Marlborough ghost town documented in full-length film

'Lake County has very unique hidden gems,' filmmaker says

BALDWIN — After two years in the making, the full-length documentary, "Marlborough: a Tale of Riches to Ruins" was unveiled Saturday with a private screening at the Lake County Historical Museum, followed by a public event to release copies and meet those instrumental in the production.  

During the private screening, board members of the Lake County Historical Society, invited guests, as well as those involved in the production, enjoyed refreshments and viewed the documentary, which is just over an hour in length, created by Mark Boardman, owner and cinematographer of Boardman Productions.

Recognition was given to those involved in the film's creation, along with actors. A toast was then given to celebrate the release.

Boardman began his involvement in the documentary with Mark Jager for the series, "Mystic Michigan," in fall 2020. The small project turned into a full-length project when many pieces to the story of Marlborough, in the archives of the Lake County Historical Museum, begged for a fuller presentation.

The Village of Marlborough, (Town of Marl) was founded by the Great Northern Portland Cement Company, with 8,000 acres southeast of Baldwin in the North Lake vicinity. The cement plant tapped into local resources to produce marl, mixing a lime-rich mud on the bottom of North Lake with clay from the banks of the Pere Marquette, to make cement.

The company was incorporated in 1901, with two major investors, Howard Parsons and Frederick Farnsworth, and by 1902, the plant and village sprang up, but by 1907 went bankrupt and closed, due to discovery of an easier and more efficient process of making cement.

The haunting ruins of Marlborough, still in existence, are likened by some to the "Ruins of Rome," and have been an object of intrigue for decades, though now on private property, but some of which can be seen from the road, such as the old storage warehouse.

Boardman said he would like to go even further with the documentary.

"Our plans are to get it on PBS," he said. "This is worthy Michigan history which should be heard by the rest of the country, and the world."

"Lake County has very unique hidden gems, such as Idlewild," he further explained.

Boardman worked closely with Jill Engelman, curator for the Lake County Historical Museum, and attributes her for making the documentary happen.

"I thought the documentary turned out well," he said. "Our cast was great. It takes a village. This is all Jill's thing. Everything was in her head of how to make it."

Engelman attributed all the volunteers for helping it come together.

"I am thankful for all the assistance of all the people who helped put the film together to preserve an important part of our history," she said.

One of the actors, Marty Corbin, who portrayed Lillian Weeks, wife of the carpenter Ralph Weeks who helped build Marlborough, enjoyed being in the film.
"I love the history of the whole thing," she said. "When Jill asked if I could help, it was in the middle of the pandemic, and we would wear masks, and take them off quickly for filming, and quickly put them back on. Jill and everyone did so much work — they are really a gift to our county. I used to reenact Civil War, so I had some old-era clothes"

Also featured in the film is Jane Miller, who's grandfather, Frank Bradford, worked at Marlborough, and her mother would tell stories of those times.

Peter Carey was narrator, Chris Vallilo did the musical score, and others also featured were Rose Dionne, Marty Corbin, Jill Engelman, Bruce Micinski, Jill Engelman and Harmony Boardman.

DVDs and thumb drives of the documentary are available for $15 at the Lake County Historical Museum.