Historic Stanford family carriage returns to campus

A horse-drawn carriage that once carried U.S. President Benjamin Harrison during a trip to the home of Leland and Jane Stanford has been returned to campus.

A historic horse-drawn Stanford family carriage, which dates to the late 1880s, has permanently returned to campus from its long-term home in Woodside.

An elegant Stanford family carriage has been returned to campus. (Image credit: Carol Porter)

Earlier this year, Stanford Heritage Services retrieved the carriage, which was one of three used by the Stanford family, from Peter Bullock, a local physician who has housed the coach with his collection of 24 horse-drawn carriages. The Stanford carriage is now being temporarily stored in the Automotive Innovation Facility on Oak Road.

“It’s in really good shape,” said Carol Porter, heritage data systems and facilities coordinator. “When we return to campus, we’ll concentrate on further preserving and protecting it going forward.”

The carriage, oftentimes driven by Bullock and pulled by two of his horses, has been featured at numerous Stanford events over the years, including the Founders’ Celebration. According to a Founders’ Celebration website, the carriage is a Brewster C-Spring Landau, built by the famed Brewster & Co. in New York.

The carriage is currently stored in the Automotive Innovation Facility on Oak Road.

The carriage was, the website reports, “a technical marvel in its time, with its newly minted and complicated system of thick leather traces, which support the main coach from all four corners, and for an inventive elliptical spring system that provided a more comfortable ride.”

The carriage is currently stored in the Automotive Innovation Facility on Oak Road. (Image credit: Kate Chesley)

“The Brewster was the Rolls-Royce of carriages,” Bullock said. In fact, the coach was used to carry U.S. President Benjamin Harrison during his visit to the Stanfords’ home in 1891. Bullock has driven the carriage to campus from his home in Woodside and calls it “quite a lovely ride.”

The landau, along with the two other coaches used by the Stanfords, was discovered in 1964 in the since-demolished Anatomy Building, which was located where the McMurtry Building now stands. They were stored in various locations until 1992 when alumnus and Stanford supporter Bill Lane asked Bullock to help find the landau a better home. The other two coaches are now under the auspices of the state of California and are housed in Sacramento.

Bullock said much of the body and frame of the landau is original. However, the original rich interior has been replaced over the years.