A horse-drawn carriage from "Gone With the Wind" is a star attraction at the Northwest Carriage Museum, in Raymond, Pacific County.
In the movie “Gone With the Wind,” Belle Watling, the bawdyhouse madam who saves Rhett Butler and friends by providing them an alibi to Yankee interrogators, asks Scarlett O’Hara’s friend Melanie — who married Ashley Wilkes, remember? — to step into a horse-drawn carriage for a chat.
The meeting has to be private, because in 1860s Georgia the very proper Melanie can’t be seen with the very improper Belle.
Watling’s fancy Shelburne Landau carriage, with its fully enclosed cab, was perfectly suited to such a tête-à-tête. If you have any doubts, go see it for yourself, at the Northwest Carriage Museum in Raymond, Pacific County.
Surprisingly enough, this little logging burg on the way to the beach — excuse me if I call it a “one-horse town” — is home to Belle Watling’s Landau and more than two dozen additional impeccably restored carriages. They’re showcased in what might be one of the Northwest’s best — and perhaps least-known — small museums, which celebrates its 10th anniversary with special events Sept. 22.
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The Northwest Carriage Museum grew out of the hobby and fascination with horse-drawn conveyances of local resident Gary Dennis, whose grandfather founded a small chain of variety stores in the area. The museum began with a donation of 21 carriages from his private collection. More have been added since, under the oversight of a nonprofit.
Carriages date from the 1850s to the 1920s, including several unusual specimens such as the “GWTW” Landau (which also featured in the 1938 Bette Davis film, “Jezebel”).
Other “film stars” include a Landaulette from the 1947 Rex Harrison movie “The Ghost and Mrs. Muir”; a C-Spring Victoria, an elegant ladies’ carriage used in “The Little Princess,” with Shirley Temple; even an elaborately carved hearse, from a California film ranch that provided carriages to Hollywood, which appeared in the Errol Flynn boxing movie, “Gentleman Jim.”
The museum, which attracts 3,000 visitors a year, has gleaming pine floors plus signage and lighting of a quality rarely seen in a small-town museum. Director Laurie Bowman and her husband, curator Jerry Bowman, may be available to give informative tours.
“That fringe-top surrey was the station wagon of its day, costing about $160 in those days,” Jerry Bowman pointed out to a visitor. A Spider Phaeton, a very high carriage of light construction, “was for wealthy young guys to go way too fast!”
Perhaps the museum’s rarest and most valuable carriage, Bowman said, is a road coach that carried mail from London to Exeter in 1850s England. It’s like an Anglicized Dodge City stagecoach, with gleaming black paint and a brilliant red undercarriage.
The museum is full of “don’t touch” classics, but a kid-friendly zone includes a mock-up 1890s schoolhouse where kids can ring a school bell, dress up for photos and climb aboard a replica buckboard.
Brian J. Cantwell: 206-748-5724 or firstname.lastname@example.org