Monday, August 15, 2016

Carriages and Coaches: Skinner Family Carriage - Holyoke, MA

Skinner Family Carriage
Holyoke, MA

N 42° 12.302 W 072° 37.055

Short Description: 

Skinner Family Carriage has been fully restored and is now display at the carriage house of the former Skinner estate, Wisteriahurst, at at 238 Cabot Street, Holyoke, MA.

Long Description:

Wistariahurst is the former home of William Skinner, a 19th century industrialist and manufacturer of silk. The family owned the estate until 1959 when the youngest child of William and Sarah Skinner, Katharine Skinner Kilborne, gave Wistariahurst to the City of Holyoke for cultural and educational purposes.

The family carriage, built around 1870, is on display at the carriage house, which is used as a visitors center and museum. A sign on the seat of the carriage tells the story of the historic carriage. It reads:

Skinner Family Carriage Returns to Wistariahurst
The Restoration of a Holyoke Manufactured Carriage

The carriage that once belonged to the Skinner family is coming home to Wistariahurst this autumn. The horse drawn carriage (circa 1870) was manufactured by Fenton and Dunn of Holyoke, a well know and reputable carriage maker among those in New England. In a write-up of their work, it was said, “We speak advisedly when we say that this company make only the finest of work—their reputation all through the line of their patronage bears out this statement.” Wistariahurst’s archives contain several photographs taken of Skinner family members seated in carriages. The Skinner Fenton and Dunn carriage has been in storage in a barn in Granby, MA, after it was carefully repaired and restored to its original condition by Mr. William Menard. Mr. Menard received the carriage as a gift from Miss Elizabeth Skinner of South Hadley, the daughter of Joseph. The carriage was first transferred from Mr. Menard into the care of The Joseph Allen Skinner Museum of Mount Holyoke College. However, when their storage facilities changed, the carriage was then gifted to Wistariahurst Museum, to be displayed for educational purposes. The carriage remained in storage for several years while Wistariahurst Museum’s Carriage House underwent renovations. This summer, communications with the Menard family revealed that all parties were ready to return the carriage to its proper home in Holyoke. Wistariahurst is proud to house this family artifact, and it will be on permanent display in the Carriage House.

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