Mackinac’s fur trade era brought to life. 

This is Mackinac.

From 1780 to about 1835 Mackinac Island was the principal summer depot and supply center for the upper Great Lakes fur trade. Pelts gathered at Mackinac were shipped to eastern United States and European markets. During the golden age of the American Fur Company, great wealth was produced on Market Street.

Historic Downtown Mackinac brings Mackinac’s fur trade era back to life. Admission to Historic Downtown Mackinac, which includes Biddle House, the Benjamin Blacksmith Shop, American Fur Company Store and Dr. Beaumont Museum, and the McGulpin House, is included with admission to Fort Mackinac or The Richard and Jane Manoogian Mackinac Art Museum.

Admission is included with a ticket to Fort Mackinac.

Buildings

Click to enlarge.

American Fur Company Store and Dr. Beaumont Museum

This building was the American Fur Company Store, selling a variety of general merchandise. It was here, on June 6, 1822, that French Canadian voyageur Alexis St. Martin was accidentally shot in the stomach from a distance of three feet. Fort Mackinac surgeon Dr. William Beaumont managed to keep St. Martin alive, but the hole in his stomach never properly healed. Through this hole, Dr. Beaumont conducted experiments, observed the workings of the human stomach and discovered much about the digestive process. Exhibits explain the fateful accident and Dr. Beaumont’s experiments and a period setting recreates the store scene where St. Martin was shot.

Benjamin Blacksmith Shop

Originally built in the 1880s, Robert Benjamin and later his son, Herbert, ran a blacksmith shop into the 1960s. The contents of the shop were moved to the reconstructed building in 1970. The Benjamin’s fixed carriage wheels and shoed horses in the early days and repaired lawnmowers and maintained yacht motors in later years. Following in the Benjamin’s footsteps, a blacksmith demonstrates and explains traditional blacksmithing techniques like forming hot iron into fireplace tools, hinges and household items. Entrance is through the Biddle House.

Biddle House 

Edward Biddle was from a prominent East Coast family and took up residence on the island after the War of 1812. He married Agatha de la Vigne, a local Odawa-French Canadian woman, and together they raised their family in the log home. Biddle was an independent fur trader, businessman and held offices in the community. The Biddle House (ca. 1780) is restored to the 1830s era and historic interpreters demonstrate the domestic life of Mackinac’s fur trade era.

McGulpin House 

On the corner of Fort and Market Streets is the McGulpin House, one of the island’s oldest structures. It dates from 1780, or possibly just before, and was restored with the support of Mackinac Associates. The building was moved to its current location during restoration in 1982. Once the home of William McGulpin, a baker for the American Fur Company, this structure is an excellent and rare example of early French Canadian architecture. A historic interpreter details the architectural significance of the structure on Saturday’s during the operating season.

 

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