Ghosts of Main Street: Bridging the Waters

October 15, 2019

North Bridge, just east of the dam. Note a corner of the Texaco gas station, on the former mill site.
Ted Parkhurst Sr rolls to McBain in the fall of 1989.
South M-66, at First Street. Among the rooftops seen in the background is the blacksmith shop of John Alberts Sr, located just south of River Alley.

By Julie Traynor

As Marion neared the end of 1939, she was more than ready to leave the hard times of the Depression. WPA projects within the Village were at last, complete. The school was finished, dedicated and in use, and highway work within Marion, Michigan no longer caused travelers delays.

In October 1939, the two Middle Branch River crossing bridges, north and south of Main Street were dedicated along with a new stretch of blacktop through Marion.  This was truly a big deal for the Village and travelers along M-66. The new bridges were wide, solid and built to last. They replaced iron structures, constructed in the 1910’s, which replaced earlier wooden bridges.

Through many of her early years, Marion suffered flooding along the river and at the pond each spring. The possibility of a washout, especially near the dam, was a real threat. At the south bridge, water often spread out, flooding Dunham’s Shingle mill and Elm Grove Riding Park and putting the old south bridge under water. The Middle Branch winds itself around Marion, forcing bridges in three directions and a large culvert type bridge under Main Street to the west, for water from the Wing Dam.  

On October 20, 1939, after official speeches before a sizable crowd, the bridges and pavement formally opened.  Folks danced on the new pavement to Tim Doolittle and his Band. It was quite a shindig. 

With periodic updates and good maintenance, Marion, Michigan’s pair of art-deco bridges, now 80 years old, still carry their weight every day.

In another pavement and highway related tidbit, this one making the news 50 years later. Marion’s Dr. Ted Parkhurst, DDS, retired, decided one fine day in the fall of 1989 to lace up his skates and roll, on new M-66 pavement, from this village to McBain. Doc did it in just about an hour.  

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