St. Lawrence Power & Equipment Museum in Madrid still growing at 10th anniversary
Saturday, April 5, 2014 - 4:31 pm

MADRID -- The St. Lawrence Power & Equipment Museum’s tenth anniversary is not marking the end of anything, but the continuation of an expanding educational and fun attraction for the people of St. Lawrence County, the North Country and beyond.

Growing from what was the St. Lawrence Gas & Steam Association formed in 1976, the St. Lawrence Power & Equipment Museum celebrates its tenth year this month.

Members of that earlier organization saw a need for a museum dedicated to preserving the history of the machines and engines that helped shape life in the North Country.

There was also a need for space to restore and exhibit the association’s growing collection. This included several very large items such as a 1922 A.B. Farquhar portable steam engine once owned by St. Lawrence County and the giant 1920 Anderson 2-cylinder diesel engine that previously powered a cheese box factory in Heuvelton.

The museum was established as an education corporation and provisionally chartered by the Regents of the University of the State of New York on April 20, 2004. Members and assets of the former association were immediately transferred to the new museum.

The museum’s by-laws assure that members play a major role in its management and operation, donating thousands of hours of volunteer time.

In 2006 the museum acquired the Goolden-Mann farm in Madrid including its house, barn and out-buildings. Since then the collection has grown and now includes many memorable and unique items.

In the past eight years, members have overseen construction of a collection exhibit building and a timber-frame building housing horse-drawn equipment. A building for an antique tractor exhibit will be built this year. Historic structures have also been added including a large granary, corn crib, schoolhouse, and windmill. A log cabin has been purchased and will be moved to the site in the next two years. Replicas of vintage structures have also been built including the sawmill, shoe repair shop, gas station, and maple sugar house.

The museum’s campus covers about 10 acres. Graveled lanes, mowed grass, newly planted trees, and modern conveniences welcome visitors. A large pavilion building with a kitchen is the center of activity during its regular exhibitions in June and on Labor Day weekend, as well as those of other events such as the international antique truck show. Total covered space will soon exceed 25,000 square feet.

Envisioned is a living history museum where visitors can walk among four farmsteads, each reflecting a different era. One will show life during pioneer days, another the era when horses provided power, one of the time around WWI when engines replaced horses, and another of the more modern times around WWII as electricity arrived. The village green has begun to take shape with vintage buildings filled with period furnishings. Future exhibit buildings will feature the history of the region’s railroads, mines, and once-abundant manufacturing facilities.

The museum’s large buildings provide space for many items not normally seen elsewhere. Antique tractors, buggies, threshing machines, wagons, and engines abound. There are early washing machines, cream separators, cultivators, feed grinders, and haying equipment. The collection reflects the rural atmosphere of the region but includes many items once used by city dwellers as well. There are sewing machines, spinning wheels, stoves, and other mundane items. One can see the machines that made life easier, more productive, and provided time for leisure activity.

The volunteer work force has done much of the construction. Members and friends have also donated money and materials to support growth. Museum administration provides for management of the collection using specialized software. Open board meetings and regular reports to the state and the IRS assure transparent management. Board members receive no compensation and are elected directly by members.

The museum is located at 1755 State Highway 345 in Madrid, New York. Visitors can see exhibits of the many implements and inventions that made life in the North Country more comfortable and productive. You can tour the museum from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the second and fourth Saturdays of every month. Groups including clubs, school groups, and family gatherings are welcome to visit by special arrangement. Call (315) 322-8956.

To make a contribution, become a member, or for more information visit, email [email protected], or write SLPEM, PO Box 400, Madrid, NY 13660.