Famous horse-drawn hearse to appear in parade
Violence spanned the globe in the first half of the 20th century. Two world wars ravaged Europe. According to history, the carnage was spawned by the assassination of Austrian Archduke Francis Ferdinand and his pregnant wife Sofia.
Francis and Sofia visited Sarajevo to direct army maneuvers in the neighboring mountains on June 28, 1914. Armed and ready, the Bosnian terrorist group known as the Black Hand waited in booby-trap anticipation. The Hand ambushed the royal motorcade as it navigated through downtown streets. The Archduchess died instantly with a shot to the abdomen, which caused Francis to mutter his final words, "Sophie dear, Sophie dear, don’t die! Stay alive for our children." Gavrilo Princip, a member of The Hand, fired a second bullet that struck the Archduke close to the heart, killing him instantly. The event was the torch that set the world afire with bloodshed as it gave Austria-Hungary an excuse to take action against Serbia.
Almost a century later, Bill Brown of Park City is involved intimately with the event that shook the world. He has restored the Royal horse-drawn hearse carriage that — is speculated — brought the assassinated body to its final resting place: a crypt beneath the chapel of Arstetten.
"It looks like the one the Archduke rode in, but it’s unconfirmed," Brown said, after studying a picture taken during the Ferdinand’s funeral. "It’s only speculation, a myth, but it could be."
A year full of hard restoration work will pay off for Brown; when he will ride the carriage in Park City’s Independence Day parade Tuesday.
"It’s been fun," Brown said of his accomplishment. "It’s something new and exciting."
Brown acquired the carriage a little over a year ago from Dale Nelson’s trading post in Wanship. Before that, it came to Park City in 1970 from an antique dealer, Randy Kennard, in Salt Lake. There it sat outside for 30 years.
Time wasn’t kind to the carriage.
The wood was warped and soft. The metal framing, rusted and bent. It needed new upholstery and the decorative trim only showed in staggered areas. The wheels and turning mechanism were disabled.
"I took it all apart," Brown said. "I replaced the upholstery. I made all the epoxy roses and carved the wood trim. I straightened out the metal and replaced all the wood."
The wheels and turning mechanism were sent to Hansen Wheels and Wagon in South Dakota, run by a friend of Brown’s. Other than that, Brown worked almost completely by himself on the project for a year.
This was his second project that will be featured in the parade. Two years ago he rode in the parade on top of his first restored horse-drawn machine — an 1895 horse-drawn road scraper. Brown taught himself how to restore the antiques.
"It took a lot of trial and error, there’s always a new challenge and adventure," he said. "I got interested in this after the road scraper."
Although he had no training, Brown is skilled with his hands. He made a career as a construction contractor. For 40 years he worked in the field and built large industrial projects, Brown said. He lived in Hawaii and Hong Kong before coming to Park City, where he worked for 16 years before retiring in 1990.
Brown will ride the horse-drawn hearse carriage in the Park City July Fourth parade. Kelly Clegg will provide the horses and also drive the carriage. The Glenwood Cemetery Association and the Park City Rotary will sponsor the hearse. The Parade will start Tuesday at 11 a.m. at the top of Main Street and travels down Park Avenue to City Park.
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