Privy Addition at Old Mackinac Point

Restoring a historic site to its original appearance is usually an ongoing activity. At the Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse, restoration has been underway since 2004 to return the station buildings and grounds to the way they looked just over a century ago. This summer, another small historic addition appeared at the lighthouse that you may not have noticed. Attached to the back of the station barn, you can now see a reconstructed privy cleanout, which allowed the keepers to maintain the privy located in the barn between 1892 and 1928.

The barn, built to a standard Lighthouse Service plan in 1892, originally included a privy in the southeast corner. Building specifications required the privy to have a 3-foot deep brick vault under the barn, and a “moveable cover” outside to allow the keepers to clean out the vault as needed. The whole privy was likely removed in 1928, when indoor bathrooms were added to the keepers’ quarters. The barn itself was moved to another spot in the yard, and eventually off the property after the station closed in 1957, but it returned in 2005 as part of the ongoing restoration.

Prior to putting the barn back in its original location, MSHP archaeologists excavated the site to search for foundations and remains of the privy. Their excavation revealed a 6-foot square privy vault straddling the south wall of the barn, with most of the bricks intact in their original positions. Unfortunately, the keepers appear to have cleaned out the privy vault before abandoning it, as relatively few unique artifacts were recovered during the excavation. After returning the barn to its original location, the structure was repainted and otherwise restored to its original appearance, but it lacked the privy cleanout.

This summer, MSHP carpenters carefully exposed the top of the original brick vault, adding new courses on top. They then built a new “moveable cover” for the pit as specified in the original 1892 builder’s contract for the barn. Although this is a small project, it helps us continue to restore Old Mackinac Point to the way it looked historically. Other projects are ongoing at the lighthouse, including restoration of the bedrooms on the second floor of the keepers’ quarters. We hope you’ll join us at Old Mackinac Point to see what’s new.

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