News Column

St. Lawrence Power and Equipment Museum celebrates 10th year with Gas and Steam Engine Exhibition

June 15, 2014

By Katie Anderson, Watertown Daily Times, N.Y.

June 15--MADRID -- The St. Lawrence Power and Equipment Museum celebrated its 10th anniversary this year and held a 32nd annual weekend-long history lesson.

The Antique Gas and Steam Engine Exhibition brought about 2,000 people through Madrid from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, according to museum secretary Roger S. Austin.

From small hand tools to large steam engines and sawmills from the 1920s, the museum showcased antiques, some dating as far back as the 1800s, across 12 acres of its 115-acre property.

People toured the museum in horse-drawn wagons and a red train-shaped tractor with a wagon attached behind it.

Some of the facilities included an old restored schoolhouse, a horse-drawn equipment building, a collections building, a shoe repair shop from the 1950s and an antique tractor exhibit building that's in mid-construction. Next to a classic car show there was a 1920s Texaco gas station that is a replica of the one that used to be at the four-way stop at routes 310 and 345.

Mr. Austin said the sawmills and the tractor-pull competitions draw the largest crowds.

"This is not an agricultural museum," he said. "It's a museum that's preserving life from a once-rural community. It's not just tractors or farming equipment. Some of our facilities have a household full of inventions."

The exhibition has been going on for 32 years, but before the museum was established in 2004, it was managed by the St. Lawrence Gas and Steam Association. After years of annual exhibitions and growing membership and collections, the association transformed itself into the nonprofit museum.

"A lot of people want to preserve this part of history for the kids and be able to show them that things were a lot harder back then," said Gary F. Hargrave, a member of the museum.

The museum now has more than 900 members, and 150 of them volunteered for the weekend.

Lines formed around the pavilion for the chicken barbecue Sunday.

Some antique dealers and crafters camped out on the property all weekend to sell their treasures.

There were also pony rides and a petting zoo set up for children.

"It's one of the greatest things for tourism in St. Lawrence County," said Charles F. Goolden, museum treasurer.

He said the exhibition draws people from across the state and even the East Coast. He said the museum also has a number of Canadian members.

"It's history and preserving of the past and giving younger people an idea of how people lived," Mr. Goolden said.

He said the museum, which is run solely through volunteers and donations, has grown over the past three years, with more buildings for exhibits, including the antique tractor exhibit building that's being constructed now.

"Not only are we now debt free, but we actually have a net worth of over $1 million," he said.

Kevin P. Finnegan, Madrid, who's on the board of directors of the museum, said it also will host a "Harvest Days" exhibition in August.

"Every year we just hope it will continue to grow," he said.


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Source: Watertown Daily Times (NY)

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