Clare County Review & Marion Press Columns

Postcard from the Pines: Visit Marion’s Attic this summer

Main Street Business block ca 1940 Johnson

 It’s been a while since we’ve talked about Marion’s Attic, technically known as the Marion Area Historical Museum. It’s been around for longer than many realize, and still a lot of folks have yet to visit. This summer is the perfect time.

More than 60 years have passed since a small group of dedicated Marion ladies began gathering local artifacts and items to create the first Marion Museum. They were inspired to make a collection for display by a small space available in the upstairs rooms at the M. Alice Chapin Library.  Museum hours were as limited as the space, but interest and the demand for more ran high. Marion dug into its collective attics and the little rooms filled with local memorabilia.

By 1987, the ladies were packing up the museum for storage and the library prepared to move into a new, purpose built larger space on Main Street. There was no museum space included in the new library. Items belonging to M. Alice Chapin, the library’s benefactor, moved into the new library. Items belonging to the Marion Museum went into hibernation for a time.

The Marion Area Historical Society was formed in 1991, born of the Centennial Book Committee, and is dedicated to the preservation of Marion’s historical heritage and artifacts.

 With that as its goal and a most generous donation of acreage on M-66 this group began fund-raising with the goal of building a museum. After many bike-a-thons, rock-a-thons, bake sales, donation drives and hard work on site preparation, the Society realized its dream when the shell of the Marion Area Historical Museum was erected in 1994.  The membership again worked hard to raise funds to finish the interior.  carpeted and furnished with display cabinets, tables and shelving. Items from the old Museum were unpacked, catalogued, readied and displayed. Marion once again had a museum.

In 1996 the Society received the gift of a log cabin. The Compton cabin is of local origin and history and was donated by the late Martin Blackledge and his family. After much fund raising and hard work on site preparation, the log cabin arrived at its final home on the Museum grounds. The log cabin was restored, refurbished and furnished much as when it was new in the 1920’s. It was opened in the spring of 2001 and is a favorite of visitors.  

The Marion Area Historical Society has honored the Compton log cabin with an open house, coinciding with Michigan’s Log Cabin Day in June.

The summer of 2001 also saw the building of a barn structure on the grounds. This display area is home to the many farming, lumbering and some railroad items now owned by the Society. The displays and unusual tools are a popular attraction.

In 2006 the Historical Society was the recipient of a most generous bequest from the H. Millie Jones Trust. This enabled the society to build a long anticipated and much appreciated addition to the original building. This provides a meeting and work area, more storage for parts of the collection, and provides a space for the extensive genealogy corner and a mini-kitchen.

The Historical Museum is home to a sizable and growing collection of local history and photographs. From the story of our lumbering era roots and the associated items, to early Main Street businesses, residents, homes and farms, genealogy and photographs, the museum has space to accommodate all.

Marionites have been most generous with their donations through the years. There are examples of the everyday items that most had in their homes through the decades. There is an ice box, cook stove, and other, odd to us, furniture. Entertainment included owning and playing a piano and or another instrument. The 1950’s brought television, radio and record players to town and many had them. Kids have always had toys and games to show off.

The historical museum even owns a horse drawn sleigh and two wicker baby strollers. All of these things, and so much more, were familiar items to our residents more than 100 years ago.

A visit to the Museum and grounds is an entertaining experience enjoyed by many each season. In addition to June’s Log Cabin celebration the group hosts other events. The grounds are busy the first weekend of August in conjunction with Marion’s Old Fashioned Days Homecoming celebration and in September with a Founder’s Day, honoring Marion’s founders, Christopher and Mary Clark, featuring a boiled dinner stew and open house. This happens on the second Saturday in September on the Museum grounds.

The Marion Area Historical Museum is located at the south village limits on M-66. Summer meetings are held at 7pm on the fourth Thursday of the month. All are welcome to attend. Regular summer museum hours are Saturday 1-4pm, or by chance or appointment. A special time request may be made by calling Valerie Eckert at 231-388-1830. Admission is free and all are welcome.  

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