Ghosts of Main Street: School Ghosts

August 22, 2019

By Julie Traynor

Little remains of the former Marion School/High School. We don’t mean the ‘Old School’ now the Elementary School. We mean the first Marion School to accommodate all of District #7. This encompassed the Village of Marion and high school students from outlying districts. It became and remains, the only High School in Marion Township.

Marion’s first school, about 1903. 

The Marion Area Historical Museum has a few items, but photographs and textbooks aside, virtually nothing remains of the large wooden two-story structure itself. After the brick building was opened, the old structure was sold for lumber and torn down. At one time, the sentimental “Old School Bell” attended all home sporting events and rang long and hard with Eagle victories. It has sadly been among the missing since the early 1960’s. (We maintain that more than likely; someone somewhere in this town knows what happened to it.)

The WPA school building goes up, 1937.

Constructed in 1937-38 as a project of the WPA, the building referred to today as the Elementary or the Old School, was built by local carpenters, workers and brick masons. The much needed and up to date building gave students many things the previous building did not. Behind the highly recognizable bay window chemistry students conducted experiments, bugs were tagged and dissected in biology class in the then state of the art science lab. The gymnasium, complete with locker rooms, replaced Corwin’s Opera House as the scene of basketball games, class plays and, most importantly allowed for graduation exercises to finally be held at the school. The new building also included a cafeteria. The building was constructed for $109,000. Marion taxpayers’ portion was $35,000.

During the next 20 years, the school population continued to grow and by 1955, serious crowding had returned. Talk of a multi classroom addition began and voters approved $200,000.  In 1958, a six-classroom addition was constructed at the front of the school. The space also provided office space, including the infamous ‘front office’.

New addition, December 1958.

The addition was not complete at the beginning of the 1958-59 school year and elementary students attended classes at other locations. Classrooms were set up in the Marion Twp Hall, Methodist Church and the bus garage. The new addition was opened to students in November 1958.

 Again, in less than 20 years, crowding was becoming the norm. This time the expansion plan was to build a separate high school building on the east side of the village. Voters were asked to approve a plan and funding of a high school building complex, including a swimming pool. It was soundly defeated.

In November 1966, the Marion High School opened its doors to students. This building offered students so much more than the crowded building on the other side of town. It more than doubled library space, included facilities for industrial and commercial arts classes and met the mandate for physical education facilities. The class of 1967 was the first to graduate in the new gymnasium and did so before a proud and packed audience.  

Since the division of the schools, Marion voters approved additions on both buildings in the 1990’s, adding yet more classrooms and expanding the library. Both projects were designed by MHS alum, the late Patrick Birtles.
 Most recently, district voters approved millage to upgrade and better maintain both buildings.

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