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Dougherty Museum returns to display classic cars and machines

Museum open Friday, Saturday and Sunday in August
Doug Dougherty of Longmont's Dougherty Museum

Tin Lizzies, Stanley Steamers and a Rolls Royce Silver Ghost are among the silent remains of America’s motoring past greeting visitors to the four decades-old Dougherty Museum, south of Longmont.

Models powered by steam, electricity and early internal combustion engines are on display at the museum, pieced together by the late Longmont turkey farmer Ray Dougherty. His son, Doug, now oversees the museum and its 85 or so early autos and ancient technology mainstays including a two-ton Caterpillar built in 1925, pianos, music boxes and a reed organ.

Hulking in the back of the 29,000-square-foot museum, are a McCormick-Deering 7-foot grain binder, Moline one-row corn cultivator and a 1913 International Harvester belt driven wire tie hay baler.

The museum opened Friday after being shuttered last year because of COVID-19. It will welcome visitors in August every Friday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The museum is located one mile south of Longmont on the east side of U.S. 287.

The old cars, most from Boulder County, attract plenty of attention. But the farm equipment is a big draw to those who lived and worked under the hot sun during the late summer harvest, Doug Dougherty said. “A lot of the old farmers love to come back here and talk about what it was like in those days. Or at least talk about what it was like for their grandpas,” he said. 

All items are a little rusty but look as viable now as they did over 100 years ago. That is due to the diligence of Ray Dougherty, who often drove through towns big and small and asked about old farm equipment or cars that current owners no longer wanted and was willing to unload, his son said.

“Dad always bought everything in its original state, almost always with the original parts and paint,” Doug Dougherty said. “He believed in authenticity.”

Ray Dougherty was fascinated by mechanical inventions and began his collection by purchasing a Mason and Hamlin reed organ, circa 1900, when he was a high school senior in 1927. He later acquired a 1913 Model T Ford, similar to the 1918 Model T his family drove to Longmont from Oklahoma, according to the Dougherty Museum history.

As the collection grew, the Doughertys realized the pieces needed to be properly housed. The family began construction of the museum in 1974 to properly display the cars, tractors and other items. The museum was finished and opened to the public in 1977.

Doug Dougherty said he and his siblings drove most of the cars at least once. His younger brother, meanwhile, was allowed to take the 1924 Rolls Royce Silver Ghost to his senior prom. “That was truly a treat for him,” Doug Dougherty said, adding he didn’t know if his brother’s date was impressed.

The elder Dougherty died in 1988 and, to ensure the continuity of the museum, it was organized as a 501(c)3 private operating foundation. The Dougherty Museum is now eligible to accept both cash and antique items which may be deductible by donors for federal income tax purposes, Dougherty said.

The county also allows volunteers to work off taxes by chipping in at the museum’s front desk and as tour guides. “That has been a huge help to us,” Doug Dougherty said. “It’s helped us keep good people and keep this museum running.”

Admission to the museum is $7 for adults and $3 for children ages 6-12. Children under 6 years of age are admitted free. For more information, call 303-776-2520.