Ghosts of Main: Marion Lumber – building a business

July 11, 2019

By Julie Traynor

This is an undated photo of the Marion Lumber Company at its original location, just south of the Kent Elevator Co. It was likely taken sometime after 1928.  The main lumber shed and office building bears the name of the Kent Elevator, this building having originally belonged with that business.  

The Kent Elevator Marion Lumberyard – about 1928. 

If we could step into this business for a tour of the lumberyard, we would find lumberyard basics. Shingle and siding samples are on outdoor display on the open sliding door. If we stepped into the open door on the left, we would find lumber, stacked, by size and kind, lining the walls of the long shed. Wagons and trucks drive in to load. The price and grades of coal is displayed on the window.  Coal, used by many for heat and cooking, was available at several businesses in town, interestingly all located along the railroad tracks. Above the open door on the right hangs a rusted sign advertising Wolverine Cement beneath the name of the business.  All in all, it is a tidy lumberyard. Safety First.

As all school kids should know, Marion’s roots are deep in the lumbering business. We owe our founding to the industry. A good many of Marion’s early buildings are constructed of locally harvested and milled lumber.

Although hidden behind brick and vinyl many of these businesses and homes still stand. Marion has always had a lumberyard. Additions and remodeling projects have kept Marion homes up to date and the local lumberyard in business for more than one hundred years.  

One of the first lumberyards (we do not mean lumber mills) in Marion survived and served to help rebuild the town after the great fire of 1904. J.B. Wagner came to Marion in the 1880’s and was the proprietor of the Marion Lumber Co. in the early days of the last century. He ran the business until he left town about 1917. The details of exact ownership then become a bit clouded. In 1930, the Marion Press lists among village businesses the Kent Elevator Co. – Lumber and Coal. Within a few years, it is known as the Bolt Lumber, Ralph Bolt, Proprietor. In the late 1940’s, the lumberyard is acquired by Bryan Swiler and his partner Ralph Jamison. In turn, they sell to Charles Osborne and Marion Lumber becomes the Osborne Lumber Co.

Marion Lumber and its new building, about 1972.

By 1950, Osborne sold the business and Homer Noordhoek became the long-time manager. It was during his watch that the lumberyard moved to its present location just north of the railroad tracks on M-66.         

Advertising for the lumberyard appeared in the Marion Dispatch/Press. J.B. Wagner’s ad was a regular on the front page, bottom left just below Piper and Lowry’s large box ad.

“We are not satisfied unless you are!” was the motto for the business.  A two percent discount to those paying in cash was also a great incentive. In the summer of 1915, according to the classifieds in the Dispatch, you could purchase an interior door for your home starting at $1.35.

In August of 1949 Osborne Lumber, Phone No. 17, ran an ad for gallons of paint, a popular item to advertise weekly it seems. Due to an error, the cost is shown to be $0.00. That is a bargain at any time.  By July, 1954 Marion Lumber’s ad boasted your choice of 210 modern colors of Chief Paints.

In September of 1964, you could winterize your home with new aluminum screen/storm window combos for $12.49 each. A new aluminum storm door would set you back $24.95. Getting ready for winter in September 1967 you paid $6.95 for a gallon of DeVoe house paint.

The Kent Elevator – Marion Lumber Co. stood just south of the elevator. The lumberyard moved to a bigger and more spacious location north of the railroad tracks and the old buildings dismantled in 1971.

Marion Lumber is owned by Gale Noordhoek, Homer’s son, and continues to serve the building needs of our community. 

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