Mackinac’s Field of Dreams – The Fort Mackinac “Never Sweats” and Vintage Base Ball

Mackinac’s Field of Dreams – The Fort Mackinac “Never Sweats” and Vintage Base Ball

“The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It’s been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, is a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good, and that could be again.  –Terrence Mann – “Field of Dreams”

The large, grassy field behind Fort Mackinac has served many purposes since the end of the Civil War.  It has been a drill field for soldiers, a playground for scouts, and a great place to canter a horse.  But the one constant on that field for nearly a century and a half has been baseball.   Fort Mackinac soldiers established the first ball field on this site in the 1870s and continued to develop and improve the field until the fort closed in 1895.  Local residents and summer workers played baseball at the “fort ball grounds” in the early 20th century.  Since 1934, when Civilian Conservation Corps workers built the nearby scout barracks, boy and girl scout troops from across Michigan have played ball on the same field during the summer months.

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200 Years of Peace Commemorated at Mackinac

200 Years of Peace Commemorated at Mackinac

On July 18, 1815, peace returned to Mackinac Island after three years of war. At 2:00 in the afternoon on that day 200 years ago, British troops, some of whom had helped capture Fort Mackinac in the opening days of the War of 1812, peacefully returned control of the island to American soldiers and the United States. Now, two centuries later, a series of special events will culminate in the dedication of a new peace garden on Mackinac Island, celebrating the lasting peace between the United States and Canada.Mackinac Island Peace Garden

To mark the end of the bicentennial of the War of 1812, Mackinac State Historic Parks is hosting several events on the weekend of July 18-19. War of 1812-era demonstrations will take place at Fort Mackinac throughout the weekend, and living historians from around the Great Lakes will recreate the transfer of Fort Mackinac from British to American control at 2:00 PM on Saturday, July 18, exactly 200 years after the original ceremony. This event is included with admission to Fort Mackinac. This historic day will conclude with the dedication of the Mackinac Island Peace Garden at 7:00 PM. (more…)

Greening Michilimackinac

Greening Michilimackinac

If you have visited Colonial Michilimackinac in recent years, you have probably noticed some changes to the site. We have a whole new building, bigger than any that had previously been reconstructed, new tours, programs and updated exhibits. We excavate every day in the summer, learn as much as we can from the artifacts that we find, and apply that information to ultimately reconstructing the buildings and the life that was there 250-300 years ago. But that word “life” can be tricky. What makes a neighborhood, village or city alive? Our staff believes that in addition to presenting a collection of buildings and artifacts, we can also share the smells, tastes and sounds of historic Michilimackinac. We have taken the challenge of making Michilimackinac come alive very literally. Commanding Officer's Gardens

Plants and Trellis Right now there are 13 recreated gardens inside the fort’s palisade. Some are small or some, like the commanding officers’ garden, are actually quite large, containing 16 beds centered around a brass sundial and totaling around 785 square feet. All the gardens big and small in the 1770s were a source of food, medicine and household supplies. Due to the small space and diverse nature of food and household needs, many types of plants were tucked in together. One example of this is found in a small backyard garden that belonged to a French fur trader. In it there are planted chives, radishes and violets. (more…)

Cooking with Fire

Cooking with Fire

Where does family usually end up gathering at the house? It seems like the kitchen is the place for a lot of people. Food is universal and meals bring people together in a home.

The Biddle House, on Market Street on Mackinac Island, has a working kitchen with a fireplace that is used for demonstrating a household of the 1830s by means of creating a meal that would have been commonplace for the time period. Open hearth cooking remained the primary cooking method until the mid to late 1800s, when wood and coal burning stoves were commonplace. Every summer, staff and visitors gather here to learn more about the family around the fire. (more…)

Weapons of Michilimackinac

Weapons of Michilimackinac

Soldier Firing Wall GunAlthough it primarily served as a logistical center for the Great Lakes fur trade, the post of Michilimackinac remained a military establishment from the moment it was constructed by French soldiers in 1715 to the day the last British troops abandoned the fort in 1781. Especially during the period of British control (1761-81), Michilimackinac served as an increasingly important and well-defended military outpost.

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Time to Enjoy the Spring Wildflowers

Time to Enjoy the Spring Wildflowers

One of the surest signs that spring has arrived in the north woods is the appearance of an abundance of beautiful wildflowers covering the forest floor. For many species of forest wildflowers there is just a short window of opportunity to bloom. Shortly after the last snow drift has melted and the frost has finally left the ground, they begin to appear. These spring wildflowers are in a race with the trees of the forest canopy. (more…)

A New Season – Archaeology at Michilimackinac

A New Season – Archaeology at Michilimackinac

With the summer season rapidly approaching, another archaeology field season is upon us. Even though we are continuing where we stopped last August, there was some preparation necessary before we began excavating again. At the end of each season we line the site with plastic and straw bales to protect it from the weather over the winter. In the spring we have to remove all of this. This process began May 26. Then we re-established the grid strings we measure from, put out our water-screening stations and organized the other field equipment and supplies. Most of the crew arrived June 1, and after a few days of orientation and training, the field season was fully underway June 4. (more…)

The Four Maps of Michilimackinac

The Four Maps of Michilimackinac

In addition to over 50 years’ worth of archaeological evidence, historians have four maps of the original community of Michilimackinac to help them understand how people lived at the fort in the 18th century. These maps, created between 1749 and 1769, provide a fascinating glimpse into the changing community of Michilimackinac.

7. Lotbiniere plan 1749 mapThe earliest known map of Michilimackinac was drawn in October 1749 by Michel Chartier de Lotbinière, a French military engineer. Dispatched to Michilimackinac to report on the state of the post, Lotbinière recorded the fort’s defenses (which he considered “very badly built”) as well as the layout of the community within the walls. His map also listed the residents of most of the fort’s 40 homes, as well as the few buildings occupied by the French military and the Catholic priest. In an accompanying written report, Lotbinière also provided a number of details about the construction and design of the built environment at Michilimackinac. (more…)

Anniversary of the Cedarville

Anniversary of the Cedarville

At 9:45 a.m. on Friday, May 7, 1965, two ships collided in dense fog in the middle of the Straits of Mackinac. One of them, the limestone-carrying freighter Cedarville, capsized and sank approximately 40 minutes later just off Old Mackinac Point. Fifty years later, the loss of Cedarville remains the one of the worst maritime disasters in the straits, claiming 10 lives.

Cedarville (1)

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