Mackinac Island Coast Guard Station Assisted Distressed Vessels

Today, the Mackinac Island State Park Visitor’s Center is a great place to begin any visit to Mackinac Island. One hundred years ago, however, the building had a very different purpose: protecting maritime traffic in the Straits of Mackinac as a Coast Guard lifeboat station.Coast Guard Station Mackinac Island

In 1915, the newly-formed U.S. Coast Guard decided to build a new lifeboat station on Mackinac Island. The Mackinac Island State Park Commission provided waterfront property next to the Chippewa Hotel, with the expectation that the land would revert to the state park should the Coast Guard ever abandon the station. When the Mackinac Island station opened in late 1915, it featured a first floor boathouse with slips and launching ramps for three small boats. The second floor contained living quarters and a kitchen for the station crew.Members of the Coast Guard Station Mackinac Island

The primary duty of the crew was to provide assistance to vessels in distress, and perform rescue operations if needed. The crew drilled regularly, launching the lifeboats directly from the boathouse into the harbor. They also practiced with the beach cart and Lyle gun, a small cannon which could fire a rope out to a stranded ship. With the rope in place, the crew could remove passengers from the stricken vessel using a suspended bosun’s chair. Since the Mackinac Island station was located downtown, drills were highly visible, and became a popular attraction for island visitors.Coast Guard Mackinac Island Drill

As marine technology improved through the 1960s, there was less need for lifeboat stations. The Coast Guard closed the Mackinac Island station in 1969, transferring operations to a new base in St. Ignace. With the Coast Guard gone, the station property reverted back to the Mackinac Island State Park Commission. The commission quickly transformed the first floor into a new Mackinac Island State Park Visitor’s Center, which opened in 1970.

2 Responses to “Mackinac Island Coast Guard Station Assisted Distressed Vessels”

  1. Clarence Haase

    Here I am a coastie who serve at this station from 1957-1958 Proud to be a member of this station


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