Each year the spring thaw caused the Cass River to overflow its banks and flood nearly all of the buildings in downtown Frankenmuth. It was not unusual for the Main Dining Room of Zehnder’s to experience 4-6 inches of flood water each Spring. Easter Sunday business was often affected by this irritating act of nature. After severe flooding in 1948, discussions began in earnest about building a levee to contain the annual spring floods.
The 1948 addition of our Tap Room, restrooms and Heritage Room was built three steps higher to keep at least part of our facility open during flooding. The steps, still evident and in use today; are just south of our Guest Services office or when one enters or leaves the Original Room from the Main Lobby. Many of the pictures of Zehnder’s were taken during the flood; one of my favorites shows a rowboat chained to one of our columns during the high water period. I’ve wondered if this was a safety precaution to evacuate employees or guests, or did guests actually arrive by boat?!
By 1952 the original upstream portion of the levee was complete. Begun about 1955, the downstream portion was essentially completed by 1961. A pumping station was installed in 1960; the cost equally shared by the Village of Frankenmuth and Zehnder’s. The cost of construction of the original levee was shared 50% by Frankenmuth Township, and 25% each allocated to the Village of Frankenmuth and Zehnder’s.
In 1967 and 1968, on the recommendation of the Army Corps of Engineers; a 4 foot concrete wall was built on portions of the levee to provide additional protection against a 50 year high water possibility.
To provide additional protection, and to comply with the new guidelines developed by FEMA, work has already begun to further enhance this important feature of our community. As part of the project, the addition of a river walk is a possibility as a way to enjoy the natural beauty of this part of our community.
While we may experience some level of inconvenience, mess and disruption, it will ultimately be worth it. Looking forward to its completion.
Al Zehnder, CEO