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A new exhibit at the Marion Heritage Center allows visitors to walk the roads of Marion’s past and with those who traveled them.

The “Good Roads” exhibit opened Sept. 30 and runs through April 29. Admission is free. Researching and compiling the information took David and Lynette Brenzel, who run the center, two years.

When Lynette Brenzel started at the Marion Heritage Center, 590 10th St., in 2012, she said board members suggested a Lincoln Highway exhibit. However, Lynette Brenzel said when she and David began researching Eastern Iowa roadways in the 1910s, stories brought them further and further into the past.

It wasn’t until the couple found a quote by Henry Joy, one of the founders of the Lincoln Highway Association, saying the road through Marion and into Cedar Rapids was one of the best routes through Eastern Iowa, that they delved deeper.

“We thought, ‘There’s got to be another story we can tell,’ ” Lynette Brenzel said.

The road through Marion, a territorial highway, was part of the first transcontinental road that connected Iowa City — then the state’s capitol — to Marion. It then headed up toward Prairie du Chien, Wis., where it connected to roads along the Great Lakes and then to New York, David Brenzel said.

Starting in 1913, the road through Marion also was part of the Lincoln Highway until about 1925 when Mount Vernon Road was finished, he added.

“By 1925, they had finished bridges and paving and grading on Mount Vernon Road,” David Brenzel said. “People forget how close that road is to the Cedar River. Every time the Cedar River floods, it floods all of the mouths of those tributaries and that destroys the road.”

So for about half the 19th Century and a piece of the 20th Century, the world’s travelers on cross-country trips went through Marion and into Cedar Rapids with walkers coming through as early as 1868 and bicycles as early as 1884, David Brenzel said.


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