As McDowell’s county seat, Marion is the center of commerce, the hub
of history, home to the county’s economic development organization and
arts association and host of what is probably the nation’s only festival
dedicated to livermush, a food processed from hogs.
Named for Revolutionary War officer Francis Marion of South
Carolina, Marion, established in 1843, became a railroad town early on,
and today the railroad crosses the county east to west and north to
south. Though the city was destroyed by fire in 1894, determined
residents rebuilt Marion, and today the downtown is listed in the
National Register of Historic Places, with 11 structures in the historic
The Carson House, a former stagecoach stop just outside the city
that dates to about 1793, is open to the public. Another historic home,
the McDowell House in the city, built by the son of county founder John
McDowell, is part of the National Park Service’s Overmountain Victory
National Historic Trail, which commemorates Revolutionary War history.
The McDowell House will be made into a museum and eventually connected
to a greenway along the Catawba River.
With a population of about 7,000, Marion is home to the McDowell
Economic Development Association, which recruits and assists industries
in partnership with the North Carolina Department of Commerce.
Manufacturers in the city include metalworking and machining companies.
The city’s large water capacity, proximity to Interstate 40 and
Charlotte Douglas International Airport in Charlotte and modest business
tax rate are among Marion’s business-friendly attributes.
The Marion Business Association promotes small businesses in part
through events—including a summer concert series, a Fourth of July
celebration and the annual Mountain Glory Festival in October—that
create traffic for merchants in the central business district. The
association also promotes a walking tour of historic downtown Marion.
As a Main Street city, Marion participates in the national program
that works to generate economic development through assistance to small
businesses with business plans, an entrepreneurship class and other
The city is home to McDowell Hospital and McDowell Technical
Community College, which offers training for manufacturing jobs.
But Marion isn’t all business. There’s live music regularly at the
former Eagle Hotel, which dates to around 1910. In addition to specialty
shops and restaurants downtown, there’s a shop dedicated to doughnuts
and a dairy bar that’s half a century old just outside the city. The
city has a new YMCA, neighborhood parks and the greenway being developed
that will include fishing piers and kayak access to the Catawba.
The McDowell Arts Council Association operates a gallery in Marion
and sponsors programs and community events. McDowell’s community theater
is based in the city.
And the Livermush Festival? Well, it’s an annual event downtown in
June with music, a cooking contest, livermush Haiku, livermush toss and,
of course, tastings of livermush, a delicacy made from hog parts mixed
with cornmeal and spices and usually eaten at breakfast. TA livermush
manufacturer has operated in Marion for over 50 years, so the event can
rightfully claim authenticity.