Crafted by Heiser and Winter, a well-known coach maker from the small town of Gaming just outside Vienna, the hearse was used only for special funerals. A hearse similar to it was used in the 1914 funeral of Archduke Francis Ferdinand, whose assassination led to the start of World War I. It was once owned by Leichenbestattung Hofmeister, one of the largest morticians in Vienna during the early 20th century.
Bob Brown, Port Townsend resident and former owner of the hearse, decided to donate it to the carriage museum. Before making that decision, "he came down and we gave him a tour and he loved it," Museum Curator Jerry Bowman explained. "He said, 'Yeah, this is where it needs to be'."
The hearse was shipped to the U.S. in the 1970s, arriving at Salt Lake City. Having arrived in poor condition, the former owners used it as a display in an antique store. When Brown came into possession of it, though, he restored it in 2005. The hearse was used as recent as a year ago at a funeral in Port Townsend.
"It's a workable vehicle and everything," Bowman said.
"We get stuff donated to us all the time and actually I turn stuff down," he continued. "The problem that we have over at the museum right now is we don't have enough room. So, it's like a puzzle; I've got to move four or five things around and I've got to put a few things in storage in order to bring it in. But, that's a nice problem to have."
The carriage museum will hopefully not have that problem much longer - a new addition will be completed within the next few months, funded by a grant from the state. Ground broke last week. The museum will remain open throughout the construction.
"We're really, really proud of the museum because it's drawing so many more people to the area. We really feel like it's helping the economy in the area, because we've done a survey and the majority of people that visit the museum come from 50 miles or more away. Those people are eating at our restaurants and buying our gas and restocking their RVs at the supermarkets or the Dennis Company," Bowman said. "So it's really helping the families of our area. And I jokingly tell people, 'The museum is the Disneyland of Raymond.' It actually draws people here, which is kind of neat. And hopefully it will be drawing more people here as we expand."