Chamber of Commerce Building

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The Marion Area Chamber of Commerce building has been occupied by many different businesses for many different purposes. The land, originally sold to the public by the government under John Quincy Adams on October 19, 1825, was sold many times before a building was built on the property in 1875. Martin Boots was the one who first bought the land and from him the land became part of the downtown of Marion, Indiana.

The building’s address is 215 South Adams Street, which was originally South Nebraska Street. The businesses that have been located at this building include a carriage and buggy factory, a blacksmith, a bowling alley, the famous Dilling Candy Co., Challenge Auto Parts, law firms, a mortgage business, and the Chamber of Commerce. Throughout the years the building has undergone restoration of the outside as well as many changes on the interior, some of which include brick restoration in 1979 and more recently, addition of rooms to the building.

The history of the building can still be seen in many places, however. There are remnants of bowling lanes, an old elevator shaft, furnace openings, a concrete sealed doorway, a previous stair entry, built in shelves along walls, and metal chains hanging from the basement ceiling.

Boots and Branson

On October 19, 1825, Martin Boots went to the Muncie land office and announced his interest in purchasing some land in present day Marion. He offered to pay one dollar and twenty-five cents per acre of land and bought the west half of the south east quarter-of section 6, township 24 north, range 8 east, containing 106.70 acres. His goal in the land purchase was to build a home in the wilderness.

Martin Boots was arguably the first white settler to come to Grant County. Originally from Greenville, Ohio, he first came to the area as early as 1812 or 1813. He was originally sent as a government agent to the Miami tribe of Indians. Boots was to pay them for their land and deal with them in furs. Many people did not want to settle in the area because the Mississinewa River was navigable only part of the year. Further, the territory was haunted by memories of the 1812 Battle of the Mississinewa and tales of other conflicts between white settlers and Indians. However, Boots saw that the area had lush, fertile land, plentiful fish and game, and a huge amount of cranberries. After his land purchase, Boots began to clear land, and he planted the first corn crop of the area in 1826. He may have stayed with some Indians for a period of time while until his cabin was built near the present day Girl Scout Cabin on Spencer Avenue. Soon after his cabin was built, he established a blacksmith shop and also the first saw mill, Grist Mill, near the present-day Boots Creek, which bears his name (McKown 14).

In 1826, David Branson purchased the property at the south eastquarter of section 6, township 24 north, range 8 east, containing 95.35 acres. This property was adjacent to Boots’s property. Both Boots and Branson donated 30 acres each of their land on September 6, 1831, for the establishment of a county seat for the newly formed Grant County. In 1838, this area became the center of a new town called Marion, named after the famed Revolutionary War hero, General Francis Marion (McGrew 3).

Carriage and Buggy Factory

The original town plat of Marion extended from Boots Street to Branson Street, and from the Mississinewa River to Harrison Street, present day 7th Street. The first sale of plats was on November 1, 1831 and was advertised in newspapers throughout the state. All plats were to sell for no less than fifty dollars. In 1875, Joseph Clouse purchased lots 2, 3, and 7 of plat 10 for seven hundred dollars. He used the property to erect a two story brick building with a basement. The building is 56 feet by 132 feet and the basement is the same dimension. He used the building to establish the Carriage and Buggy Factory. Clouse’s factory occupied 213 and 215 South Adams Street, The Chamber of Commerce now occupies 215 and a parking lot sits where 213 was (Grant County 19).

==A String of Successors In 1884, Clouse filed for bankruptcy and the building’s possession went to the county. It remained in custody of the county until Phillip Matter bought the building on May 14, 1887, for five thousand and twenty dollars. During this time many businesses resided in the building including Bigelow’s Livery and Stable, established by Elizabeth and Alonzo Bigelow; Murphy & Schnedler, established by George N. Winchel and Miles Murphy; Jason Willson & Company, established by Jason Willson and Adam Wolfe; Coon Livery and Stable, established by George W. Coon; and Clouse and Son Blacksmith established by Joseph Clouse (Abstract).

Sign of the Dun Horse Bowling Alley

In 1897 a bowling alley was constructed in the basement of the building at 215 South Adams Street. It consisted of two lanes with nine pins in each lane (Nine Pins). The alley was called Sign of the Dun Horse and was open days as well as evenings. Only respectable people were allowed to bowl, and liquor and cigars were not allowed or sold. If someone wanted to have a bowling club come to bowl there, requests had to be specially arranged in advance (Bowling Alley). The alley has long since been removed from the basement, but there remain painted lines on the basement floor from the locations of the lanes and the ball returns.

Dilling Co., a Candymaker

In 1898, Frank Dilling moved into 213 and 215 South Adams Street. He had previously had a candy factory, called Dilling Co. on Boots Street and at various other locations in town. He had to keep moving buildings because his inventory would quickly outgrow his buildings. The Dilling Co. took occupancy of lot 7 of plat 10 in 1898 and remained there until the late 1930s.

Frank Dilling and his business partner, B. F. Fowler ran the candy factory together until 1906 when Dilling handed the company over to Fowler and moved to Indianapolis. The reason for his move was due to further expansion for his candy factory and also because of his two daughters, Charlene and Mildred Dilling. (Love Interview) Both girls were talented musicians, Charlene with the violin and Mildred with the harp. He thought the move to Indianapolis would help them to further pursue their musical interests, and he was correct. Within a few years both girls became world famous. Mildred was known as the International Fist Lady of the Harp, and Charlene toured with her in both North and South America (McKown 146).

In 1900, Frank Dilling entered in the Paris exposition and won a silver medal for his candies. The award was for their satin finish butter cups, reception straws, wafers, sunbeam kisses, fairy sticks, pure sticks and fancy hard candies (Dilling Invoice).

Every year, the Dilling Co. bought one hundred and twenty pounds of sugar, thirty thousand pounds of raw materials such as nuts and chocolate, and seventy-five thousand pounds of holiday candy. This let them produce one to two tons of candy each year. Such a large production required the use of thirty to forty factory workers. Of these workers, the majority were women and young girls (Love Interview). The factory had a boiler and engine for hulling the peanuts, if they weren’t already bought in hulled bags. Other equipment includes starch moulds for all shapes, steam heaters for chocolate dippers, and furnaces for other provisions. There was an ice chest used to cool chocolate and also a cutting machine to cut different kinds of candy in the amount of tons per day. Dilling had five men go on the road to sell the candy. They would travel to Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, and other cities in Indiana dealing mainly with jobbers and wholesale men (“Doing an Immense Business”).

After Frank Dilling and his family moved to Indianapolis, Fowler ran the Marion company for the next eleven years. Fowler renamed the company B.F. Fowler Confection Co. However, the Marion city directory includes a conflicting claim that the name remained Dilling Co. (Love Interview). Fowler sold the company in 1927, to Paul Druckemiller who became the local manager of the corporation. Druckemiller kept the factory until the late 1940’s when he then sold it to Joseph and Matilda Kuppin (Abstract 258).

Challenge Auto Parts

On December 14, 1946, Joseph and Matilda Kuppin acquired title to the building. Joseph had a liquor store across the street from the building and decided to move into it to also run an auto parts business. The new business was known as Challenge Auto Parts. He ran the liquor store and the auto parts business at 215 and 217 South Adams Street. His adopted son, Julian Secttor helped him run Challenge Auto Parts and he later became vice president and manager of the building (Secttor Interview). Challenge sold wholesale auto parts, and the basement of the building was used as a business room.

In 1971, Joseph Kuppin died and the title of the building was willed to his wife, Matilda Kuppin. She closed the liquor store and kept Challenge Auto Parts in business under her son, Julian. In 1974, Julian Secttor decided to move Challenge Auto Parts to 700 East Third Street in Marion. The new location would provide more room for the business and also would offer more off-street parking (“The Old and the New”).

Marion Mortgage and Investments

When Challenge Auto Parts moved out of the building in 1974, Matilda Kuppin sold the building to Marion Mortgage and Investments. The investment group bought the building on October 30, 1974 for only ten dollars. The president of Marion Mortgage and Investments was Robert A. Gemmill, and the assistant secretary was J. W. Torrance. They signed for the building and then paid seventy three thousand dollars in mortgage to Marion for the building ownership. Torrance joined Gemmill with John R. Browne Junior, a respected attorney in town to become a law firm. Browne and Torrance had previously been the law firm of Browne, Torrence, Spitzer, Hermin and Browne before joining with Gemmill in 1974. Brown became the vice president of the law firm upon joining (Abstract).

Marion Mortgage and Investments did not remain in the building long and sold the property along with lot 2 and 3 of plat 10 to Jon M. Trook for ninety seven thousand five hundred dollars on March 1, 1978. The building remained vacant from the time Trook purchased it until July 12, 1979 when he leased some of the property to Kenneth Edmonds, president of the Marion Area Chamber of Commerce (Abstract).

Marion Area Chamber of Commerce

The Marion Area Chamber of Commerce moved into the building on Tuesday, September 25, 1979. They used the address of 215 South Adams Street for the business and the lots 2 and 3, which used to be 213 South Adams Street, as parking lots for employees and visitors. Since the late 1960s, the Chamber of Commerce had maintained offices in the Iroquois building located at 325 South Adams Street. The move was to provide more room for the organization. Before the Chamber moved into the building, the building was remodeled using the building’s original brick facing. Madonna Boston, assistant chamber director thought the new office would give the chamber a first class image of Marion. When the chamber was located in the Iroquois building, it had only two private offices and a foyer. The new building provided a conference room, four workstations, and a separate room for business reference materials. The office is only located on the first floor of the two story building and covers 2,600 square feet.

Mrs. Madonna Boston said of the new building, “The extra space at the building will strengthen the Chamber’s services to the business community. With the conference room, we’ll be able to have more meetings at the office.” The office hours of the chamber were from 8:30am to 5:00pm, however currently they have changed to 8:00am to 5:00pm. The second story of the building houses private business offices (“Chamber to Move to New Office”).


Today the Chamber of Commerce remains in the building at 215 South Adams Street. The group plays an active role in the community and with the businesses of Marion. So far, the Chamber has remained in the building for twenty-two years and currently has no plans to move.

Works Cited

  • Abstract of Title. Lincoln Land Title. Trook, Jon. M. Lot 7. Plat 10. 1983.
  • “Bowling Alley.” Marion Daily Leader. 23 October 1897.
  • “Chamber of Commerce to Move to New Office.” Chronicle Tribune. 23 September 1979: 2
  • Dilling Invoice. Marion, Indiana. 13 November 1914.
  • “Doing an Immense Business.” The Marion Chronicle Weekly. 29 December 1893: 1
  • Grant County Junior Historical Society. A Century of Development Grant County, Indiana. Marion, Indiana: The Society, 1937.
  • Love, Barbara. Personal Interview. 16 December 2001.
  • “Men Who Tamed the Land.” Chronicle Tribune. 4 July 1976: 70
  • McGrew, W. H. Interesting Episodes in the Early Historv of Marion and Grant County Indiana. Marion, Indiana: Grant County Historical Society. 1966.
  • McKown, June R. Marion: A Pictorial History. St. Louis, Missouri: G. Bradley Publishing, Inc. 1989.
  • “Nine Pins.” Marion Daily Leader. 23 October 1987.
  • “The Old and the New.” Chronicle Tribune. 11 October 1974.
  • Secttor, Ann. Personal Interview. 12 December 2001.


This article was written by Laura Blair and submitted on January 10, 2002 for Mr. Lakes’ and Mr. Munn’s classes at Marion High School.