Visitors at Old Mackinac Point

Some visitors, like this Lighthouse Service inspector being greeted by Keeper George Marshall, came on official business.

Some visitors, like this Lighthouse Service inspector being greeted by Keeper George Marshall, came on official business.

The Old Mackinac Point light station was always popular with visitors. While tourists today visit the preserved light station as an historic site and museum, beginning in 1890 visitors also toured the station while it served as an active aid to navigation.

 

The Lighthouse Service officially instructed keepers that they “must be courteous and polite to all visitors and show them everything of interest about the station” as long as it did not interfere with duties. At Old Mackinac Point the influx of summer travelers occasionally tried the patience of the keepers.

The station in the 1920s, surrounded by the Michilimackinac State Park campground.

The station in the 1920s, surrounded by the Michilimackinac State Park campground.

As early as May 1893 Keeper George Marshall complained that there were visitors at the station pretty much all day and “they are troublesome.” A month later he commented again that the station was “crowded with visitors all day” but he “denied them admittance to the tower at lighting time.”

 

As a boy in the 1930s, Ray Olsen, son of then-Assistant Keeper Henrik Olsen, was stationed at the bottom of the tower to let visitors up to take in the view. Guests were barred from entering the station grounds during World War II, as the station log indicates that the keepers were painting “No Visitors” signs in June 1942. Sometimes, the keepers themselves proved difficult for visitors. One day in 1932, Assistant Keeper William Chapman returned to the station “in an intoxicated condition and accompanied by two of his associates in the same condition; it was during the hours that visitors were being admitted to the tower and made a very unsatisfactory advertising for the service.” Keeper James Marshall made him write a formal letter of apology for embarrassing the Lighthouse Service.

Troublesome as it may have been to have visitors interrupt the daily routine, summer tourists also added an air of excitement to life at the station. Some lighthouse families developed long-lasting friendships with visitors staying in the Michilimackinac State Park campground, which surrounded the station.

Today, we hope you’ll continue the tradition of these historical guests by visiting Old Mackinac Point.

2 Responses to “Visitors at Old Mackinac Point”

    • Dominick Miller

      Hi Pam,

      Unfortunately our historic sites do not open for 2017 until May 1. There will be a handful of businesses open during your visit, though, and you are free to wander Mackinac Island State Park and check out some of the beautiful natural wonders, such as Arch Rock, Sugar Loaf and Skull Cave, and hike along the miles of trails and pathways.

      I hope you enjoy your visit to Mackinac Island, and truly hope that you are able to visit us at our historic sites at some point this season!

      Reply

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