.html.
You can imagine my surprise today when I walked into a small, privately-owned museum about ten miles from my house and found a Concord Coach on display. This is a real Concord Coach, manufactured circa 1867. This one is not an immaculate museum display piece; it was a bit dirty and had grease smeared all over the axles. The upholstery is just a bit frayed. This is a working coach that is brought out several times a year to participate in parades and other events in the area. Even more interesting to me is that this particular Concord Coach is on loan from the Wayside Inn, a historic restaurant that is about five miles from my home. I never knew there was a Concord Coach in this area!
I snapped a few pictures and have posted them here. You can double-click on any of the pictures to see a larger image.
This particular coach was manufactured in 1867 by the Abbot-Downing Coach Company and was used to haul passengers, mail, and small freight items in this area. For a while, it was used on the Marlborough to Worcester run along the Boston Post Road. I live a couple of hundred yards from that road today, so this coach obviously passed near my home many times. (The house I live in wasn't built until many years later.) The coach remained in service until 1912.
In the 1920s, the coach was purchased by Henry Ford and used as the stagecoach to carry passengers, transporting guests of the Wayside Inn, located in Sudbury, Massachusetts, to and from the railroad station. This is the same Wayside Inn that Henry Wadsworth Longfellow popularized when he published his book of poetry, entitled Tales of a Wayside Inn, in 1863. Longfellow visited the Wayside Inn in 1862, when it was called the Howe Tavern. That same book also was the first publication of Longfellow's “The Landlord's Tale,” which contains the immortal words, "Listen my children and you shall hear/ of the midnight ride of Paul Revere."
Henry Ford was the last private owner of the Wayside Inn, and he purchased three different Concord Coaches for use at the Inn. One of the coaches was later sold to Concord Group Insurance Company, where it is now on display at the company's headquarters in Concord, New Hampshire, only a short distance from the place it was manufactured. That was the first Concord Coach I ever saw as I have visited the Concord Group Insurance offices many times.
The second coach still remains at the Wayside Inn except when it is on loan and is the one I saw today. I have not yet discovered the fate of the third Concord Coach purchased by Henry Ford for use at the Wayside Inn.
Ford ran the Wayside Inn for a few years and then established the non-profit institution that still operates the Inn and associated museum, watermill, and archives today. The Concord Coach shown in these pictures remains at the Inn except for occasions such as the one I visited today, when it is loaned out.