Ghosts of Main Street: Marion’s Biggest Ghost

October 11, 2018

By Julie Traynor

Marion has long been known for its good drinking water and abundance of flowing wells. In her early days, water was a matter of every man for himself. Most residents had water wells near the house and there were public drinking fountains for people and watering troughs for horses. If you lived on the west side of the Village and river, chances were excellent that your water came from a flowing well.

Many business places also had flowing wells. EJ Parr, the druggist, piped his flow to the front of his store to serve the soda fountain. If you were a kid of a certain age and remember that soda fountain at VanDeWarker’s Drugs and later Bissland’s, you may recall the sound of running water. The trickle of distant running water could be heard in many Main Street businesses, flowing well water was piped into homes too. Marion didn’t want for water in fact it was so readily available that a public water system was slow in coming to the citizenry.

 Marion was mighty proud of her water tower.

Marion was mighty proud of her water tower.

Those most concerned with a good and easy supply of water were those living to east of the Middle Branch, many on much higher ground. On East Main, the homes of Dr. Carrow, now Fosnaught-Holdship, and the Frank White’s next door, were supplied with water by a shared system piped to both houses and powered by a gasoline pump. The well house still stands. Should anyone notice, the little square block pump house tucked away between the two houses, looks like any garden shed.  It is a real ghost of days gone by.

Because of the abundance of relatively easy water for most residents and the availability of several public flowing wells, laying of some short limited service, water lines around town, and the establishment of a public water system came slowly to Marion. Several times from 1889 until its establishment, the Village voted to supporting bonds for a public water system. Footings were poured and the 32-35,000 gallon (accounts vary) elevated storage tank was constructed and stood just to the north and east of the Ann Arbor Depot. Standing just shy of 100 feet above the Village, the tank somewhat resembled the Tin Man. With our name emblazoned across the tank in large block letters and standing well above the surrounding landscape, there was no mistaking who we were or where we were. It was sport among many approaching our town to be the first to spy the water tank. Travelers from the south could easily spot the shiny ‘tin hat’ more than four miles away.

The water tower stood over our daily comings and goings for almost 65 years. It is seen in this photo taken on the corner of Mill and Main during the summer of 1958.

The water tower stood over our daily comings and goings for almost 65 years. It is seen in this photo taken on the corner of Mill and Main during the summer of 1958.

Marion’s beloved water tower was replaced, at another well, location and at an even higher elevation above town north of Douglas Lane. The prominent old tower was torn down in December 1979. The much beloved landmark, a source of pride for many and long an adventurous challenge to high school pranksters climbing skills, was sold for scrap and hauled away piece by piece. Gone but not forgotten, the water tower stands tall among the Ghosts of Main Street.  

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