Many people know the arrival of the National Road, also known as U.S. Route 40 and, locally, East Main Street, is the reason Whitehall came to be.

CORRECTION: The PAM motel was replaced with a Beverly Drive-in Restaurant. Whitehall's first law-enforcement officer was constable Darrel Carson. Because of a source's error, incorrect information appeared in the print and previous online versions of this column.

Many people know the arrival of the National Road, also known as U.S. Route 40 and, locally, East Main Street, is the reason Whitehall came to be.

The same can be said for countless businesses that located on the road to serve the myriad travelers who have passed through for some 185 years.

Among those who saw opportunity on the road was Harry Mulbarger, a Bexley businessman who operated a window-washing business and Columbus' first car wash. It was not automated, according to his daughter, Peggy Beery, but instead maintained a staff that hand-washed and rinsed vehicles as they drove through the structure on Columbus' North Fourth Street.

The outbreak of World War II, however, left him with an ever-shrinking pool of employees to clean cars and windows. Predicting the growing number of travelers on Route 40, he bought a parcel of land at the southwest corner of Main Street and Hamilton Road and initially used the large residence there as a rooming house.

By 1945, the site was home to one of the area's first motels that served drivers, as did numerous cabins and trailer camps on the road. He named the motel -- with its attached carports and steam heating -- the PAM, using his daughter's initials.

His own traveling experiences led him to decide that his patrons needed a place nearby to enjoy informal meals to enhance their stay. He soon had delivered from St. Louis a prefabricated modular hamburger stand, which was open 24 hours per day.

"Route 40 was all there was, so it was heavily traveled, and we had a lot of business," Beery recalled.

The corner was so busy that there were sometimes traffic jams, she said.

"I'll never forget this poor man who came in looking confused and said 'Where's Springfield?' He had to turn around and go back the other direction because he was so far off course," she laughed.

"Pickerington didn't have any restaurants, so their high school team would come here on Friday nights after their basketball games," she said. Wrestling promoter Al Haft of Reynoldsburg would have his wrestlers stay at the motel as well, she said.

"We met so many people coming through the area, and my dad loved to talk to them. Heck, he'd talk to a statue," Beery said.

Among the regulars was the village of Whitehall's first law-enforcement officer, constable Darrel Carson, who bragged about his Ford cruiser's odometer having reached 350,000 miles. She said he and his family lived in a one-room log cabin where Hamilton Road now meets Interstate 70.

But aside from being a conversationalist and astute businessman, Mulbarger showed generosity and concern for the community. On New Year's Eve, Beery said, he would deliver coffee and doughnuts to the police station for the officers.

"That first station was pretty rough, and he kicked in a lot of money to help fix it up for the police," Beery said.

She recalled he helped out an employee who lived in a modest cottage at Hamilton Road and East Livingston Avenue.

"At Christmas, he bought a bunch of toys for all her kids, but he told her that the regular customers had donated them," Beery said.

As the business expanded, the family chose to live nearby. Beery's husband built their home on Josephus Lane in the late 1940s, as well as an adjacent one for her twin brothers, Tom and Jay, who operated the Mulbarger Twins plumbing business from that location. Her parents eventually made the former rooming house their own home, until they built a new one at Josephus Lane and Ross Road.

"There were nothing but cornfields from Josephus to Livingston when Dad built here," said Beery's late son, Mike, in a 2012 interview. "Same for everything north of Main. We could go just about anywhere around here and pick blackberries."

"One day," Peggy Beery said, "a man came by here on a horse and told my dad that Hamilton was the only road around there going north, and that some day, the area would really take off."

"Take off" it did. By the mid 1950s, many more modern motels had sprung up on "the Strip," as Main Street between Hamilton and James roads was known. Newer establishments offered amenities such as air conditioning and swimming pools, and the busy Main-Hamilton corner was ready for a more up-to-date use for its wide visibility.

In 1956, the PAM gave way to a Beverly Drive-in Restaurant, which stood until a Mobil gas station replaced it in the 1970s. The corner later was redeveloped to accommodate the shopping center that remains today.

Steve McLoughlin is past president of the Whitehall Historical Society.