Napoleon's Coronation Coach - Replicated and Readied for Service
● By Sandie Tillery
Your Carriage AwaitsFebruary 2007
By Sandie Tillery
French influence has penetrated the history and culture of the North State in subtle yet substantial ways throughout the years.We have a notable French chef or two, French teachers in several of our public and private schools, businesses such as Déjà vu and BeauMonde, a quaint little village named French Gulch, and now… a full-scale replica of the coronation coach of Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte I.
The Reverend Neal Sorber, a Trappist monk who lived and served at the abbey in Vina, created a small model of the royal coach when he was 15. In his free time, Father Sorber spent 14 months just before his death at age 74 constructing the life-sized replica.He was quoted in a news article in the Hanford Sentinel on September 25, 1986 about his creation, “I just made it for people to enjoy.” According to experts who have seen the coach, it is an exact replica of Napoleon’s coronation coach. Four eagles stand watch atop turned gilded posts at the four corners of the red, blue and gold coach which stands over 9 feet tall. The coachman’s seat is upholstered in blue and fringed with gold. Inside, ivory fabric covers the cushioned seats, walls and ceiling punctuated with brass buttons. Ideally, four cream-colored horses would pull the coach.
Treasure Tree International, a charitable organization with headquarters in Redding, recently received the coach from a donor who hoped that it could be refurbished and used for the purposes expressed by its original designer and builder. According to Treasure Tree International literature, “Treasure Tree is a non-profit entity that uses educational media, historical items and inspired solutions to fund charities while enhancing communities.”The organization has been given a true treasure trove of historical items, some of great value, others simply fun and frivolous that they have begun using to raise funds for the various charities they help to support. Treasure Tree’s board of directors plans to add the coach to its growing collection of interesting items that they will use in their future fundraising efforts.
In storage for the past 20 years, much of the time in an old dairy barn, the coach is in good condition, but needs to be scrubbed, repainted in some places, and is in need of some minor repairs to details such as door latches on the outside and gold braid on the interior. Dr. Carl Vincent, a local antique expert and board member of Treasure Tree, is overseeing the restoration of the coach.He said it is structurally in “remarkable condition.”When it is completely redone, though a reproduction, it will be as authentic as possible in every detail, said Dr. Vincent. Others helping with the restoration project include Jones Valley wheelwright Ray Rogers and wagon expert Stan Easton of Anderson. According to Mike Quinn, Treasure Tree’s director of development, the organization is hoping for an unveiling of the restored coach in mid spring.
Terri Rae Mathews, president of Treasure Tree, said the board is still brainstorming about ways they will use the coach in their fundraising efforts. They see great potential for the coach as a traveling historical exhibit for museums and art galleries, as well as entries in parades and at fairs, and possibly available for rent for weddings and other gala events.
Treasure Tree International has invited suggestions, questions and comments regarding the coach and other projects. Call 530-244-5082.