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 1881, Marion had nearly a thousand residents. Several of its leading citizens formed the Marion Centre Library Association, Inc. The officers for the first year were J.H. Costello, president and F. L Frazier, vice-president and later president. Responsibility for the library was passed from one group to another for years.
In 1893, a library was opened in the Y.M.C.A. building. It was operated by Mr. and Mrs. Carruth, proprietors of the community store. The library had two hundred and four books that were donated from the old original Marion Centre Library. After four months, the ladies of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union took the Carruth’s place and put the books into the W.C.T.U. headquarters in the east room of the Y.M.C.A. They kept the library going for a short time, then closed it when the Y.M.C.A. building was closed. Not much interest was shown and there was no library for seven years from 1895 to 1902.
The Altruistic Club, with eighteen members, was organized on January 14th, 1902. Mrs. E.W. Hoch was president; Miss Dena Utting, vice-president, Edith Keller, secretary and treasurer and Mrs. Ira Sterling was the corresponding secretary. Their first civic action was to accept the suggestion of the W.C.T.U. to cooperate with them in establishing a reading and rest room known as the Marion Public Library. Books could be borrowed for one week for five cents. The library services were started in a building that was occupied by Bill Parker’s auto shop/garage. This was located in downtown Marion. The library was supported by yearly dues paid by members of the Altruistic Club and by individual donations until 1914. The first librarian, who served for two months, was Edith Keller. She was paid $5 per month. The next librarian was Miss Effie Harrison, who served twenty-one years and really developed the city library for Marion. From September 1902 until February 1923, Miss Harrison made the best of inadequate facilities, low salary, few books and poor quarters.
The library, like the rest of Marion located in the valley of the Cottonwood River had suffered from numerous floods. The flood in 1904 almost ruined the little library. Books salvaged were moved to the basement of the Marion County Courthouse.
A Library Association was organized in 1905 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, The Dawn Club, Thimble Club, Commercial Club, and Jayhawk Club, along with the W.C.T.U, to donate funds to maintain the library until March 23, 1915 when the Library Association was discontinued and the Athena Study Club took over for one year.
In February 1916, the Athena Club began circulating a petition requesting the city to support the library and open it to the public. The petition was granted and the vote for a city library supported by a tax levy and operated under the Kansas State Library law carried. On July 14, 1916, Mayor Josiah Good called the first meeting of the board of trustees of the Marion City Library and Reading Room. The board members were: Mrs. Nees Olsen, Homer Hoch, John Gardner, Mrs. W.C. Hereford, Mrs. Carl Sheldon, Mrs. T.B. Matlock, A.S. Quisenberry and J.H. Siebert.
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 then to the C.B. Wheeler Building on Main Street in downtown Marion. In 1927, librarian Lucy Martin Burkholder began to classify the book stock and shelve the books according to their classification, but it was 1934 before the Dewey Decimal markings were all on the shelf and the accession record brought up to date.
In July of 1936, a Municipal Building with quarters for the library was proposed and by October 1, of the year 1938, a Municipal Building was built through the Work Program and housed the City Offices, City Auditorium, Fire Station and City Library. The library housed seven thousand volumes in the building.
The devastating flood of 1951 reduced the library’s contents by ninety per cent. Only the top shelf of books and furniture were saved. Gone, also, were many handwritten or typed unpublished manuscripts on local history and biographies. Books were replaced through the generous donations from people from Wichita, Kansas, and throughout the United States.
Renovation of the library began in 1962. Books were mended, index cards typed, and catalogues compiled. In fact, the entire Marion City Library was modernized. General Director of the project was Marie Morse along with workers Audrey Carpenter, Dorothy Magee, Phyllis Melton, Mary Longhofer, Billie Slusser, Dora Phillips and Ruth Caselman.
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 1997, computerization of the library collection was accomplished because of a suggestion from librarian Janet Marler.
In 1999, the Marion City Library, led by librarian Janet Marler, and the library board members Margaret Pickering, Forrest Smith, Bill Smithhart, Jim Bridges, Brenda Rhodes, Betty Sanders, Margaret Wilson, Patricia Foth, and Matt Newhouse, 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 architects were Jim Pettijohn and Ed Kinney. Contractors for the building project were Sunflower Builders, Mike & Tracy Weaver, Tony Upshaw, Gordon Standley and Doug Williams. 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. The collection had reached 18,000 before the move. 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 continues the Santa Fe look with the same style of windows and exterior brick and (stair-step) roof outline. Through a contest, the name “The Santa Fe Room” was chosen. The Santa Fe Room provides 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.