Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Short Cut to Down Town Business District Is Less Used in Automobile Age

The Marietta Sunday Times, December 14, 1930

By L. N. Harness

Did you formerly walk through St. Clair way and on down beneath the Union depot train shed as you made your morning trip to your downtown place of business?

If you were in business or employed in the lower business district two or three decades ago it's dollars to doughnuts that you "cut the corner" in this way and saved yourself a lot of steps.  Back in those days St. Clair way was a favored trail for dozens and dozens of Marietta business people.

The "way" was created when the Wieser and St. Clair buildings were erected more than a quarter century ago. The owners of the two properties made an agreement for a permanent reservation of space between their buildings, and it was improved as a private walk.

It took the public no time to find this short cut and immediately it lost any semblance of private property. Then the brick paving was completed to full width, signs were posted and lights were placed in the new alley.

Favored Route

Down through the way, under the union depot shed, over Second street and then by Tiber Way to lower Front street, was the favored route of scores of people. All save two street crossings - Union and Second - was private property but the public took it over.  It is not generally known but all Tiber Way is private property and even today the city has no control over it.

In those days the train shed at the Union depot was almost hallowed property.  That was during the regime of a general agent named Brown and the big shed that gave Marietta a metropolitan air was his greatest source of pride. He patroled it regularly during daylight hours and woe betide the unfortunate who desecrated it by riding a bicycle through it or by taking any liberties aside from walking that way in orderly fashion.

Many an express or baggage wagon driver will remember Brown's orders if an "un-anchored" horse happened to poke his nose under the shed in quest of shade in summer or to get out of the rain and sleet of winter.

Trains came and went at frequent intervals in those days and all save those on the Pennsylvania lines used the Union depot as a terminal.  The B. & O. S. W., the O. & L. K. and the T. & O. C. E., were the roads then operating into and out of the big shed.  The B. & O. proper had not yet appeared as a rail factor in Marietta.

Trains Attracted Them

Many of the trespassers who took the short cut to and from the lower business district found interest in the moving trains, and frequently would stop to greet friends either departing or arriving.

Now almost all of this has passed out of the picture.  The growing use of automobiles and changes in the business district have reduced the crowd of walkers who used to be regulars down that way. There is not one pedestrian there today where there were fifty a quarter of a century ago.

Horses no longer crowd up beneath the eaves of the big shed and Agent Brown has passed to other fields.  Part of St. Clair way is occupied by a fruit and candy store, and even the Union depot is just the B. & O. station.  The Second street railroad yards that in winters of old were seas of mud with deep tracks made by hacks and drays and express wagons now are paved with concrete and are filled daily with parked automobiles.

Many of the business houses that lined lower Front street in the early years of the century are moved to other locations and that has taken men and women off of the old short path.

A majority of the business men and many of their clerks today drive automobiles to and from their work, and in many instances park them along the streets. Someone has said that in this new order, walking is becoming a lost art. That is a fact at least so far as St. Clair way and the depot train shed are concerned.

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