The Woodstock Inn Electric Bus: A History Mystery

Woodstock Inn coach transporting guests around town.

In the early days of the original Woodstock Inn, built in 1892, there was a stagecoach that provided transportation for guests around the Woodstock area. It was primarily used to move guests from the train depot (in the east section of the Village of Woodstock) to their final destination at the Woodstock Inn. Eventually, the coach would be replaced by a bus in the early 1900s. Did you know that the bus was an electric vehicle? There has been confusion about when the bus was purchased, but recent research has uncovered the year as well as where it was housed.

To put this in context, we must look to early electric vehicle culture. The first electric car in the United States made its debut around 1890. By 1900, electric vehicles accounted for around a third of all motor vehicles on the road. At this time, primary modes of transportation were still powered by the horse. “But as Americans became more prosperous, they turned to the newly invented motor vehicle -- available in steam, gasoline or electric versions -- to get around.”

Electric vehicles were popular because they did not have many of the issues associated with steam or gasoline. They were also good for short trips around cities or towns such as Woodstock. At the same time, electricity became more abundant as well. The Woodstock Electric Company was formed in 1893 and it was in 1910 that electricity came to the village. The company wired the poles in April, 1910. The company also installed a new 150 kw, 60 cycle, 3-phase Allis Chalmers generator which would charge the village’s new stone crusher. Charging other electric vehicles would become much easier as well.

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The Woodstock Inn Electric Bus

George Goodrow, Sr., Driver

The General Motors Company built some of the world's first electric trucks during the second decade of the Twentieth Century, ranging in sizes from 1/2 ton to 6 tons. GMC Electric truck production lasted from 1912 to 1917, with about 1,300 electric trucks built. They were widely available and showcased around the country. Arthur Wilder, the manager of the Woodstock Inn during this time, was looking at new and innovative ways to enhance the guest experience. Wilder most likely knew that the days of the stagecoach were over and looked to purchase an electric “automobile” for the Woodstock Inn. The vehicle would serve “for use between the Inn and the station.” Wilder and a man named Wilfred Smith went to Boston in 1913 for a few days in search of an electric vehicle to replace the coach. Once there, the two men went to an electrical exhibit in Mechanics Hall, a place that held conventions and various events. They found a a GMC 12-passenger bus on exhibit with “glass sides, two side entrances, side seats within, and cross seat and baggage rails on top.” The bus was also lighted within with electric lights and upholstered in leather. The Woodstock Inn reportedly purchased the electric bus for $3,574.60. In 2019 dollars it would cost $92,271. The Inn would build a garage on South Street for the electric bus.

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The Woodstock Inn’s manager, Arthur Wilder, goes to Boston with Wilfred Smith to purchase an electric vehicle.

Spirit of the Age. May 17, 1913.

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Mechanics Hall in Boston.

The building was owned by the Massachusetts Charitable Mechanic Association, and included a large auditorium that was used for various conventions, shows, track meets, wrestling matches, and other events. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.

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A Small Garage to house the bus.

The garage was located behind the Woodstock Inn and the Annex on South Street. This was at the edge of the service entrance.

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The annual financial record from the Woodstock Inn for 1913 has an expense line item for the bus for $219. Perhaps it was used for maintenance or electricity or paying the driver. There is no mention of how much the new garage cost. The only real gem is the photograph we still have of the bus with George Goodrow, Sr. as the driver. The biggest question of all remains of the fate of the electric bus and its whereabouts. There is no mention of the bus beyond 1913 in the archival records of the Woodstock History Center or any other online digital records. The search continues…

As always, please contact us if you have any additional information about the electric bus and its fate. We would love to hear from you.