What:The Dougherty Museum
When:Open for the season through Aug. 26
Where:8306 U.S. Highway 287
Cost:$5, $3 for children 6 to 12
LONGMONT -- The first antique Ray Dougherty bought was a 1900 Mason and Hamlin reed organ, which he found at a music store on Main Street in Longmont. It was 1927, and Dougherty was a senior in high school.
He continued to collect antiques throughout his life. The museum he opened to display them is known for its cars, but, as is hinted by the organ that kicked off Dougherty's antiques hobby, the facility houses a variety of items from ages past.
The Dougherty Museum, located just south of Longmont on U.S. Highway 287, includes pianos, organs, music boxes, farm equipment, shoulder arms and other items. There's even a display of historic barbed wire. Members of the public may visit the museum only during the summer months. It opened June 1 and will close for the year after Aug. 26.
A standout among the museum's collection of organs is a 1928 Wurlitzer Theater Pipe Organ. The instrument used to be housed in the Rialto Theater in Loveland, where an accompanist used it to provide a soundtrack to silent films. Some of the items in the museum's music section give a sense of the innovative ways people listened to and made music early in the 20th century. The museum has several music boxes. These are devices that are similar to the kind of children's music boxes that are still popular as toys, but they are not toys. They use rotating metal discs that are notched so that they trigger tone-producing elements underneath. The music boxes were a widespread form of home entertainment more than a hundred years ago. Now they make for fascinating specimens from an era before electronically recorded music.
The Dougherty collection marks the advent of radio with several machines from the 1920s. It's hard to imagine the impact these devices might have had when they first came on the market. "People were amazed that sound could be transferred through the air and received in their homes," notes a museum brochure. It is, indeed, amazing, as the museum's old radios help to remind us.
Wise visitors will put aside some time to check out the full range of collections at the Dougherty. But the soul of the museum is its automobiles. The automobile collection includes cars going back to 1902, and almost all of the vehicles are still in working order. The 1902 model is a Mobile Steamer, a steam-powered car believed to be the first or one of the first cars in Boulder County. It was owned by Andrew J. Macky, the namesake of Macky Auditorium on the Boulder campus of the University of Colorado. The museum features several other steam-powered cars, and it tells us that Stanley Steamers once picked up passengers in Longmont and Loveland to take them to the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park.
One of the most stunning items in the museum is a 1920 Pierce Arrow Model 48. Pierce Arrows had a button in the arm rest that summoned the chauffeur's attention. They had imported French plate glass. The upholstery was immaculate. The Dougherty example is in beautiful condition, and its aura of luxury still dazzles. The historical breadth and quality of Dougherty's automobiles makes it interesting not just for car buffs but also for anyone interested in design and innovation. History is brought to life through their strange shapes and obsolete features.
The objective is to reach human immortality—that is, to create things which are necessary to mankind, necessary to the purpose of the existence of mankind, and which have become the fruit that drives the creation of a higher state of mankind than ever existed before."