Gas-tly Ghost

February 3, 2020

Looking West, fuel oil depot on North Mill is coated in ice from the February 22, 1922 ice storm.

by Julie Traynor
 
If you were paying attention and knew just what you were seeing, you might have witnessed a ghostly apparition from Marion, Michigan’s early lumber and heating oil days, surface and leave town.

Heavy equipment and trucks arrived this week to begin clean-up work around a couple of historic business properties on North Mill Street. Marion’s elevator and original lumberyard sites are prepping for their next life.

The first order of business has been to clear the south portion of the property, encompassing much of the original lumberyard site. Both the lumberyard sheds and a home heating oil depot, first located here early in the last century, left a large quantity of concrete pilings, long hidden by aluminum, tall grass and shrub growth. This ghostly concrete surfaced, made a brief appearance and left town this week, likely destined to haunt a landfill.  

Enclosed by fencing and sandwiched by lumberyard sheds, this was where Marion’s kerosene and heating oils were stored and dispensed. Both Standard Oil’s Polarine Oil and Red Crown Gasoline products were advertised in the 1920’s. Marionites heated with wood, coal, fuel oil (kerosene) or a combination of all until the middle of the last century. Consumers Power ran natural gas lines to Marion in 1954 when voters overwhelming approved their bid, 204-1. Soon, as the advertising line of the time went, Marion was heating and “cooking with gas”. It was likely in the early 1960’s, when the lumberyard moved to its present location, that the last evidence of the fuel operation disappeared, concrete excluded.

This week’s ghost story is one in which a photo or three is worth a thousand words. One photo, most certainly taken on February 22, 1922, after the Great Ice Storm, is the view from the backside, showing the tanks and fueling station. The other, although postmarked later, is likely the other perspective on the same date. These photos may be seen in far greater detail via the online version of the Marion Press found on Facebook or at www.marion-press.com .

Out of sight truly means out of mind for most of us. Once something disappears from our landscape we quickly forget what has been and quickly adapt to now.  As you travel North Mill Street, be sure to look at the cleared lot. It has not looked like this in a long, long time. This is not only a sign of things to come it’s a fleeting look at what has been.

Stay tuned. We’re sure that a new life for the old elevator is bound to stir up more ghosts.

Photo one: Looking west, fuel oil depot on north Mill is coated in ice from the February 22, 1922 Ice Storm. 

Photo two: Likely also taken at the same time during the ice storm, this photo is taken looking slightly to the southeast. The road in the foreground is now M-66. 

Photo line three: It›s all gone but hauling the concrete ghosts to the landfill. This photo was taken on January 28, 2020.





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