History drives home to Waltham

History drives home to Waltham

Posted Aug 16, 2007 @ 10:00 AM
Waltham —

Thanks to a Florida collector and avid automobile historian, one of the first four-cylinder cars made by Charles Metz’s Waltham Manufacturing Co. has found its way home at last.

George Albright III, a Florida attorney, donated his 1905 Waltham-Orient touring car to the Waltham Museum. Albright believes the 16-horsepower automobile to be the only one of its kind in existence.

“Even though I’m a Southerner, I enjoy history and Waltham was one of the manufacturing capitals of the United States,” Albright said. “Charles Metz was every bit as interesting as Henry Ford.”

Al Arena, director of the Waltham Museum, said the donation adds a historically significant piece to the museum’s collection. Arena said the museum is waiting for the space at its new Lexington Street location to open a Metz room that will be named the George Albright Sr. Room, after Albright’s grandfather.

In 1893 Metz started the Waltham Manufacturing Co. on Rumford Avenue, 10 years before fellow entrepreneur Henry Ford started the Ford Motor Co. in Detroit. Metz’s company started out making bicycles built for as many as 10 riders. From 1903 to 1904 the company manufactured one-cylinder Orient Buckboard automobiles.

“In 1905 and 1908 they (Waltham Manufacturing Co.) went to bigger vehicles like the one donated to the museum and called them Waltham-Orient cars,” Arena said, adding the company reorganized in 1909 and was called the Metz Automobile Co. “In 1915 they were the largest producers of automobiles east of Detroit.”

Albright, 51, said his grandfather got him interested in cars as a teenager. One of the first cars he bought as an adult was a Metz. In the mid-1990s, Albright said he came to visit the Gore Place where he met Arena and the two history buffs instantly “hit it off.”

Albright said he was excited to hear the Waltham Museum was moving to the old police station on Lexington Street from its former cramped location at 196 Charles St. In November, he said, he toured the new museum before it officially opened to the public in May.

“It’s just magnificent,” said Albright, who praised Mayor Jeannette A. McCarthy for making the move happen. “You want that museum to become a destination for tourism.”

Albright said he bought the 1905 Waltham-Orient from a man in New Jersey who had restored the car in 1965 but had it sitting in his garage ever since. He guesses that on the right day with the right buyer, the car, one of the first to use air cooling, could bring in as much as $250,000.

Arena said the museum now has seven Orient Buckboard, Waltham-Orient and Metz cars waiting to come over from the Charles Street location. In addition to donating the car, Arena said Albright committed to adopting the Metz room.

“There’s still other rooms that need adoption,” said Arena, who listed the museum’s Waltham Watch room and Fire Department room among those without official sponsors.

Local donors for the museum to date include: Lou Nocera, former owner of The Chateau restaurant, who adopted the Early Waltham Room; Rick Gordon, owner of Gordon’s Liquors who adopted the 20th Century Room; Waltham High School Class of 1949 basketball star Walter Bartlett adopted the Sports Room; and Herb Everett of Everett and Sons Insurance adopted the Army Room.

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