The Northwest Carriage Museum
Our family motto has always seemed to be “live like the mountain is out,” which is a popular phrase here in Washington State due to the amount of rain and fog we seem to get. Mount Rainier is THE MOUNTAIN, and when she is visible, it feels like everyone is happy and loving life. The beaches and trails are full of people fulling soaking in her beauty.
Winter months in the PNW can be hard- especially if you have little kids. You NEED out of the house, but don’t necessarily want to get muddy and wet with the little ones. Our family has been going on short day trips and weekend getaways to explore this beautiful region, even if the mountain is hiding.
When we arrived, Museum Director Laurie Bowman gave us a short tour and showed us some of the cool features that the carriages have. She was so kind and patient with our kids, who were interrupting her and asking approximately 8,000 questions. I could tell right then that she LOVED her job and was very proud of what the museum had to offer. Laurie told us, “I joined the museum in 2005, become the director in 2012. I have enjoyed watching the museum grow from 2000 visitors to nearly 10,000 last year. We opened with 21 vehicles in 2002, and now have 57, this makes me very happy!”
The kids were eager to see everything and loved learning about the past. The girls were into the vintage clothing; our son was asking about how things were made and how they worked. It was so fun to see what they were interested in, and they didn’t even realize how much they were learning. I loved the labels, descriptions, and videos near the displays. It was not only easy for me to learn, but I could read everything to the kids, and it kept their attention!
Laurie and the staff were all knowledgeable and informative.
“I love sharing history on the carriages, and there are so many fun facts! One of my favorites is the fact that on the luxury carriages, the driver sits up high as an indicator of social status, not to see over the horses, which is the common thought. The other comment that I love hearing from visitors is people always say to me, “What is a world-class museum like this doing in Raymond.” Some of the Carriages in the Museum were the same type used by European royalty!
What is Laurie’s favorite carriage? She told us, “This is a tough question for me, the carriages our like my children hard to have a favorite! I will admit I am partial to the Summer Coupe Brougham and the Landaulette!”
After spending nearly an hour learning about the past and dreaming about what it would be like, we went to the kid section of the museum for them to play. There is a school-house section, interactive horse, blacksmith shop, vintage clothing for them to wear, and even a wagon for them to climb on.
The museum gift shop was perfect. It was just the right size and had something for everyone. I especially liked the handmade local crafts, lavender bath and body products, and the fabulous book collection. You can even buy an official NW Carriage Museum book which is available in the gift shop or by calling (360) 952-4150
History of the Museum
The Northwest Carriage Museum opened its doors in 2002. Private collectors, Gary and Cec Dennis, donated their collection of 21 horse-drawn carriages. Jerry Bowman joined the museum as curator in 2005 and was instrumental in doubling the amount of vehicles the museum has in its collection. They always had a dream of sharing their collection with the public, and we are so happy that they did. In April 2015, they completed an expansion of the museum. They added a barn with an additional 3900 square feet.
This addition was necessary to expand the museum collection and better accommodate its visitors.
Today, nearly 10,000 people visit the museum annually.
There are currently 57 carriages, sleighs, buggies, and wagons on display. These restored vehicles are all from the 19th century and have amazing stories to tell. A few of the carriages were even featured in movies like “Shirley Temple,” “Gone with the Wind,” and” Gentleman Jim.” Among the collection are a mail buggy, hearse, stagecoach, sleighs, farm wagons, the same types of carriages used by European royalty and more.
The museum is filled with antiques, tools, vintage clothing and accessories, art, and even a large life-sized bear named Willy Paw. I was especially impressed with how clean and organized the museum was. There was plenty of room to look at things, and I didn’t have to worry about little hands or bodies accidentally running into anything or tipping things over. This is a very kid-friendly museum, and I am a little sad that we didn’t purchase an annual pass. But that’s okay because we will be back again and will know better!
It’s interesting that it wasn’t that long ago that nearly everyone used carriages. Cars overtook carriages in the United States between 1920 and 1939. It’s possible your grandparents can remember seeing one pass by on the road or sitting in one watching cars pass by.
Laurie said, “My hope for the museum is to continue to keep history alive for future generations. Our goal is to stay a vibrant entity in our small community, drawing visitors to Pacific County!”
We agree with Laurie; the Northwest Carriage Museum is truly a hidden gem.
If you have any questions or comments about the NW Carriage Museum, please comment below.
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HOURS AND ADMISSION
10 AM-4 PM Open Daily, Year-Round
Children 6-18: #5
Children under 5: Free
Senior, Military and AAA Discounts Available
HOW TO DONATE