Ghosts of Main Street: Marion’s Hospitality

August 8, 2019

By Julie Traynor

Old Fashioned Days often brings questions about Marion people and places. Saturday a question about an old Marioninstitution came along. Marion native and life-long resident Ken Richardson wanted to know about the ‘the old hotel’ and he did not mean the one recently razed. Bob Friend, his partner in overseeing the chicken BBQ at the VFW, was interested in knowing more about the one most recently razed. That business was in his family. We answered their questions the best we could then and promised to give them more here. So, for Ken and Bob here is a bit about Marion’s two long-time hotels and their fates.

The Marion House, the village’s most prominent hotel, stood on the southwest corner of Pickard and Main Streets. It was a double, two-story building, with a covered porch at the corner entry. In fact, it very much resembled Kilmer’s building on the southwest corner of Mill and Main right down to the covered porch entry. Today we know this site as the ‘front yard’ of the Horseshoe Bar and once a year, home to a yearly Old Fashioned Days beer tent.

The Marion House front and center on a booster day in the 1920’s. The two story Marion Jail building may be seen on the left. Unfortunately this panoramic postcard does not include Marion’s other hotel. 

The Marion House began renting rooms sometime in 1900. Early businessperson, J.B. Wagoner, first operated it. After three years of operation, he sold the hotel to one Jerry Davis and it remained in the Davis family through the 1930’s. During their ownership, the Davis’s leased the Hotel a number of times, most prominently to Amps Blevins and his family, who were among the earliest of leasers. Amps and his wife were hosts for several years before they turned to a bakery business. They moved their bakery to the building after a 1914 fire destroyed their previous location.

The Davis family, first Jerry and later his son Frank Davis, operated the hotel, occasionally renting to others, through the 1930’s. From time to time, the rooms were updated. News bits in the local paper noted that the hotel was enjoying good business and that rooms filled almost every night. Both of Marion’s hotels were within close proximity to the Depot, greeting weary travelers as they left the train.

 For many years, the Marion House conducted a large public dining room and was home to a poolroom and saloon, at one time known as the Sample Room. Local memories include the sale of beer to go out the back door, by the tin pail full for 25c. The poolroom was a popular place for many years and a favorite among young men in the village.

The Marion House, poolroom, taproom and adjoining former bakery were lost to fire on January 2, 1951. Its loss was a great disappointment to young men returning from military service. One of them was Ken Richardson.
This left the Dunbar Hotel, established as such in 1938, on the next corner as the sole remaining hotel in Marion. The Dunbar offered hot and cold running water in each room and two baths on the second floor, but no dining room. Among those offering hospitality at the Dunbar were Edgar and Sylvan Friend, Adam Schneider, Glenn Bonnette, Lear Diment and Stacy Roper.

Business at the Marion Hotel slowly declined and the business closed for a number of years. It operated during the 1970’s through the 80’s, renting rooms by the week and conducting a Boutique business in the former lobby. With the exception of a brief time during the 1990’s, the building was shuttered until it was razed earlier this year. 

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