City buildings carry some history

The two buildings at 304 and 308 Putnam St., currently being considered for possible sale by Marietta officials, have some historical significance, according to the chairman of city council’s lands, buildings and parks committee.

“The building at 304 Putnam was originally built for a hospital with funding from the Selby family, and 308 Putnam was an early telephone exchange building-that’s why the floors are so massive, built to hold the heavy telephone equipment,” said Councilman Harley Noland, D-at large.

According to the city’s inventory of historical buildings, the two-story 308 Putnam St. structure was built in 1902 and housed the Marietta Telephone Exchange and Bell Telephone offices.

The inventory description notes that telephone service came to Marietta in 1882 and during the early 1900s the city had two telephone companies, which would have required some customers to own several phones in order to have complete service. In 1916 the companies merged as Bell Telephone.

The facility at 308 Putnam was one of the telephone exchanges, a central location where phone calls were routed between customers.

“I have an old newspaper photo handed down from my father that shows telephone operators climbing into a boat from a second-floor window in this building during one of the floods,” said city auditor Sherri Hess, whose office is located at 308 Putnam St.

The auditor and city treasurer’s offices, as well as the city information systems department will be moved out of that building into Marietta’s City Hall at 301 Putnam St. after renovations are complete on city hall later this year.

Next door at 304 Putnam is the former location of the Marietta Osteopathic Clinic which eventually became Selby General Hospital. The three-story building was constructed in the 1930s as a clinic, according to the city historical building inventory, and a 20-foot brick addition to the front of the original structure was built in 1969.

The facility was built with financial support from the Frank Selby family, according to an online history of Selby Hospital from the Memorial Health System of which Selby General is now a part.

“Frank Selby thought having two hospitals in Marietta would make them competitive and therefore, make both hospitals better,” according to the health system narrative.

In 1965 Selby General Hospital moved to its present location at 1106 Colegate Drive.

Both 308 and 304 Putnam now house Marietta municipal offices. Earlier this month city officials began making plans to sell 308 Putnam once those offices are moved into city hall.

In addition, the city administration has recommended possibly moving offices currently located at 304 Putnam into the National Guard Armory building on Front Street that is also currently undergoing renovations.

Offices located at 304 Putnam include the city engineer, health department, water department, recreation department and city development department.

As chairman of the lands, buildings and parks committee, Noland said he would have no problem with some of those offices being moved to the armory, like the development and recreation departments.

“But my objection is all departments moved to the armory should be offices that would not be affected by flooding,” he said, noting the armory is located in the flood plain.

“The engineering and health departments should remain at 304 Putnam because if flooding occurs citizens would not be able to access those offices at a time when they would be most needed,” Noland added.

He said 304 Putnam is accessible to people with disabilities as it was once a hospital facility, and the building could easily be renovated.

Jonathan Hupp, the city’s safety-service director, said the administration’s idea to move offices from 304 Putnam into the armory is only a concept at this time. But he said if 304 Putnam has to be renovated, the offices would have to be relocated while that work is done.

“But there’s nowhere for them to go during a renovation,” Hupp said. “Where would we put those people? I don’t have an answer for that.”

He said the administration is trying to work within the city’s current assets, without having to possibly build another facility.

Hupp said 304 Putnam has not been renovated for more than 20 years, and he did not know how much it would cost to renovate it now.

He also said if both buildings at 308 and 304 Putnam are sold, the city would not have any say over what happens to the facilities.

“They wouldn’t be our buildings anymore,” Hupp said.