Lost Landmarks of Mackinac Island: The Mitchell House

The Mitchell House, on Mackinac Island’s Market Street, was constructed by David and Elizabeth Mitchell. David, a native of Scotland, had served as a surgeon’s mate with the King’s Eighth Regiment at Michilimackinac since 1774. There he met Elizabeth, of French Canadian and Ojibwa ancestory. They were married in 1776 and moved with the rest of the coummunity to Mackinac Island in 1780. In 1783, when the King’s Eighth left Mackinac, David received approval to resign his post and remain with his family.

The Mitchell House 1 (more…)

New Historical Marker Commemorates the Rear Parade Ground and Scout Barracks

New Historical Marker Commemorates the Rear Parade Ground and Scout Barracks

On July 25 the newest Michigan Historical Marker will be formally dedicated. It will be the twenty-first marker on the island.

Fort Mackinac from the north, ca. 1890.  The baseball field can be seen at center left, with the grandstand at extreme left.

Fort Mackinac from the north, ca. 1890. The baseball field can be seen at center left, with the grandstand at extreme left.

The rear parade ground north of Fort Mackinac is a distinctive Mackinac Island landscape, an integral part of the operation of Fort Mackinac for both military use and, beginning in 1885, as a baseball field. After the closing of the fort in 1895 the Mackinac Island State Park Commission maintained this historic landscape, including the baseball field. The barracks for the Mackinac Island Scout Service Camp was built here in 1934. The new, double-sided marker commemorates both the historic landscape and the Scout Barracks.

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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…)

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…)

Mission Point Began as Conference Center and College

Mission Point Began as Conference Center and College

What is today Mission Point Resort was originally constructed between 1955 and 1965 as a conference center for Moral Re-Armament (MRA). The international peace organization, based in Switzerland, had originally been established in England in the 1930s by Frank Buchman, a former Lutheran pastor from Pennsylvania. The group held its first gathering on Mackinac Island in 1942. They held conferences at both Grand Hotel and also leased the vacant Island House Hotel from Mackinac Island State Park. The conferences increased in size so that by 1954 MRA decided to purchase land on the island for their own center, acquiring several large parcels at Mission Point. (more…)

Small Fort Plays Big Role in Mackinac History

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Major Charles Gratiot visited Mackinac Island in 1817, using his trained engineer’s eye to carefully record the design of Fort Holmes in these detailed plans. The fort’s blockhouse, walls, and gun platforms are clearly visible on Gratiot’s drawings.

When American troops returned to Mackinac Island following the War of 1812, they inherited a new piece of defensive architecture from their former British enemies. In addition to Fort Mackinac, the Americans also acquired a small fort on the island’s highest point when they arrived in 1815. Although the British originally named the post Fort George, the Americans quickly renamed the fort to honor Major Andrew Holmes, who had been killed in battle on the island in 1814. For the next few years, Fort Holmes played an important part in the daily routines and duties of the American soldiers stationed on Mackinac Island. (more…)

World War I Helps Start First Exhibits at Fort Mackinac

One hundred years ago, as the First World War raged in Europe, the Mackinac Island State Park Commission began the long process of creating museum exhibits to share the rich history of the Straits of Mackinac region. Although the United States would not enter the war until 1917, the conflict would eventually play a role in the commission’s first permanent exhibits.Exhibit

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Mackinac State Historic Parks 2014 Collections Review

The Mackinac Island State Park Commission accessioned over 120 gifts and 67 purchases to the state park historic object and archival collections in 2014. The items represent a board spectrum of Straits of Mackinac history covering topics such as shipwrecks, the Mackinac Island Scout Service Camp and businesses in Mackinaw City and Mackinac Island.

Many of the donations were given to the park for the new Straits of Mackinac Shipwreck Museum at Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse. Diving gear including a dry suit, pants, boots, gloves and air tank were donated to show how diving was done in the 1970’s. From the S.S. Cedarville, a station bill represents the most recent tragedy in the straits and safety gear including a lifeboat oar represents equipment found on ships to save lives. Purchased were a ships compass and radio to tell the story of navigation and communication on the lakes. (more…)