Clare County Review & Marion Press Columns

Postcard from the Pines: Evolution along North Mill

The Sherk and Thomson Flour Mill built in 1898

There’s a lot of change going on in certain places in Marion, Michigan. Some are eye-catching and others more subtle. When we travel north on Mill Street (M-66) these days, our attention is drawn to the goings on at the rehab-remodel of the old Marion Elevator building. We are all very interested in the new purpose and look for the 116 year old structure.

By now, a lot of folks have attended some type of function at the Old Mill Venue; the first major change to the elevator complex. Up until now the elevator building, built in 1907, has looked much the same. The only thing changing on the structure itself through time was the name. Its evolution has been slow.

The Marion Elevator Co. was established in 1907 and was incorporated with the lumber yard and shed to the south (the Old Mill Venue site). The two businesses were involved off and on until the late 1940’s until it was sold by Bryan Swiler and Ralph Jamison in 1947. The Bolt Lumber Shed was sold to one Charles Osborne who operated it a few short years before selling. Homer Noordhoek, father of present proprietor, Gale Noordhoek, was manager. The lumberyard moved to its present location, just north of the railroad crossing about 1970, enlarging to its present space in 1987.

Bryan and Lillian Swiler (grandparents of the present Bryan Swiler) operated the elevator business, selling a good variety of feeds, seeds, fertilizers and coal. After more than 25 years in business they sold to the late Martin Blackledge, who operated the elevator into the 1980’s. The last owners of the operating elevator business were Howard and Anndrea McCrimmon.

Things began to change on North Mill almost 20 years ago when DDA (Downtown Development Authority) purchased and tore down the former Chapin Flour Mill/Marion Roller Mill/Thompson’s Garage/Texaco Gas/Day’s Flea Market building next to the dam and swimming hole. Those are just the better known of the businesses to operate from that location.

If you are an old kid of a certain age you will recall climbing up the steep bank on a sunny summer afternoon after a swim. Your goal was a cold orange pop or a push-up at the sign of the Texaco big red star. The gas station store was operated by Thornton and Dora Thompson and after 1959 by Ivan and Joyce Snyder.

In the 1980’s and ‘90’s, Jr. and Margaret Day operated an indoor flea market and sometimes garage there. It was the last business at that site. The building was purchased and removed around the millennium. This site, next to the Middle Branch, belongs to the Village and is a picnic site.

North Mill Street is the fastest growing portion of our town. We’ve noticed this in other places, other smaller towns. Often, what was once a light industrial portion or of a town is now ripe for a change. Dollar stores have figured this out everywhere in these parts. Perhaps their arrival makes everyone look at the old things and places differently. We grow and change because there are folks who look at things with new possibility and visionary eyes.

We can’t wait to see Phil and Deanna Lucas’ new vision for the old elevator. Change is good. Sometimes we don’t believe that until it happens. We’ll visit more old North Mill Street business ventures next time. You might be surprised. This is an early photo of the very new roller mill. Apparently it was quite an attraction for men and boys.

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