Tucked away in southern Maine is a unique museum focusing on turn-of-the-century rural America. Founded by Don King in 1970, the Willowbrook Museum Village of Newfield, Maine, is a "must see" for all antique gas engine enthusiasts. Featuring a wide array of early artifacts, its collection includes antique engines, tractors, carriages, horse-drawn farm equipment and a steam-driven carousel - even an airplane car.
The museum building, originally known as the Durgin homestead, was one of the few structures in the area spared from a devastating forest fire in 1947. King, an avid hunter and outdoorsman, originally remodeled the homestead as a lodge when he purchased the site. As time went by, local residents encouraged King to restore the Durgin home and its outlying barns to their former glory, and that was the start of King's collection of antique engines, tractors, carriages and local historical artifacts.
The Durgin homestead is located in what is now historic Newfield Village. The house and barns are restored, and a unique feature is its country store. The Durgins' were merchants and made a store out of one of the barns. Today, the same store is operating, and throughout the barn visitors can find farm equipment displays ranging from butter churns to decoys.
There is also an 1894 Armitage Herschell portable steam carousel that was purchased by the Fenderson family of Saco, Maine. The carriage was transported to different country fairs for 26 years. It is a complete unit, including the original ticket booth, signs and steam engine, which now runs on compressed air.
A goal of the museum is to have some engines operating farm equipment in a working display. To this end, the museum needs gas engine enthusiasts who will help get a few of engines running and help fill in the history of the engines themselves. Gas farm engines have been displayed with pumps, wood splitters, cord wood saws and other farm-related equipment.
The carriage barn has horse-drawn equipment ranging from pungs (low, one-horse box sleighs) to an 1849 Concord stagecoach, one of the earliest remaining stagecoaches in the country. Other attractions include an early schoolhouse, a bicycle shop, tools and the one-of-a-kind "roadable airplane." Its short, cigar-shaped wings allowed it to take off and land on the back roads of Maine.
The museum is open May 15 through Sept. 30, and the Christmas Etcetera Gift Shop, which specializes in gifts, books and museum memorabilia, is open May 15 through Dec. 23.
Contact the Willowbrook Museum at: 68 Elm St., Newfield, ME 04056; (207) 793-2784; www.willowbrookmuseum.org
Contact engine enthusiast Paul Baresel at: 69 Christian Hill Road, Limington, ME 04049.