You don’t need to buy tickets to step back in time and enjoy antique carriages, vintage automobiles, and such classic trucks as “Old Fire Engine #1,” the Oakland Volunteer Fire Department’s 1930 La France.
There’s no admission fee to see these and other impressive artifacts in the new Garrett County Museum of Transportation in Oakland, which opened last fall, just in time to snag the 66th annual national Antique Auto (Glidden) Tour and generate lots of buzz for the town’s picturesque Liberty Street.
With the addition of the handsome new museum—complete with architectural elements reminiscent of Martin’s Livery in 1890, Lawton’s Auto Garage in 1920, and the town’s first fire hall—the quaint street is becoming “the destination segment of Oakland,” according to Town Council President Jack Riley.
Liberty Street has two other popular attractions: a restored 1884 Queen Anne-style train station and a replica of the front porch of the celebrated 1870s Deer Park Hotel, the latter serving as a backdrop to a town park.
“It’s just wonderful,” says Riley of the two-story, 10,000-square-foot museum, which attracted some 7,000 visitors in its first four months. Built for approximately $1 million by locals Troy and Steve Gnegy, the museum delights patrons so much that one trip isn’t always enough.
“You don’t see things like this often in a small town,” says Gary Staggs of San Antonio, Texas, touring the self-guided museum (for the second time) with his Deep Creek Lake daughter’s family in tow.
Dubbed the Deep Creek Gallery, most of the second floor is devoted to the history of the 3,900-acre lake created in 1925 when the Youghiogheny Hydroelectric Company built a coffer dam to generate electricity across a small tributary called Deep Creek.
Before contractors topped out the building, a crane hoisted up the gallery’s key attraction: Flying Scot #4. The fourth sailboat of its kind was invented by the late Sandy Douglass, who founded the sailboat company which operates today in nearby Deer Park as Flying Scot, Inc.
Not far from the transportation museum, the Garrett County Historical Society also operates the venerable Garrett County Historical Museum on Second Street, but it never had enough space for a “large Deep Creek” exhibit, says Robert Boal, president of the historical society, despite the fact that “half our visitors are associated with Deep Creek Lake.”
Thanks to a “generous gift” from the Howard and Audrey Naylor Family Trust, Boal says the historical society was able to fulfill a long-time goal of showcasing transportation antiques and collectables, not only from Deep Creek Lake’s storied past, but also from eras when two modes of transportation—cars on the National Pike near Grantsville and trains on the B&O Railroad in southern Oakland—were shaping a young Garrett County.
“This county is about transportation,” says Boal, a retired high-school teacher who volunteered countless hours overseeing the project.
Still, “We were astounded we could open with such an abundance of items,” he continues, praising the gifts and assistance received from various sources. Deep Creek Yacht Club members, for example, consulted with volunteer curators about lake history and then donated priceless photographs for the museum to reproduce.
Yet to come will be interactive displays, educational presentations in a community room, and rotating exhibits (with donations hopefully covering operating expenses). A steady flow of prospective new objects, adds Boal, should keep the museum vibrant and “a work in progress.”
For more information on the Garrett County Museum of Transportation, visit www.garrettcountymuseums.com.