The museum is now open seven days a week, 365 days a year from 10 am-4 pm, and has expanded their showroom by 2,860 square feet. Ticket prices for the Barn Raising is $5 for members and $10 for non-members. There will be food and fun with beer and wine available for purchase.
With the expansion, the museum staff has been able to clear out most of their stored horse drawn vehicles and place them on display. However, the expansion almost did not happen.
When members of the Northwest Carriage Museum Board were in discussion about three years ago, it was brought up that many items were in storage and maybe it was time to think about a little expansion. During those meetings, the design of a barn came up.
"I remember that during meetings we were facing the issue of not having enough space to display everything that we had acquired for the museum," recalls Museum Curator Jerry Bowman. "We should build a barn."
The group was able to raise an initial $40,000 from Washington state grants after discussion with Washington Representative Brian Blake set them in the right direction.
"Members of the board discovered that even with the climate of the economy, that the State still had grant money earmarked for historical projects," said Bowman.
"During the process of writing grants and developing a design, we had scheduled to start earlier and place the expansion out the back of the museum," Bowman said. "But we soon discovered that with all the underground utilities in that area, we would have to spend almost the entire grant just on relocating sewage and other utilities."
Now faced with the possibility that they would not be able to move forward, a three-person team consisting of Bowman, Brent Dennis and Rebecca Chaffee, started to look at alternate solutions to the issue.
"After we started talking about anything that might be possible, it came to us that maybe we could just flip the design and put it out front," Bowman said.
And that is exactly what they did. First, constructing a false wall to the front end of the building so that current displays would not be disturbed and that visitors would not be interrupted by construction. the work ran for eight months from August 2014 to April 2015.
"The loft for the barn was an after thought and we did not have the money for that, but we got busy and gained an additional $50,000 from a more local crowd of interested parties," said Bowman.
The loft is already home to several vehicles, but that section of the museum does not have public access. The public can see like carriages and vehicles on the main floor as the museum has placed duplicate type horse drawn vehicles up above in the Loft area.
"And flipping the design, actually worked out better for us," Bowman said.
The decision to move the new wing to the front took away the lawn, and had to have additional permits from the Washington Parks Department. It was found that the move, now located the extension of the museum on the old Northern Pacific railroad right away, the actual building of the museum.
The Barn also gives travelers a better mark to identify the museum, pulling tourists off the road to stop in to see the collection of 38 carriages.
"In reality, even with the expansion, we are almost out of room again," Bowman said.
Bowman explained as he worked on one of the latest arrivals to the museum, an 1871 Mail Buggy with a history of serving Cornelius, Oregon, that this and an additional Studebaker carriage still have to be added to the collection, and will be on display for the Barn Raising.
"And we have another six coming out of Medford, Oregon," explained Bowman.
The 1871 U.S. Postal Mail buggy, made from wood, canvas and tin, is a marvel with all of the original tack complete with a few studded horseshoes.
"It was apparent that they traveled over ice by the shoes, and the amount of dirt and mud that was inside was very surprising to see," Bowman said.
Bowman, who takes time and care going over the latest additions to the museum, says that the mail buggy will not be fully restored, as it makes a much better display cleaned up and a better history lesson for people to see how it still functioned after so many years.
The interior has several canvas "sorting" bags for the postman who drove the single horse buggy. It also has US Mail sings on the exterior. Bowman was also able to procure a US Mail pushcart to accompany the buggy. They both will accent each other in a new display for the museum.
But there is a lot more to the Northwest Carriage Museum than just carriages and horse drawn vehicles. Among the displays are a replica 1890 schoolroom and a demonstration area where visitors can see how a wagon wheel is made and even get a feel of how a horse drawn vehicle might feel with an interactive display.
And, of course the many famous and special items like the a vehicle used by Shelburne Landau in the movie classic, Gone With the Wind, and a Carved Panel Hearse, used in the 1942 movie Gentleman Jim with Errol Flynn, and the 1888 Stagecoach that was featured in the 1939 film Virginia City.
It has been noted that the Northwest Carriage Museum is quickly turning into a destination spot for travelers.
Started in 2002 by a generous donation of fully restored 19th Century horse drawn carriages from Gary and Cec Dennis, the location is now gathering more attention.
"We took a survey of visitors and found out that 80 percent of people coming through the museum here in Raymond are from outside 50 miles or better," Bowman said. "We really are turning into a destination spot for tourist."
The translation to the local economy means that people are spending additional dollars while buying gas, staying in motels and sundries as they pass through town.
The displays are now more vehicles than just carriages with sleighs, as well as many work vehicles that have local, state or Pacific Northwest History.