To honor the legacy of Richard “Dick” Robertson, the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library is pleased to rename the newly renovated Pierce-Arrow Garage, which houses the new exhibit on the history of the President’s car called Chariot of the President, “Robertson Hall” in his honor. A private dedication ceremony will be held on Wednesday, May 22 with the public opening slated for Friday May 24.
For more than 20 years, Richard “Dick” Robertson led the charge in the preservation and restoration of Woodrow Wilson’s 1919 Pierce-Arrow limousine. He spent thousands of hours finding knowledgeable mechanics and specialized parts for the car, overseeing its care, arranging for its appearance in shows and parades, travelling all over the country with the car, and sharing information about the car with guests of all ages. Mr. Robertson’s efforts made the Pierce-Arrow one of the biggest draws at the Presidential Library.
The Pierce Arrow was originally donated to the “leading citizens of Staunton” by the President’s widow Edith Bolling Wilson in 1925. From the beginning the Pierce-Arrow was seen as the crown jewel of any museum dedicated to the late President. Leased by the Pierce-Arrow Company to the US Government in 1919, it was the car in which Wilson rode from Union Station to the White House upon his return from the peace talks in France. It became one of his favorite cars in the White House fleet, so much so that when he left office in 1921, five of his old Princeton classmates purchased it for him. It remains one of the most important artifacts of the WWPL’s collection, rivaled perhaps only by the Manse itself.
Despite its importance, the Pierce-Arrow was not always cared for the way it is now. After its arrival in Staunton, the advent of the Great Depression and World War II forced restoration and care of the automobile to the back burner, with most of those efforts being focused on the Manse. The car would sometimes sit in a field, subject to weather and vandals. It was during this period that some parts were taken, including the carriage lights, that have since been recovered, and the Princeton Tiger hood ornament, which remains missing.
This exhibit, designed in orange and black to mirror the Princeton orange accents of the Pierce-Arrow, will provide new and updated information on the history of the car and its close connection to Woodrow Wilson. It will also give a place to discussions of the Pierce-Arrow Company and the Wilsons’ chauffeur, George B. Howard. Mr. Howard lived into the 1970’s and was a fount of information in the early years of the Woodrow Wilson Birthplace Foundation. It was Howard who discovered the original presidential hood ornament that had been replaced by the since lost Princeton tiger. One of the suits and a hat worn by Mr. Howard is in the collection of the WWPL and will also be on display alongside the automobile. The new exhibit will feature interactive components including videos of President Wilson in the Pierce-Arrow and a replica of the car’s horn for guests to hear. For additional information e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, call 540-885-0897 ext. 111, or go to www.woodrowwilson.org