73-YEAR FACELIFT

T. Clarence Marshall took an interest in motorized carriages and specifically steam carriages in the early 1900s, becoming a dealer of Stanley steam cars at Auburn Heights. Partnering with his son-in-law Norman Mancill, a dealership was established in Wilmington selling Paige and other brands. By the late teens, Clarence had discovered trapshooting and formed the Yorklyn Gun Club, operating from 1921 until 1950. Tom Marshall’s Weekly News articles, archived and available for reading on this website (http://auburnheights.org/weekly-news-archive/), document many of his father’s activities related to trapshooting and automobiles.

In 1940, Clarence acquired a Stanley steamer he had sold in 1913 as a dealer. Now, occasionally referred to as the “Becker car,” the Stanley Model 76 touring car is a cornerstone of the Marshall collection and a favorite of this writer. Clarence continued to host events at Yorklyn Gun Club in the 1930s and 1940s, but his interests were evolving towards collecting steam cars. With World War II recovery in full swing and additional Stanley cars and parts purchased during the war, the Carriage House was full. Wanting to further expand the collection, Clarence established his “museum” in a new custom-built structure on the Auburn Heights property.  

While we often say that Clarence “built” the museum, the actual construction was performed by a family relative. What Marshall family member was responsible in 1947 for the physical construction of the building now known as the Marshall Steam Museum?

 

Answer

The Marshall Steam Museum building, as originally constructed, is of simple design. Constructed on sturdy concrete footers under the lawn are reinforced cinder block walls. Steel trusses, constructed in an “attic truss” design, support the roof while permitting much of the second floor to be open space for storage (and future use by FAH). This design offered another advantage that Clarence insisted upon; there are no posts on the first floor to navigate vehicles around! Tom Marshall mentioned on several occasions that the Marshall Steam Museum was the largest open-span building constructed in Delaware at the time of completion.

Paul Hannum was the Marshall family member who constructed the Marshall Steam Museum for Clarence. Hannum had been the contractor that added “garage” to the Carriage House (the current shop area and where the AVRR engines are stored; see the October 7, 2006, Weekly News article about the addition) in 1937. As the Marshall granite quarry, which supplied stone for the building of the mansion, Carriage House, and the additions to both, was nearly played out, the Marshall Steam Museum would be constructed primarily of cinder blocks. The burning of coal generates cinders as waste. Francis Straub in 1911 realized that cinders mixed with cement led to a different way of making concrete blocks. Differing from concrete blocks since a cinder block will take a cut nail, Straub patented the cinder block in 1917 (Patent 1,212,840). No doubt the recycling of waste materials for the new building pleased Clarence.

To understand the family connection, we start with Thomas Smedley Marshall, Clarence’s grandfather. Thomas S. Marshall, the 5th child of Robert Marshall and Mary Hoopes, established T. S. Marshall & Sons, making industrial rag papers on the family farm at Marshall’s Bridge in Kennett Township. Thomas S. Marshall and Mary Way raised three children: Israel Way Marshall, Mary E. Marshall (Mitchell), and Thomas Elwood Marshall. T. Clarence was the fourth child of Israel W. and Elizabeth Cloud Mitchell.

Thomas S. Marshall’s brothers, Caleb and John, became the first to commercially manufacture terne plate (iron sheets coated with an alloy of tin and lead, a predecessor to galvanized sheet metal) in America. Brother Abner discovered Kaolin clay (a rich white clay used for fine china and other uses) on his property running alongside Yorklyn Road and began the first commercial mining of Kaolin in Delaware. The middle child of Thomas’s five children, Martha Marshall married Thomas Hannum. Thomas and Martha’s eldest child, nicknamed “Marsh” for Marshall Hannum, was Israel Marshall’s cousin. Marsh’s eldest son, Paul Hannum, was not only a second cousin of T. Clarence, and he was the contractor responsible for actually designing, to Clarence’s requirements, and constructing the museum for Clarence in 1947. In April and May 1922, Paul Hannum was advertising for carpenters and laborers as the Evening Journal ad shows.

For a number of years, Clarence’s museum was packed full of vehicles. Thirty Stanley steam cars have passed through the collection over the years (for a listing see the March 7, 2016 newsletter). There were also White, Doble, Toledo, and Locomobile steam cars that Clarence stored in the museum building. While Clarence was in partnership with Frank Diver selling Packards, Clarence’s car trading included ownership of Pierce Arrow, Ford, Maxwell, Oldsmobile, and Rolls Royce automobiles among a few others. Once Clarence and Tom decided to open the property in April 1961 to raise funds for Historic Red Clay Valley, Inc., the collection in the museum was greatly reduced so that visitors might enjoy the mostly Stanley collection.

The museum building has probably never been totally emptied of vehicles until this past winter when the museum was cleaned out entirely for a facelift after 73 years. While the Marshalls maintained the building in excellent condition and no structural deficiencies required attention, the museum building’s amenities required updating for Friends of Auburn Heights events and use. The continually peeling gray-painted floor has been upgraded with an epoxy coating. An addition adds modern bathrooms, a dedicated room for the Lionel trains, and a lobby area with gift shop.

Stanley steam cars require non-freezing storage in the winter if their boilers and waters systems are not drained. Thus, a minimal heating system had been installed 73 years ago, which has since been upgraded with modern, efficient heat pumps that provide energy-efficient heating for visitors, humidity control, and cooling for the summer months, better protecting the collection. The original 3×2/3×2 windows were removed, restored, and reinstalled. The ceiling has been reinsulated using modern materials and covered with drywall to improve the building’s flammability ratings. For the time being, readers will have to follow our museum improvements virtually. FAH hopes to host limited groups in the not-too-distant future.

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