It was an ordinary Sunday in May, 1978, but something extraordinary happened. A group of Mifflinburg citizens, led by retired history professor, Dr. Charles McCool Snyder, had been discussing the need for a museum to celebrate the town’s buggy making heritage. At an earlier meeting, Norman Heiss (son of the buggy maker) and his sons, Owen and Glen had asked, “Would you like to see a buggy factory?” On this Sunday afternoon, the group got is first glimpse of the Heiss Coachworks. Behind the closed doors of the factory, lay forty years of buggy making history: tools, horseshoes, tires, dashes, seats, paints, account books and catalogs. There were finished vehicles in ruins and vehicles barely begun. There were beehives, honey can labels, farm tools and more. The reaction of those who were gathered was one of disbelief. Almost as one the group realized that the shop was virtually intact from its original use. It was as if William Heiss had closed the doors after a day of work intending to return the next morning.
Upon further examination, the group realized that the two other buildings on the site, the family home and the repository were also intact. Over the next few weeks, the Mifflinburg Buggy Museum Association, Inc. was organized and chartered as a not for profit museum. The Buggy Museum has been recognized as one of only twelve industrial craft museums in the United States that preserves and interprets an original site.
Initially, an all-volunteer operation, the Museum restored the factory, the house and the repository to open to the general public. The carriage house was rebuilt, a modern Visitor Center was built and wheelchair accessible walkways were installed throughout the site. Work and improvements continue for the Museum as it moves towards renovating another building as a workspace.
Volunteers continue to be the backbone of the Mifflinburg Buggy Museum by guiding tours, staffing the admissions desk, planning events and programs and offering research assistance to visitors.
The Buggy Museum is funded through donations, admissions, store sales and revenue from special events. You can help the Museum continue its work by making a tax deductible donation.