In 2012, Genesee Country Village & Museum undertook an ambitious plan to launch the first operational replica of a manned Civil War-era balloon, called the Intrepid. Since that time, we have experienced a significant increase in helium prices and weather conditions that make continued operations a challenge.
For the 2016 season, we have chosen not to fly the Intrepid while we consider options that are in the best long-term interest of the museum, our patrons and our guests. We will continue to share the stories and the history of 19th-century manned flight as part of our ongoing mission.
The museum’s celebrated gas balloon—the Intrepid—offered rides to those wishing to venture into the world of 19th-century aeronauts.
Visitors soared hundreds of feet above the museum while safely tethered to the ground—as was the practice in the 1800s.
The one-of-a kind, Civil War-era helium-filled balloon—the Intrepid—took its maiden flight on July 4, 2012, taking passengers some 300 feet above the museum’s South Field, where it is surrounded by a Civil War encampment.
Conceived by Professor Thaddeus Lowe, the Union Army Balloon Carps was authorized by Abraham Lincoln in June 1861. Like its namesake, the Intrepid bares the image of the then-popular Gen. George McClellan below a flying eagle. Its name is inscribed on the balloon’s reverse.
While historically balloons were inflated with hydrogen, the modern Intrepid uses helium. Just two weeks before its inaugural flight, the Intrepid looked like it would be grounded due to a world-wide helium shortage.
But Macy’s, the nation’s second-largest user of the gas with its traditional Thanksgiving Day Parade, delivered a last-minute miracle—50,000 cubic feet of helium.
When inflated, the balloon has a 44-foot diameter and, like the original Civil War balloons, it is tethered to the ground for optimal convenience and safety.
The Civil War-era balloon replica, is the subject of a made-for-television documentary. DVDs are available online. Preview the video.
The Intrepid story
History of the Army Balloon Corps
President Lincoln and the Balloon Corps audio tour
Balloon Warfare audio tour
Balloon Technology audio tour
GCVM is open 10 am-4 pm
Tues-Sun, May 7-Sept 4
plus Wed-Sun, Sept 10-Oct 9
& May 30, July 4, Sept 5 & Oct 10