History Marion City Library
Effie Harrison- 1902-1923
Edith Keller Ferris- 1923-1925
Lucy Burkholder- 1925-1946
Susan Harms- 1946-1947
Inez Ray- 1947-1960
Grace Salts- 1960-1963
Ruth Caselman- 1963-1965
Norma Riggs- 1965-1990
Janet Marler- 1990- to present time
The History of the Marion Depot (formerly the Santa Fe Depot) is a simple one – yet impressive. Trains have been coming to Marion as early as 1879 – when the first passenger train arrived in town. The hope at that time was that Marion would become a railroad “hub” instead of the branch line that it later became. The original depot was made of wood and was a simple structure that met the needs of the passengers and railroad personnel. The original wooden structure burned in 1908. Whether it was the pressure of influential people or the determination of the residents of a small town, or both, the Santa Fe Railroad Company made the decision to construct a large, well-built brick building at a cost of $11,000 in Marion to replace the one destroyed in the fire. On June 17, 1912, with proud Santa Fe and county officials in attendance, the depot was dedicated and officially opened. The track that this depot served became the M&M (Marion and McPherson) Line and ran from Florence to Lyons. With each stop came passengers, some staying in Marion, and much needed merchandise, as well as exporting local products to other destinations. Called the “Doodlebug” this two-car motor train ran the route between Florence and Lyons until May 17, 1952.
The building sat unoccupied for many years and then was owned by numerous individuals for different purposes including a youth center and the last use being a flour mill. When it became available for sale in 1998, the City Commission decided to purchase it with the hope of restoring it for future use by the community. At that time, the commission decided to allow the Marion Chamber of Commerce office to relocate there. Previously, the office was in the City Building. This building also became used for community meetings and tours. The community became aware of the need to restore this building and became involved in the decision-making process. In 1999, the decision was made to apply for a grant to restore and renovate the Santa Fe Depot into the new facility for the Marion City Library which was currently in the City Building.
According to statistics from the Branch Connections in Kansas, the growth of Marion County in the 1870’s and 1880’s was due to the railroad.
Marion County was formed in 1865. In 1860 the population was 74; by 1870, the population grew to 768; 1875 – 5,907; 1878 – 8,306; and 1880 – 12,457. Not only did these rail cars import and export goods, they also imported residents, business owners, farmers, ranchers – the development of the cities and rural communities were due to the railroad and the depots that served these routes. With this history known and appreciated, it supports the importance of this depot building and the impact it had on the development of the Marion community. And now, many years later, this small community is once again coming together to preserve, protect and enhance this building.
In 1893 a library was opened in the Y.M.C.A. building. Not much interest was shown and with the closing of the Y.M.C.A., there was no library for seven years.
The Altruistic Club was organized and began a library service in 1902 in a building that was occupied by an auto shop/garage. This was also located in downtown Marion. A flood in 1904 almost ruined the little library so it was moved to the basement of the Marion County Courthouse. A Library Association was formed in 1904 with annual dues of $1.00 per family. Only those families who paid the annual dues could use the facility. A $100 donation was given by the Priscilla Club to the Library Association in 1911, which started other local clubs to donate funds to maintain the library.
In 1916, a petition was introduced to the City of Marion officials to allow the library to become a part of the city. The library continued its operations from the Courthouse basement until May of 1918, when a room was rented over what was then a pool hall in downtown Marion. It remained there until May 1, 1922, when it moved to a building, which is now the Marion County Record newspaper office located across from the courthouse. The library was moved again to South Second Street and the C.B. Wheeler Building, downtown Marion. Finally, in October 1938, a Municipal Building was built through the Work Program and housed the City Offices, City Auditorium, Fire Station and City Library.
In 1991, the fire station moved to a new location which allowed for the city offices to expand into that area and the library expanded into the city office space.
In 1999, the Marion City Library along with the City of Marion applied for a grant to restore and renovate the 1912 Santa Fe Depot into the new facility for the library. In 2000, the library was awarded the KDOT Transportation Enhancement Reimbursement Program with estimated total project cost to be $758,000. The City and Library were responsible for providing 20 percent of the costs or approximately $152,000. Work was started in November 2001. The library raised its required $152,000 through engraved brick sales, T-shirt sales, donations, and many other fundraisers.
On July 14, 2002, a dedication and open house was held to celebrate the completion of the newly restored and renovated 1912 Santa Fe Depot, into the new facility for the Marion City Library. A meal was held at the old library for those who donated to the project. Over 400 people attended the dedication at the depot where cake was served to celebrate the 90th birthday of the Santa Fe Depot along with the opening of the new library.
With the move to the Santa Fe Depot the library doubled its existing space allowing for the expansion of more books, videos, and the addition of having 5 public access computers. Much of the existing depot has been restored to the original look with modification to fit the library. The ticket agent room has been converted to hold the Kansas collection and genealogy information, the main waiting room is now the children’s area with a raised area for story times, the weighing area has become the circulation checkout and where the public computers are, the freight area now has rows of shelving with the adult fiction and non-fiction books, the second waiting area is now a small reading area. The woodwork on the windows in the children’s area and the reading area are the original. In the Kansas room the original woodwork had been removed-so new woodwork has been added to match the original. The ceiling in the children’s area, the reading area, and the Kansas room are original plaster with the curved ceiling feature. In the freight room, the ceiling is original with repairs made as needed. The sliding freight doors are an exact replica of the original and are now used to cover the windows added to that area. The original scale, a section of the original wainscoting from the ticket agent’s room, and a light fixture from the original waiting room, have all been saved and placed in a special area with other railroad memorabilia.
In 2013, with generous donations and memorials given to the Marion City Library, it was decided by the Library Board to proceed with plans to add on an addition to the existing library/depot. The project was completed in February of 2014. A room 30′ by 40′ was added to the southeast area (corner) A small 8′ x 10′ kitchen was installed to provide a place for food preparation. A hallway existing between the library and new addition provides access to the room from the library. The room which continues the Santa Fe look with the same style of windows and exterior brick and (stair-step) on roof outline. Through a contest, the name “The Santa Fe Room” was chosen.The Santa Fe Room will provide an area for the library to hold special programs, events, meeting, luncheons, etc. Made possible by the people of the community,this room is an asset to their community and only enhances the beauty and function of the existing Library/Depot.