Historic Indian Dormitory

The Indian Dormitory was built on Mackinac Island as part of improvements to the Mackinac Island United States Indian Agency called for in the 1836 Treaty of Washington, in which Indian nations of the Great Lakes deeded significant portions of Michigan’s upper and lower peninsulas to the United States.  The dormitory was constructed to house Native Americans who came to the island to receive payment as part of the provision.  However, as the Native Americans visiting the agency continued to camp along the harbor, it was primarily used by Indian agents as an administrative building and as the residence of the dormitory keeper.  After eight years, it no longer served this purpose and was eventually converted into a schoolhouse for island children.  The front of the building was subsequently enlarged for that purpose, and it served as the Mackinac Island Public School for nearly 100 years.

During the early 1940s, the school building served as the “Mackinac Island Summer School of Art.”  The program was part of an effort to establish a permanent summer art colony on the island.  Artists taught courses and the students’ works were exhibited in the school.  Although successful, the program was suspended during WWII and not revived.

In 1964 the seven-member Mackinac Island State Park Commission, the governing body of Mackinac State Historic Parks, purchased the property from the Mackinac Island Board of Education.  In 1965-66 the commission completely restored the building to its 1838 appearance including the removal of later additions.  Exhibits were installed and it was opened each summer to the public from 1966 until 2002, at which time it was closed due to budget cutbacks.  The building remained closed and has since fallen into disrepair.

In 2007, Mackinac State Historic Parks staff began working to convert the unused historic structure into an art museum.  The art museum has been generously funded by the Richard and Jane Manoogian Foundation.