ORIGINALLY WRITTEN JERRY ENGLER
The groundbreaking ceremony Monday for the construction project that will transform Marion’s old Santa Fe Railroad Depot into a new city library and railroad buffs’ tourist attraction was more of a lantern-passing ceremony.
Don Wright, Hutchinson, son of the long-time depot clerk, Harvey Wright, handed an old railroad lantern to librarian Janet Marler to symbolize passing the light that once guided railroad passengers as the light through reading that will guide Marion’s children to the world.
Marler credited local resident Harry Bennett “with his love of history” for coming up with the original idea for the rennovation when he became concerned that the depot might be left to deteriorate.
She said it took a while for the idea to sink in at the library, what a “wonderful thing,” in terms of new room, the depot might mean.
Then when the idea gelled in June 1999, Susan Cooper, development director, worked at a double-time pace to get a grant proposal into the Kansas Department of Transportation enhancement grants program by an October deadline.
The effort resulted in a $758,192 project with federal grant funds through KDOT providing $606,553, and the city required to raise $151,638 through many fund-raising events and donations.
Marler said $131,000 of the city share has been raised, leaving library promoters confident of raising the remainder.
Project Architect Ed Kinney said that when he and his partner, Jim Pettijohn, looked at the depot two years ago, they felt “it was a wonderful piece of architecture and history” to be able to be seen reborn in the town of Marion.
City Administrator Dennis Nichols noted that with actual construction to begin Tuesday and 210 days needed to completion, the tentative completion date would be June 16, 2002.
That date coincides well with the original dedication date of the depot on June 12, 1912.
Original construction of the 150-by-185-foot depot was announced by F.H. Stanton in December 1911. It was built of brick with stone trimming, tile roof, “modern steam heat, elegant electric lights, large baggage and freight rooms, commodious office and waiting rooms…the finest in the county.”
Opening day, businesses closed and the community band greeted and played for 20 Santa Fe officials who were also served a banquet that night at the Elgin Hotel.
Marler said that Sunflower Construction will begin the rennovation with some moving in of equipment and demolition so that observers might not see the progress at first.
Mayor Eloise Mueller, in greeting the resurrection of the depot as a part of the community, said Marion may be unique in having a library in such a building.