“There are two types of people that come here. The first really relishes the experience… They’d like to come back – and usually do – from all over the country. The other group contains the cynics. They’re amused by what they consider archaic and ridiculous. My answer to them is this: All things must have a starting point – and these early pioneers began a sequence of continued refinement.”
– T. Clarence Marshall, 1960
The Marshall Steam Museum
Less than five minutes from the center of Hockessin, Delaware the Marshall Steam Museum at Auburn Heights offers visitors a chance to step back in time and experience life at the dawn of the automotive age. The now-museum was built by T. Clarence Marshall in 1947 to house his growing collection of antique automobiles. Today, visitors can enjoy the many treasures at Auburn Heights thanks to the generosity and vision of Clarence’s son, Tom, and his wife, Ruth. In 2008, they gifted to Delaware State Parks the estate land and buildings, including a beautiful 1897 Queen Anne mansion that was the Marshall home, while donating to the Friends of Auburn Heights Preserve, a 501(c)3 charitable organization, the extraordinary vehicles of the Marshall collection. The museum features the world’s largest operating collection of Stanley steam cars, a 1916 electric car, and two 1930s Packards, in addition to the Auburn Valley Railroad with its 1/8th-size coal-fired steam trains that circle the property. Explore the museum collections by clicking here.
The Auburn Heights Mansion
On a 4-acre parcel adjacent to the original Marshall Brothers’ paper mill stands the 6,000-square-foot grey stone home built by Israel W. Marshall and his wife, Elizabeth, in 1897. Occupied continuously by three generations of the Marshall family, it was gifted to the State of Delaware in 2008 by Tom and Ruth Marshall. Most of the Marshalls’ furnishings remain in the house, which is opened on special occasions by the Division of Parks and Recreation, assisted by docents from the Friends of Auburn Heights.
Israel and Elizabeth (Lizzie) Marshall built their magnificent Queen Anne–style mansion on a hilltop overlooking the Marshall Brothers Paper Mill in 1897 and named it Auburn Heights. Construction took 10 months and cost approximately $11,500, a very high price for the time. A typical middle-class home of the era could be had for about $1,000.
Auburn Heights is a near-identical copy of a home that once stood at Pennsylvania Avenue and Clayton Street in Wilmington, about nine miles from Yorklyn. Today, Auburn Heights is considered a particularly fine example of the Queen Anne style of Victorian architecture and interior design. Its three full stories (plus full basement) include eight bedrooms and seven baths. Unlike typical homes of the day, Auburn Heights featured indoor plumbing, electric lighting, and steam heat when first built.
The Friends of Auburn Heights
Wishing to share his knowledge and passion for steam technology, Tom Marshall founded the “Steam Team” in 1997 by inviting an interested group of people to his museum and workshop to learn how to operate and maintain steam vehicles. The Steam Team evolved into the Friends of Auburn Heights Preserve, a nonprofit organization established in 2004 and dedicated to educating the public about Delaware’s industrial history and the impact of steam technology. The Friends own and maintain the Marshall family’s extraordinary collection of antique automobiles along with the Auburn Valley Railroad. While the organization is still young, the organization is making strides every day to increase both their public days and their educational programming for schools, libraries, scouts, and more. Learn more about FAH by clicking here.
Auburn Valley State Park
Auburn Valley State Park (formerly Auburn Heights Preserve) is Delaware’s 17th State Park site thanks to the generosity of Thomas and Ruth Marshall. The park encompasses more than 360 acres of protected land, with the 4-acre core estate located on a hilltop adjacent to the Red Clay Creek and the original family mill buildings.
For more than a half century, the Marshalls invited the community to visit Auburn Heights and the Marshall Steam Museum for special events and gatherings. While no longer a private residence, the mansion still holds the mementos and antique furnishings that tell the story of three generations of the Marshall family. Today visitors can also enjoy several trails: the Auburn Valley Trail, a 1.2-mile paved loop; the Trolley Trail, which is a 0.5-mile gravel trail that follows the old trolley line along the mill race; the Yorklyn Bridge Trail, now connected by the Marshall Family Bridge to the Auburn Valley Trail; and the Oversee Farm Trail off Snuff Mill Rd.
For more information about the preserve and upcoming State Parks programs at Auburn Heights, please click here.