Fletcher O. Marsh was a professor of mathematics and natural philosophy at Denison for 21 years, and at one point, he was the president for a brief period after Samson Talbot’s death in 1873. But he was an engineer at heart.
Marsh supervised the building of both early brick structures on campus (Marsh and Talbot Halls) and was well known for making the first improvements to the treeless college grounds, carrying heavy loads of manure and saplings up the hill and digging them into the steep and then-barren terrain.
Marsh’s house stood on the site of Beth Eden, and the only carriage access to his home or the rest of the hilltop was a bumpy path entering from Burg Street. But he visualized a winding avenue up to his house and the college from Main Street in Granville, so he purchased that hillside property, laid out the road we’ve long known as the “Main Drag,” and then he sold off the unused sections of that parcel for as much as the original purchase had cost him. Marsh then donated to Denison the land for the new road, and in return the college covered the $300 expense of actually building it, as seen in this 1868 photograph.
For 145 years, straining horses, panting people, and countless vehicles—from oxcarts to Model Ts to minivans—have climbed this path to its summit. All have reached Denison’s campus using the long driveway to Professor Marsh’s house, which he created with a great deal of ingenuity and without, in the end, spending a dime.