NORTH BENNINGTON -- Several historic carriages owned by Park-McCullough House will soon be drawn by horses once again and pulled into action on the set of the new HBO drama, "The Knick," directed by Steven Soderbergh and starring Clive Owen.
Set to begin filming in New York this month, the show will take place in the early 1900s and focus on "the professional and personal lives of the staff at New York's Knickerbocker Hospital," according to IMDB.com.
Allen McCullough, a board member of Park-McCullough House Association and a descendent of the original family, said he is confident the carriages will be returned in good, and perhaps in better, condition than they are currently.
"They should be paid attention to, and they should be used occasionally," said McCullough, a professional actor and part-time resident of Bennington, who noted the nonprofit that oversees the property hasn't had the resources in recent years to maintain all of the upkeep necessary for a place of its size.
The property currently is home to 11 or 12 working carriages of varying sizes, styles and colors that are original to the family and to the estate.
"They came to look at what we had for this project and they were blown away by our carriages, our carriage house and tack room and everything that is in there," said McCullough, who said he was no longer worried after meeting carriage expert and horse trainer Rex Peterson.
Peterson, a longtime horseman with an extensive background working with horses and riders on film and television sets, will oversee the use and care of the period coaches.
"He clearly knows what he's looking at," said McCullough, who noted that Peterson guessed there were as many as 25 carriages on the property at one time, based on the equipment still in the carriage house.
McCullough said the revenue generated from the loan of the carriages will substantially help to fund operating costs for the 35-room property at 1 Park St. in North Bennington.
"It's very helpful and very unexpected," said McCullough, who compared the fee as being equivalent to hosting two weddings on the estate, a major source of income for the extensive property, which has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1972.
Cari Swanson, an accomplished rider, trainer and horse wrangler, who has provided horses for film, television and documentaries, said she first heard about Park-McCullough carriages from friend and Bennington resident, Mari Stadler.
"She knew of the house and she thought it would be a great way for them to raise a little money," said Swanson, of Swanson-Peterson Productions, who also trains child and adults actors to work with horses on-set.
"The carriage house itself is so stunning," said Swanson, who will coordinate the horses and rolling stock for the upcoming production.
"You walk in and they still have things that make it look like someone just walked out of there last year. It's a great piece of history -- like walking back in time."
Despite their age of over a century, the pieces typically retain their original sturdy build, according to Swanson, who acknowledged there is an art to transporting them.
"You have to be very careful," said Swanson, who owns more than a dozen carriages in her professional collection and recommends that should anything ever be damaged, members of the Amish community are the best resource for performing restorations.
The former Knickerbocker Hospital in Manhattan was built in 1862 and is now home to residential apartments; the carriages, which date back to the late 1800s, will remain on location for two months.
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