The mystery of the tunnels solved! As work proceeds on the restoration of downtown buildings reports of bricked-up basement tunnels come to light. What were they used for?
The answer is steam heat. From 1907 to 1959 the steam by-product of local electric utilities was used to heat building in downtown Marion.
1890 -1904 Marion begins to electrify. Small-scale production- Fifth and Nebraska, current from traction lines, home generators. The Glass Block at Third and Boots – gas fired boiler drove a120 KW generator enabled for steam to heat several buildings along the square
In 1907, a larger plant was needed to meet increased demand. A new facility was built on N.Branson Marion Light and Heating served over 1000 customers. Rate 12.5 cents/kilowatt hour. One of the first turbine generator. The fuel was changed to coal due to the gas production decline. The boiler was initially hand fed in early days until stokers were brought in.
1907 MLH became American Gas and Electric.
1918 Muncie and Marion’s firms became General Service.
1923 – The rate lowered to 7.5 per kilowatt hour.
1948 GS merged with Ft.Wayne Indiana Service became I and M.
1953- Branson St. plant generated its last electricity.
1959 – Last steam was generated.
1960- The building was demolished.
Sandborn Insurance Map 1906
Centennial History of Grant County
Marion Chronicle-Tribune 04.25. 1962
by William F. Munn
“Celebrate the Past” broadcast on WBAT AM 09.17.2018