There was a time when the spring thaw and April showers brought more to Frankenmuth than just May flowers, it brought flooding to the downtown business district. There was a time when it was not unusual that Main Street was impassable and businesses in the area had water on the first floor. Zehnder’s 1948 addition (main lobby, restrooms, Tap Room and Heritage Room) was built three steps higher to avoid the spring floods. After a severe spring flood in 1947, serious flood control discussions began in the community.
By 1948, the governments of Frankenmuth Township and the Village of Frankenmuth had tentatively approved a plan to build a dike at a cost of $25,205.00. It was agreed that one half would be paid by the Township and the remainder split between the Village and the Zehnder organization. Work began in 1952 and by 1961 both the upstream and downstream portion of the dike were complete. Additional improvements by the Army Corps of Engineers were completed in 1967 and 1968.
The construction of the dike was critical for meaningful expansion to all businesses north of the current Main Street bridge and south of what is now Cass Street. Our entire lower level expansion of dining rooms, gift shop, food store, bakery and Z Chef’s Cafe would never have been possible without the building of the dike. The dike allowed the businesses the confidence to expand into the world famous tourist destination we are so proud of today.
The next time you visit Zehnder’s, please take some time to view some of the flood pictures we have on display in our Tap Room and in the area of our History Wall. If you have any flood pictures of Frankenmuth you would like to share please let us know.