New Photos of an Old Hospital

Mackinac State Historic Parks Registrar Brian Jaeschke recently acquired copies of several historic photographs of the 1860 Post Hospital at Fort Mackinac. The photographs were discovered in the digital collection of the U.S. National Library of Medicine in Bethesda, Maryland which has 150,000 historical prints and photographs.

Post Hospital From Gun Platform

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The photographs, two of which are new to the MSHP collection, show the hospital as it appeared in the 1880s. The front view is taken from the upper gun platform and shows the south and west elevations of the building. In the foreground are the 6 and 12 pound cannon that were used by soldiers for daily salutes and ceremonial occasions such as the Fourth of July. Today’s cannon firing demonstrations take place in the same location. Beyond the gun platform is the walkway bridge that that provided access to the building through the front porch. Of interest is the system of gutters which collected and fed rain water into the cistern which is still in place in front of the hospital. Water was stored in the cistern as part of the fort’s fire protection system.


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The view from the side shows the low slopping room of the cellar built in 1882. This partially subterranean building was used to store a wide variety of vegetables, including radishes, lettuce, peas, beans, squash, carrots, beets, cucumbers, turnips, and cabbage from the hospital garden. Mackinac Island has long had a reputation for producing bountiful harvests of delicious potatoes and, in the fall of 1882, soldiers added 55 bushels of potatoes to the hospital cellar for the coming winter.


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The final photograph is a particularly rare view of hospital from the north or rear elevation. The cellar is the lean-to structure on the right side of the photo. The photograph predates 1889 when the Hospital Steward’s Quarters was constructed to the east (or left side of this view). The back door led into a wood shed which, with the adjacent kitchen, comprised the northerly most addition. Beyond the kitchen was the mess hall for hospital staff and patients. The two-story main section of the hospital included spaces for a store room, office and dispensary, steward’s and matron’s quarters, and ward rooms. The antenna like objects on the roof supported the telegraph wire that connected the hospital with the island telegraph station which was installed in 1883 and first managed by Maggie Donnelly.

Today, the structure serves as the Mackinac Island State Park Commission Post Hospital Administration Building. It has been the island headquarters for Mackinac State Historic Parks since 1996. In the modern photos below, one can see how little the exterior of the structure has changed in the last 130 years.

Mackinac Island State Park Commission Post Hospital Administration Building 2012 Mackinac Island State Park Commission Post Hospital Administration Building 2012

2 Responses to “New Photos of an Old Hospital”

  1. Calvin Kladder

    Great historical photos and interesting commentary. We stayed and slept in that building quite few nights as guests when the building was used as seasonal housing for the Assistant Director of MSHP and his family, namely Dr. David Armour. This was in 1970-1980s.

  2. Rachel Clark

    I stayed at the post hospital in the 70s when the Armors lived there. I have great memories of sliding down the banisters, climbing that low roof in the back and Mrs. Armor’s cinnamon rolls. I’m happy to see the building still in use.

    Rachel (Lancour) Clark


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