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MEMORIES IN FOCUS: Why Elm St. might better be called Thorp St. years ago

MARION HISTORICAL MUSEUM PHOTO

This stately home at 325 Elm St., purchased in 1904 by George Hauser, was one of two surviving Elm St. homes built for Herbert Thorp. The other is at 205 Elm St.

The legacy of fine homes along the west side of Elm St. in Marion is attributable in no small part to Herbert M. Thorp, a banker, financier, auto dealer, and cattleman who lived large and died young.

Son of financier Hail M. Thorp (1843-1927), Herbert moved to Marion from Emporia in 1891, when his father, who already had substantial financial interests in the county, relocated here.

His father had been a backer of First National Bank of Marion but resigned as a director shortly before the bank began experiencing difficulties in the Panic of 1893, which led to the bank’s failure.

Instead, Hail Thorp devoted his attention to other investments, including a loan brokerage business he had founded in Marion 10 years earlier and an interest in a newly formed Lost Springs bank, where he sent his 19-year-old son to become cashier upon the family’s arrival in the county.

By age 21, Herbert Thorp was put in charge of another bank, in Durham. He also became involved in the cattle business, traveling extensively to neighboring states to buy and sell large consignments of cattle, often in partnership with another prominent local concern, Hauser Brothers.

Hail Thorp, meanwhile, continued making loans, eventually bringing his son into that business, which among other things purchased the assets of the failed First National Bank in 1897, eventually returning 80 cents on the dollar to depositors.

Herbert, like his father, was an imposing figure, tipping the scales in 1892 at 270 pounds. He also was among the city’s most eligible bachelors.

That year, according to the Marion Headlight, which eventually merged with the Record, Herbert “purchased a very fine driving horse…and a new buggy.”

“Watch out, girls!” the paper added.

It took seven years, but he eventually married Ida Mattice in Pueblo, Colorado, where he often had traveled on business. The couple returned to Marion in 1900 to construct a new home, shown here, at 325 Elm St.

The home, now owned by Kathy Biswell, demonstrates classic features of the era, including multiple bay windows and a floor plan not confined to a single rectangle.

His family growing to include three children, Herbert sold the home four years later for $3,000, the equivalent of $86,340 today, to one of his cattle-deal partners, George Hauser (1879-1939).

“We understand,” the Record wrote at the time, “Mr. Hauser will take unto himself a wife” — which, in fact, he did, marrying Laney Kelsey.

The Hausers added a large eastern porch, which now dominates the house’s exterior, and remodeled the interior in 1909. They added a sleeping porch in 1915.

Herbert, meanwhile, set his sights on building yet another home on Elm St., a bit more than a block to the south, just beyond where his father lived.

By 1917, his new home — which now houses Yazel-Megli-Zeiner Funeral Home at 205 Elm St. — was more or less completed.

The home included, among other things, multiple parlors and quarters for a live-in maid. But Herbert, who had since branched out to sell automobiles as well as making loans and cattle deals, was unable to enjoy it for long.

Afflicted for years with diabetes, he died in 1918 at age 47. His funeral was conducted — as was the custom in those days — at his home, making his the first of many funerals to be conducted at 205 Elm St., which W.H. Thompson eventually purchased for his funeral business, which had been located on Main St.

Thompson, along with Hail and Herbert Thorp and George and Laney Hauser, all are buried at Marion Cemetery.

Last modified July 25, 2019

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