dsc_0155.JPGMumford, N.Y - It was 1966. Jack Wehle and Stuart Bolger were just beginning to put together plans for what would become Genesee Country Village & Museum.  That's when they first saw carriage model 9385. A Cunningham park drag, she was irresistible, even some 80 years after her creation.   This grand vehicle was one of just a few prize reminders of the days when the James Cunningham, Son & Co. was turning out high-quality, handcrafted carriages.  One of Rochester's oldest concerns-founded here in 1838-Cunningham went on to have branch offices across the country, including in New Orleans, Chicago and San Francisco where carriage orders were taken.  The carriages were built in Rochester.  By the 1880s, the factory on Rochester's Canal Street was the largest employer in town. The park drag, probably built around 1895, was one of their grand productions.  Standing more than 10 feet tall and 12 and a half feet long, she had room enough for 16; 12 on top, sitting on padded benches on the roof and rear of the vehicle, and four inside the carriage. Like other drags, this park drag had a "boot" at the back where boxes were stored that carried additional picnic supplies. Park drags, the equivalent of having your own private stretch limousine, were special order vehicles. The GCV&M drag is especially large- like a related vehicle, the road coach-but designed with the appointments of a drag. Drags started at about $2500 in the 1880s when a skilled carpenter earned about $400 per year. She would have been pulled by four powerful and well-trained horses not likely to be spooked by the stray dog or rabbit. Heads turned whenever she passed by. Wehle and Bolger couldn't say no.  Not long after the park drag was built, Cunningham turned to manufacturing luxury, gasoline-powered vehicles; airplanes; and, eventually, telecommunications equipment. The company was still prosperous in 1968 when it became a division of Gleason Works. By 1966, however, the museum's park drag had lost much of her original glamour. While the interior upholstery was original, her lamps and outside seats had been replaced. The running gear was weathered; metal parts were corroding; paint was flaking; wheel hubs were split and the wheel joinery loose.  In 2007, thanks to funding from Daisy Marquis Jones Foundation, the carriage was finally bundled off to Asheboro, NC, and Tom Shelton, an experienced restorer. Work proceeded slowly as Shelton communicated his findings during the restoration while awaiting the completion of the Wehle Gallery restoration, which was to be the park drag's new, climate-controlled home. This past week, the park drag returned home. Its glistening vermillion-and-black surface now turns heads as visitors enter the gallery atrium, where it sits, sans horses, a picnic setting spread out.  Nearby are an interactive narration and video, and a rein board where visitors may simulate the four-in-hand experience of driving such a coach. Museum hours are 9:30 a.m.-4 p.m.  Admission is adults $16; youth (4-16) $10, seniors 62+ & students with ID $13, children under 3 admitted free. For more information, call (585-538-6822) or visit http://www.gcv.org/.

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Contact: Judy Markham (585) 538-6822 jmarkham@gcv.org