Destination Delaware



June 22, 2011

Delaware State Parks is creating a historic motor destination unlike anything else in America.

Officials at Delaware State Parks (DSP) are taking advantage of unique land acquisition opportunities to create an attraction that they hope will become an icon in the motoring world.

In 2008, Tom Marshall donated his 1897 Victorian mansion to the State of Delaware. On the property is the Marshall Steam Museum, home to one of the world’s largest collections of operating antique steam cars. More recently, in 2010, DSP purchased the adjacent land holdings of the bankrupt National Vulcanized Fibre Corporation that includes a series of historic structures dating back as early as 1880. Collectively, those properties, with other DSP holdings in the area, will comprise 600-plus acres of vintage scenery that will serve as the backdrop to a novel idea.

“For many years, there has been a wonderful, steam-powered automotive history available to the public at the Marshall Mansion,” says Matthew Chesser, Environmental Program Administrator for Parks’ Planning, Preservation, and Development Section. The property is opened to the public for several days a year and people are invited in to tour the mansion, ride in several of the steam cars (including a 1915 Stanley Model 820 Mountain Wagon) and ride on the 1/8 scale live-steam railroad that circles the property. “The events are very popular and allow the public to enjoy vehicles that most people only dream of, or only get to see in a static museum,” Chesser adds.  

To capitalize on the Marshall Steam legacy, DSP is currently in the process of designing a six mile road through the grounds that will be available for vintage automobiles. This special road will allow cars from the Marshall Steam Museum, as well as those of the public, to drive safely through a pristine area of historic properties, giving a sense of almost going back in time.

Says Chesser, “We are theming the entire redevelopment plan to either reuse or reflect the early 1900s architecture found at the site and in the surrounding area.”

The redeveloped site could include restaurants, shops, and possibly a bed and breakfast inn. In addition to the draw for antique car enthusiasts, the Wilmington and Western Railroad, a historic railroad organization, will be operating antique steam and diesel engines at the site.

Delaware State Parks is hoping that this becomes a destination for collectors and enthusiasts who want to see these historic cars driven in a safe environment where they can share the experience with their families. They’re also planning to have regular car shows and hold vintage road rallies to allow owners to compete with their cars on the closed course. Construction of the path is scheduled to begin in late 2011 or early 2012. Completion of the project is expected to take two to four years.

“We’ve had an amazing amount of support for the project from both the public and private sectors,” says Chesser. “Continued support will help ensure that this ambitious project continues.”

To find out more, contact Matt Chesser at matthew.chesser@state.de.us

Comments

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