, Newburyport, MA

June 24, 2013

A 'breathtaking' piece of past

Carriage artifacts donated to museum

By Dave Rogers
Staff Writer

---- — A living piece of Carriagetown’s history delivered artifacts from the city’s carriage-building past to the Amesbury Carriage Museum this weekend, signifying a historic coup, said the museum’s president.

Fran Koutnik, granddaughter of carriage designer Francis A. Sands, along with her two sons and their families, arrived from Long Island around 4 p.m. on Saturday, meeting Ann Miles, president of the board of directors, at the Water Street building where many of the city’s carriages are stored.

At that meeting, Sands’ ancestors donated draft design drawings for a carriage jump seat, a working vest worn by the carriage designer while in his shop, photos, a copy of a patent and other documents.

“To see the draft, the rough draft of how it was all composed on paper, is breathtaking, it’s absolutely breathtaking. You don’t see that kind of document every day,” Miles said.

The artifacts, along with a carriage, are expected to be part of a display to be arranged inside the Nicholas J. Costello Transportation Building and Senior Center off Elm Street in time for this week’s Amesbury Days celebration.

Born in 1860, Francis A. Sands witnessed the transition from carriages to motorized vehicles, and was forced like hundreds of others who worked in the many factories and shops to seek employment elsewhere as horse-drawn carriages were replaced by automobiles, said Miles.

Miles said the family was shown the museum’s collection of carriages and its own array of hand drawings.

“The family had a really great time,” Miles said. “It was just a really wonderful family reunion.”

Founded in 1986, the Amesbury Carriage Museum Organization promotes the preservation of the city’s historic carriages as well as educating the public regarding the carriage era roughly between 1830 and the early 1900s. Currently, the museum lacks a central location with carriages scattered around town. A few years ago, a historic building was purchased on Water Street to house a permanent museum.

Miles said the Sands donation comes at an exciting time for museum officials who recently organized a strategic plan for the creation of a permanent museum on Water Street.

“This is all coming together now,” Miles said, adding now is the perfect time for residents and those who love carriages to join the museum’s growing number of members.