The Antique Warehouse of the Dougherty Museum

doughterty museum longmont co signageIt’s obvious to anyone who reads this blog that I’m a museum junkie. I like going to museums, whether they’re oriented around the history of espionage, WWII, television production, art, natural history or just about anything else. I also enjoy an occasional flea market because you just never know what you’ll see there, all around the adage of “one man’s junk is another man’s treasure”.

When my friend Annie invited me to join her to visit the Doughterty Museum in Longmont, Colorado, 15min from my house, I’d never heard of it. And when I found out it was only open in the summers, and then only on weekends, I was intrigued. Clearly it’s not intended to be a money making facility and with a suggested admission of $5 person that then allows you to return to the museum for the rest of the season for free, it’s likely not even a non-profit but instead a tax write-off of some sort. (actually it’s a 501c3 non-profit according to the IRS and people donate antiques to aid the collection and to gain a write-off)

However it all works behind the scenes, the Dougherty Museum turns out to be a fun collection of mostly privately owned antiques in a fairly diverse (read “random”) mix. There are a dozen or so pianos and player pianos, there are lots of cars, farming equipment, and a set of impressive Steam Punk-esque steam powered tractors, an old sewing machine or two, and more. Mostly, though, it’s founder Ray Doughterty’s personal collection, a collection he started building back in 1927 when he bought a 27 year old pipe organ while in high school in Colorado. In 1940 he bought his first antique automobile, a 1913 Ford Model T.

Zoom forward and while most of the collection is owned by a member of the Dougherty family, there are many other cars owned by private collectors who seem to use the museum as a combination showroom and storage facility. I can envision a lot of spouses saying “that’s it, it’s me or that car of yours. Decide!” and a lot of happier marriages because of the co-op nature of the Museum!

Part of what I found interesting is that not every item had been completely restored and some of the older cars in particular had their original paint jobs and bodywork, as you’ll see in my photos. It makes you realize how much our view of antiques is colored by restoration work, not the original paints, paint jobs, detail work, wood elements, etc. Restorers seek to create something that’s historically accurate, but materials have evolved in the last 50-80 years and you can’t really go and buy a car paint that’s made from the original lead-based 1917 formula, which means you end up with a different finish, etc. So seeing old cars that looked, well, old, was interesting.

Sound good? If you want to go, be aware that the museum is only open June-August, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 11-5pm. That’s it. Call ahead if you want to ensure they’ll be open: (303) 776-2520.

Without further ado, my photos of the visit, with commentary:

travel medallions on antique porsche

This was parked out front, along with a half-dozen other beautiful antique Porsche cars. What caught my eye were the medallions, a far more interesting memento of road trips past than more modern stickers that you see on RVs truckin’ down the road.

long shot, dougherty museum, longmont

The museum itself is really just a big warehouse, so everything’s in one room with some reasonable level of organization (but notice even in this picture the display case of antique clothing, rather randomly placed in front of one of the cars).

1908 cadillac

I liked the specs on this, one of the earliest of the vehicles in the collection. This 1908 Cadillac had a 1 cylinder gasoline engine that gave the driver an alarming top speed of 25mph. Imagine driving cross country when that’s your top speed. I suspect that’s why trains were so much more popular back then!

Also notice that this is one of the small number of vehicles that hasn’t been through an extensive restoration process. It’s actually in remarkably good shape for a car that’s 107 years old if you think about it!

antique car

By 1929 car design had come a long way, from the wheels and tires to the fenders, radiator and considerably more comfortable interior. Still, given the state of roads before the 1950’s Interstate Highway Act (we can thank President Eisenhower for that one), one can imagine this was not a particular comfortable ride.

See that little metal object in front of the windshield, by the way? That’s the gas cap. Yikes. Glad designs have evolved since then.

Let’s go back a few years prior, however, because there’s something really interesting in this car:

antique cadillac

This is a 1910 Cadillac that sold for the princely sum of $1600 back then and sported a 4 cylinder engine and a top speed of 50mph.

But what’s most interesting about this vehicle is the lettering on the front dash: “27781 NEB”. That’s the original license plate number: apparently early cars didn’t have “plates” but just registration numbers that needed to be prominently displayed on the vehicle. This was one owner’s solution to the problem.

There’s a neat story behind the wood used just below the windshield too: it’s from the rear axle assembly packing box that the Dodge Brothers used to ship rear axles to the Ford factory. Henry Ford had workers chop up the wooden packing boxes and re-used them in the cars themselves. Smart! And yes, the Dodge brothers went on to create their own line of automobiles.

beautiful antique old car

I’ve never heard of Lozier before, but this 1913 Lozier, sporting a 6 cylinder engine and top speed of 70mph is one of the gems of the collection and stunning in person. It also cost a staggering $5000 in 1913 dollars, making it a car for only the richest of the rich. Nowadays you might see this in parades here in Colorado if you’re lucky: it still works, which is amazing.

After enjoying the extensive car collection, the back portion of the Dougherty Museum is taken up with antique farm equipment and what struck me was how Mad Max, how steampunk, these behemoths were. As you can see in this series of photos of different steam-powered tractors, threshers and other gear:

steampunk belts and wheels, antique tractor

steampunk gearing on antique tractor

massive chain, steampunk

In that last photo, the chain links are as big as your hands. Quite impressive, and rather daunting too. One can easily imagine the noise and destructive energy of these units when they were whirring away, chomping on whatever they were designed to do!

One of them also had this great logo on the side:

the farmer's friend stacker antique logo brand

My favorite part of the entire logo? That the blue outer strip is a belt. Look: it has a belt buckle!

original caterpillar logo antique tractor

In the same spirit, I loved the whimsical feel of this early Caterpillar logo. The company has gotten a lot more boring now that’s it’s a multinational conglomerate, if you ask me!

And finally, because antiques should all flock together, there was a beautiful old Singer sewing machine:

antique singer sewing machine

They really don’t make ’em like this any more. Beautiful work and attention to detail on the finish, very Art Deco.

That’s it. Very enjoyable, a $5 admission very well spent and a fun few hours of browsing the collection and chatting with “Fred”, the docent who attached to us and shared dozens of amusing anecdotes and facts about the various parts of the collection.

The Dougherty Museum, Longmont Colorado. Open June-Aug, Fri-Sunday, 11-5pm.

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