Friday, May 19, 2017

The Capital Trail Garage

Robert E. McFarlin's Capital Trail Garage
Just a quick post here to share a couple of fantastic pictures that were recently shared with me. In general, there are two types of stories that I research. Most are ones I'm at least somewhat aware of ahead of time, like a house or a person, which I then research to find out more about. The second, and more rare, type are subjects that I didn't even know existed before they came to my attention. These can be really fun. The Capital Trail Garage is definitely in this second category.

Through the course of that past few centuries, there have undoubtedly been many small, family-run businesses that have come and gone in Mill Creek Hundred. The majority (especially those that didn't last very long) have probably passed irretrievably into history. Once in awhile though, one gets resurrected from obscurity. And even cooler for me personally, this one was located only about a quarter mile from where I grew up.

Before the construction of Kirkwood Highway around 1940, Old Capital Trail (then just Capital Trail) was the main thoroughfare between Wilmington and Newark. As vehicular traffic increased in the era between the World Wars, so did the number of businesses catering to it. One such business was the Capital Trail Garage. It was located, not surprisingly, on its namesake road just west of Marshallton. More specifically, it was on the south side of the road across from the side of the recently-departed Best Buy, just after the bend if you're coming from Marshallton. When I was growing up, we would have said it was across from Slicer's Sporting Goods. The diagram below might help.

Approximate location of the Capital Trail Garage

The garage was owned by a Newark native named Robert E. McFarlin, and managed by Wilmer E. Sharpe. The ad below, found in the Newark Post on September 17, 1931, tells us approximately when it opened.

From the Newark Post, 9/17/1931
In addition to the automobile services offered, the establishment also offered refreshments to the drivers. The photo below shows the soda stand run by Robert's wife, Ruth McFarlin.

While I don't have a definitive closing date for the garage, I believe it was about 1940. That year, Robert McFarlin began the first taxi service in Newark, which he operated (with one car) until 1951. Later he owned another service station on Capital Trail (Kirkwood Highway) just east of Newark. These photos are a great example of the type of "family" pictures that are certainly out there all over the place. Special thanks in this case go to Robert McFarlin's daughter Janet for sharing these amazing photos.


  1. Pretty cool Scott! First time I have heard of this building.

    1. I hadn't heard of it either. Their daughter showed the pictures to me at a FOBS meeting a few months back. I guess with something relatively small like this, once the building and most of the people who knew about it go, so does its memory. That's why I love family pictures like this so much.