More Concord Coaches will be on display Saturday than anywhere

Patrick Maimone (left), vice president of the Abbot-Downing Historical Society and Tom Prescott (right), unload an Abbot carriage that will be at the weekend Concord Coach showcase at Johnny Prescott Oil on Airport this coming Saturday. The carriage was made by the Abbot company, before it teamed with the Downing Company that made the iconic coaches.

Patrick Maimone (left), vice president of the Abbot-Downing Historical Society and Tom Prescott (right), unload an Abbot carriage that will be at the weekend Concord Coach showcase at Johnny Prescott Oil on Airport this coming Saturday. The carriage was made by the Abbot company, before it teamed with the Downing Company that made the iconic coaches. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

The front mantle of a Abbot-Downing pickup truck in the garage of the Johnny Prescott Oil Concord Coach display space on Airport Road in Concord on Monday, June 17, 2024. Abbot-Downing tried to convert to building to trucks but was overtaking by Henry Ford’s assembly line technology and forced the company out of business around 1928.

The front mantle of a Abbot-Downing pickup truck in the garage of the Johnny Prescott Oil Concord Coach display space on Airport Road in Concord on Monday, June 17, 2024. Abbot-Downing tried to convert to building to trucks but was overtaking by Henry Ford’s assembly line technology and forced the company out of business around 1928. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

The nameplate from the Abbot carriage that will be on display at Johnny Prescott Oil on Airport Road this coming Saturday.

The nameplate from the Abbot carriage that will be on display at Johnny Prescott Oil on Airport Road this coming Saturday. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Tom Prescott opens the door of the Abbot-Downing 12-person Concord Coach at the display barn at Johnny Prescott Oil on Airport Road in Concord on Monday, June 17, 2024. The 12-person coach is one of few left in the United States.

Tom Prescott opens the door of the Abbot-Downing 12-person Concord Coach at the display barn at Johnny Prescott Oil on Airport Road in Concord on Monday, June 17, 2024. The 12-person coach is one of few left in the United States. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Tom Prescott opens the door of the Abbot-Downing 12-person Concord Coach at the display barn at Johnny Prescott Oil on Airport Road in Concord on Monday, June 17, 2024. The 12-person coach is one of few left in the United States. Prescott bought some life-size dolls to represent travellers inside the coach.

Tom Prescott opens the door of the Abbot-Downing 12-person Concord Coach at the display barn at Johnny Prescott Oil on Airport Road in Concord on Monday, June 17, 2024. The 12-person coach is one of few left in the United States. Prescott bought some life-size dolls to represent travellers inside the coach. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Tom Prescott shows a Abbot-Downing pickup truck in the garage of the Johnny Prescott Oil Concord Coach display space on Airport Road in Concord on Monday, June 17, 2024. Abbot-Downing tried to convert to building to trucks but was overtaking by Henry Ford’s assembly line technology and forced the company out of business around 1928.

Tom Prescott shows a Abbot-Downing pickup truck in the garage of the Johnny Prescott Oil Concord Coach display space on Airport Road in Concord on Monday, June 17, 2024. Abbot-Downing tried to convert to building to trucks but was overtaking by Henry Ford’s assembly line technology and forced the company out of business around 1928. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

by DAVID BROOKS

Monitor staff

Published: 06-19-2024 12:12 PM

You expect to see Concord Coaches when Tom Prescott puts his collection of Abbot-Downing on display at his company’s annual open house.  This Saturday, in fact, you can see more of these handsome stagecoaches in one place than anywhere else on Earth.

But you can also see some things that are less expected: An Abbot-Downing truck and an Abbot-Downing fire engine.

“Many people don’t know about these,” said Prescott, who has been collecting Concord memorabilia in his private museum for decades. 

The collection will be on display at Prescott Oil Company, 122 Airport Road, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday. It’s free and open to all.

Abbot-Downing built stagecoaches starting in 1825. It became the largest builder of stagecoaches in the United States, employing hundreds of people in Concord.

The Concord Coach became famous for its unique suspension that made travel over 19th-century dirt or cobblestone roads much less uncomfortable. It was the symbol of luxury horse-drawn travel and coaches were shipped all over the world. They were sold as far away as New Zealand, South America and Africa, and were highly sought after for trips to the American West before railroads came along.

At the open house, you can even climb inside a reproduction of what it felt like to ride in relative luxury 150 years ago.

In the 20th century, however, business faded. The truck and fire engine were part of a short-lived effort to salvage the Abbot-Downing firm and keep jobs in Concord after the Model T turned horse-drawn transportation into yesterday’s news.

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The company, which had struggled since the death of Lewis Downing Jr. in 1901, turned to motorized vehicles in 1912 and was reborn as the Abbot-Downing Truck and Body Company in 1919, but what today’s business folk call a pivot didn’t work and the firm folded in 1925.

Also on display at the Prescott Oil open house will be a type of wagon known as a barge. This is a large, flat open wagon built by Abbot-Downing for St. Paul’s School. It was mostly used as a horse-drawn bus to carry students to places like Long Pond.

If you miss Saturday’s event, the following Saturday, June 29, the Penacook Historical Society will have an Open Barn event, showing off its Concord Coaches and other material from 1 to 4 p.m. The group’s barn is at 11 Penacook St. 

David Brooks can be reached at 369-3313 or dbrooks@cmonitor.com