Garage or Museum?

Designed to house his growing collection of Stanley steamers, Clarence Marshall erected the block building behind his family home in 1947, and two years later he commissioned Sanborne Studio in Wilmington to photograph 13 of his restored vehicles. Of special note (to me at least) is the sign he posted over the doors, labeling his new building a “museum.”

The dictionary defines a museum as “a building in which objects of historical, scientific, artistic, or cultural interest are stored and exhibited.” Clearly, Clarence Marshall recognized the importance of the historic autos he had collected and restored, and he proudly shared them with family, friends and evenĀ  strangers who stumbled upon the site. He enjoyed showing off his prize cars and wrote in 1960:

There are two kinds 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.

It’s telling that Clarence’s son, Tom, also maintained a sign above the “museum” doors attesting to the historic nature and value of what he considered his father’s collection (even though he purchased a number of the cars). Tom himself wrote in 2008, “No property or collection should remain static… Certainly the property has evolved to where it is today by constant change.”

Tom championed the renovations currently under way, making the lead gift with his wife, Ruth, and personally soliciting most of the supporting funds for the capital project. Whether named for the father or the son, the Marshall Steam Museum will remain dedicated to inspiring and connecting generations to the magic age of steam!

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