Ghosts of Main Street: The Ghosts Among Us

March 7, 2019

By Julie Traynor

Sometimes our ghosts remain among us so long we do not realize just what they have become. We complain at their decline and decay and eventually, gone beyond redemption, we simply no longer see them.  So it has been with two 100 year old buildings on the southeast corner of Pickard and Main Streets. Boarded, blinded and stripped of anything valuable, the two-story brown glazed block Marion Hotel and its shabby neighbor, best remembered as Town Video, were razed last week.

The Marion Hotel began letting rooms in 1938 when it was purchased and renovated to that purpose by local undertaker, Harvey Dunbar. He redecorated, refurnished rooms, installed hot and cold water in each room and added two upstairs bathrooms. He did not, however include a dining room. Guests dined elsewhere in the Village, including the dining room at the Marion House just across the corner. Dunbar had also recently purchased the undertaking business of George Gray and moved it to the building just east of his hotel. Both of Dunbar’s ventures were successful.

By the time all of this occurred, these buildings on East Main had already led a busy life before any rooms were let or funerals conducted. The buildings Dunbar bought were relative youngsters on this block. The fire of 1914 took down several of Marion’s early structures on the south side of Main Street between Pickard and Carland before it could be stopped. Among them were A.H. Corwin’s Store, the building housing the phone company and the Rexford Brothers building, the future hotel, on the southeast Pickard Corner, opposite the Marion Bank. Like others who suffered loss to fire, the new building was constructed of brown glazed brick and block.

A view of downtown Marion looking East from the tracks in the 1920’s.

A view of downtown Marion looking East from the tracks in the 1920’s.

William Rexford and his brother Charles operated a successful harness and farm implement business on this corner for a number of years. They also acted as the cream station for the Farwell Creamery from the rear store space until it moved with Ed Friend to Mill and Main. The Rexford’s operated through 1920 before selling the business, but not the building, to Fuller and Pratt who employed Albert Sneary, well known resident, harness and shoe repairman. The Main Street storefront saw a number of businesses in its early life, including everything from dry goods to watch repair and a rubber vulcanizing business.
The hotel had a number of owners and names in its heyday. Proprietors included Sy and Edgar Friend, Adam Schneider, Lear and Crystal Diment, who were genial proprietors as was Stacy Roper.

The single story building to the east of the Rexford’s likewise served many kinds of businesses and was a grocery for a number of years. It served Harvey Dunbar’s Undertaking parlors until 1945 when he sold to Howard Fosnaught. The Fosnaught’s moved to the present location in 1947. Shortly after, Dr. Harry Willet, D.O. purchased the building and installed his office. It would remain ‘Doc’s Office’ until his death in the 1970’s. The Willet’s converted the rear portion of the office into a small apartment to rent.

The 1980’s brought more change to these two buildings. Doc Willet’s office stepped into the stream of things with the opening of Dot’s Video. It would become the very successful Town Video, operating into this century. The Marion Hotel would be home to Maggie’s Boutique for several years. Several would make attempts at once again letting rooms, by the week or month. The Marion Hotel has been vacant for almost 10 years and suffered from a string of non local owners who cannibalized the building before it became a ward of the county.

The razing of these long vacant orphans finally puts an end to what has been a long, sad and very public death for these once respected buildings and the host of businesses they housed. Like the Corwin Building, which occupied the next corner for 99 years and was razed in 2005, these structures served the Village of Marion well. Within the next two years, when driver’s park in the lot created on this corner, they will not give a thought to what was once here. These ghosts have finally been laid to rest.
This photo, looking east from the railroad tracks, shows a busy Marion in the 1920›s. On the far right is the Marion House Hotel. On the next corner is the two-story Rexford building, later Marion Hotel. Across the street is the Marion Bank and one of the early bakery buildings. On the far left is the Marion Township Hall and Morton Hardware Co.

With the exception of two, all of the business buildings seen in the photo of East Main Street are now gone.

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