Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Oldies But Goodies

"America's Oldest Car Collection" refers to the Larz Anderson Auto Museum in Brookline, MA. It's not the largest auto museum we've visited, but it's the most unique. Located only an hour drive from Nashua, NH, it was a perfect weekend road trip (excuse the pun).

Housed in this grand carriage house in Brookline, MA, outside Boston, it contains the personal autos of wealthy Bostonians Isabel and Larz Anderson. Many of these cars were among the earliest models produced in the U.S. and elsewhere.

This opulent and (extremely) large carriage house was originally built to house the Anderson's houses and carriages. The structure, built in 1888, was designed by Boston architect Edmund M. Wheelwright and the design was
Château de Chaumont-sur-Loire
influenced by the 10th century Château de Chaumont-sur-Loire in France. The building was constructed for horses, stored carriages, and housed the stable staff who lived on the upper floor. Once the Andersons began collecting automobiles, a garage was added on the basement level for vehicle repairs.

The idea of the Larz Anderson Auto Museum originated from a weekend tradition started by the Andersons at their Brookline estate. On Sunday afternoons, they would open the doors to their spectacular carriage house and display their expanding collection of American and European vehicles to the public.
Current Larz Anderson Auto Museum exhibit: Supercars

Today, the museum is a non-profit educational institution that hosts community events, lectures, children’s programs, lawn events, and a changing series of exhibits on motor vehicles. 
Larz & Isabel Anderson
Larz Anderson was a wealthy American diplomat who attended private school in NH and later graduated from Harvard. In 1896 while serving as the First Secretary at the U.S. Embassy in Rome he met Isabel Weld Perkins. She was a wealthy young woman from Boston who was on a world tour. Anderson's family was wealthy, but not in comparison to Isabel's, who at 5 years of age inherited over 5 million dollars from her shipping magnate grandfather, William Fletcher Weld.

They married in 1897 in Boston and combined a life of luxury with public service and adventure. They traveled widely across the world as well as through North America, visiting five continents and becoming among the first Westerners to visit Tibet and Nepal.  Larz served with the U.S. Army during the Spanish-American War. During World War I, Isabel worked as a volunteer for the American Red Cross and spent time in Belgium and France caring for war sick and injured. She later authored several books, including a history of the Weld shipping enterprise

Their auto collection started in 1899 with the purchase of a "horseless carriage" made by the Winton Motor Carriage Company. This Winton 4-hp Runabout remains on permanent display in the museum’s lower gallery. 

In the following decades, the Andersons purchased an automobile nearly every year, acquiring at least 32 new motorcars during their lifetimes. Their collection also included 24 horse-drawn carriages and six sleighs. 
As the cars became obsolete, they were "retired" to the carriage house of the 64-acre Brookline estate, which included a 25-room mansion and extensive gardens. The Andersons opened the building to the public in 1927 and allowed visitors to see their vehicles. 
Larz Anderson died in 1937 and when Isabel died in 1948, she bequeathed the entire Brookline estate (including mansion, carriage house, and land) to the town of Brookline. She stipulated in her will that the motorcar collection be called the "Larz Anderson Collection" and that a non-profit be given stewardship of the collection.
Unfortunately, the mansion (named Weld) did not fare well. The estate was given to the town of Brookline in 1948. Totally neglected by the early 1950’s, the unoccupied mansion became a frequent object of vandalism and the rear was damaged by fire. The house was deemed too expensive to restore and it was torn down by the town in 1955. 
 Source: Brookline Historical Society
Of the original 32 motor vehicles, these 14 "gems" remain in the collection: 1899 Winton Phaeton, 1900 Rochet-Schneider, 1901 Winton Bullet, 1903 Gardner-Serpollet, 1905 Electromobile, 1906 Charron-Girodot et Voigt, 1907 Fiat, 1908 Bailey, 1910 Panhard et Levassor, 1912 Renault, 1916 Packard Twin Six, 1924 Renault Torpedo, 1925 Luxor Taxi, 1926 Lincoln Limousine.

The museum no longer has 19 of the Anderson's vehicles; however, there was no explanation as to their fate: 1905 Walter Tractor & Victoria Carriage, 1907 Walter Brougham, 1910 American Underslung (designed by Harry Stutz), 1913 Hudson 33, 1917 Ford Model T Estate Wagon, 1918 Dodge, 1920 Dodge Truck, 1920 Dodge Hackney, 1924 Dodge Sedan, 1928 Nash Advanced Six, 1930 Packard Limousine, 1931 REO Flying Cloud 6-21, 1936 Dodge Station Wagon, 1938 Dodge Express Truck, 1939 GMC Truck, 1940 Ford Deluxe Wagon, 1941 Packard Suburban, 1947 Pontiac Sedan, and 1948 Ford Super Deluxe Wagon. 
Weld Estate gardens, 1911

The Carriage House is on the National Register and considered a historical landmark within the community. The grounds of Larz Anderson Park include a pond, acres of open space with walking paths, and an ice skating rink open to the public during winter months. This rink is on the former site of what was once the estate's gardens. 


Sandra said...

love that castle and all the cars and especially the lamp lights on the cars.

Lois Evensen said...

What a fabulous place! Thanks for sharing. We have carriage houses on property with the homes in our neighborhood, but they are nothing at all like this!

Emma Springfield said...

It is quite a collection. And in such a beautiful setting.

Anvilcloud said...

That horseless carriage really looks like a horse-drawn carriage. It's great to have a collection like this but too bad about the dilapidation and missing pieces.

Blogoratti said...

What a grand place to visit and the collections are quite fascinating indeed. A real adventure it must have been to be there. Greetings and lovely photos!

Lynn said...

I really hate it when beautiful old homes are torn down like that. That garden was fabulous.

Connie said...

Neat collection of cars and looks like an interesting place to visit too.

William Kendall said...

Beautiful cars!

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