Mackinaw City’s Petersen Center

While experiencing the cold of winter in Michigan, it’s easy to think of the Straits of Mackinac in warm weather and summer fun. However, you might not realize that there is still plenty happening during the off-season at Mackinac State Historic Parks (MSHP). During the summer and fall, many staff work out of the 1859 Post Hospital on Mackinac Island or elsewhere in the MSHP park system. In the winter, office staff return to Mackinaw City to the Dr. Eugene and Marian Petersen Center. This tradition has its own history that reflects the ever-changing needs of the state parks at Mackinac. 

The house purchased by the commission in the 1990s that served as a collections office.

The house at 207 W Sinclair which served as office for collections staff.

 Starting in 1958, the park began to work in a form much more recognizable to today. Much of the behind-the-scenes work was spread out, with the museum’s operations at various locations around the greater Lansing area during the winter. The park’s collections were split up, with the archaeological collections being housed in Lansing and the historic collection being kept in a series of buildings on Mackinac Island. The permanent staff was much smaller during those times. As the 1970s and ‘80s rolled in, the park had to make several expansions, most notably in the areas of historical conservation, education, and marketing. This required more office space. In 1988 the park constructed a housing unit on West Central Avenue in Mackinaw City for seasonal employee housing; this also doubled as winter offices for much of the staff. Despite having a building for winter offices, the park’s team were also spread out amongst the Colonial Michilimackinac Visitor’s Center and Mill Creek Service Center. In the mid-1990s, the park acquired a house and old motel behind Michilimackinac on West Sinclair Avenue, which would initially serve as an office for the collections staff of the park. 

A photo of the Petersen Center being expanded by adding the former housing unit from Central Avenue.

The Petersen Center during its initial expansion in 1998.

A picture of construction of an addition to the Petersen Center in Mackinaw City.

Expansion of the Petersen Center in 2001.

 This motel would be the beginning of a long-term project to centralize MSHP’s offices, library, and collections, as much of that was still located in Lansing. In 1998, the office/housing building on Central Avenue was moved to West Sinclair Avenue and attached to the house. A further renovation was completed in 2001, adding a two-story addition to the building. This expansion would create enough space for the archaeological collection, library, and conservation lab to be moved from Lansing to the new office building. These changes also allowed for new office spaces for the park’s interpretation, education, collections, and archaeological staff. This building was dedicated as the Dr. Eugene and Marian Petersen Center for Archaeology and History. Dr. Eugene Petersen was director of Historic Projects and later Park Director from 1958 to 1985. His wife, Marian, ran the office of the park. In May of 2019, the park renamed the research library after Dr. Keith Widder, in honor of his long service and contributions to MSHP. 

A board table and chairs in the Commission Meeting Room in the Petersen Center, Mackinaw City.

Commission Meeting Room, Petersen Center.

 The latest addition to the Petersen Center was in 2020, when the west side of the building was expanded to accommodate a new meeting room for the Mackinac Island State Park Commission. These changes allowed for a much more centralized, organized,

The Keith R. Widder Library at the Petersen Center.

The Keith R. Widder Library at the Petersen Center.

and professional running of Mackinac State Historic Parks. Now, staff could conveniently do much of their work from their main office, instead of having to travel to do essential research or care for the ever-growing collection. Different departments were able to communicate with each other much more clearly and quickly with the new meeting spaces. The Petersen Center has served, and will continue to serve, as a great tool for the Mackinac State Historic Parks staff in keeping the park up and running. 

A picture of the Petersen Center in Mackinaw City during winter.

The Petersen Center today.

 

Stereoview of Arch Rock

2021 Mackinac State Historic Parks Collections Acquisitions

A beer stein

A souvenir beer stein

The Grand Hotel Loving Cup

One of the more unique additions: a Grand Hotel Loving Cup

In 2021, the collections committee accessioned 247 objects into the Mackinac Island State Park Commission collection and archives. In addition to several purchases, over 115 items were donated to the collection. Although the summer collections internships were cancelled, the commission was able to hire an intern for the 2021/2022 winter. During the summer, the inventory scheduled for the Mackinaw City historic sites including Colonial Michilimackinac, Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse and Historic Mill Creek Discovery Park was completed. The 2020 winter intern completed the inventory of the archival and postcard collections in the Keith R. Widder Library.

 

 

Ruby mug inscribed by Frank Kriesche

A ruby mug inscribed by Frank Kriesche. 

 

A painting of a horse and buggy by Stanley Bielecky

Painting by Stanley Bielecky

As in 2019, several objects were purchased from the collection of the late Ronald J. Rolando. Watercolors and oil paintings by Stanley Bielecky, photographic prints by William H. Gardiner and artwork of many other artists were selected. A unique Grand Hotel loving cup presented in 1894, a souvenir beer stein and a ruby glass mug inscribed by island artist Frank Kriesche were some of the three-dimensional objects chosen. Archival items included an engraving from Henri Chatelain’s early 18th century atlas showing the industry of the beaver fur trade and manufacture, four island hotel menus printed on birchbark and two late 19th century maps of Mackinac Island.

A capstan cover from the SS Chief Wawatam

Capstan cover from the SS Chief Wawatam. 

This summer, the commission received a call from a gentleman who had one of the brass capstan covers from the railroad ferry SS Chief Wawatam. The ship had two of these covers which were mounted on top of the capstans on the railcar deck. The capstan is a vertical-axled rotating machine developed for use on sailing ships to multiply the pulling force of seamen when hauling ropes, cables and hawsers. The man’s father had been given the cover back in the late 1980s when the ferry was being scrapped and told his son if he did not want it to throw it away. The son did some research and found the commission had a collection of objects from the ship. After discussion with collections staff, he offered to donate the cover to the commission’s collection. This is a unique piece with the ship’s name, company and shipyard that built the ship and manufacturer of the capstan.

 

A note from W. Stewart Woodfill to a guest from Grand Hotel

Letter on Grand Hotel stationary from W. Stewart Woodfill

Bottles from the Bailey National Park Drugstore

Pharmaceutical bottles from the Dr. John R. Bailey & Sons National Park Drugstore

The commission received several other donations including seven pieces of artwork from the Artist-In-Residence program, a letter on Grand Hotel stationary from W. Stewart Woodfill to a patron and a Westfield Company bicycle belonging to islander Ernst Puttkammer. Two pharmaceutical bottles from the Dr. John R. Bailey & Sons National Park Drugstore were donated by an island contractor and original sanctuary light fixtures were donated by Little Stone Church.

Over the years, the commission has acquired several stereoviews showing Mackinac Island buildings, geological formations, scenic views and other subjects. This year four views were purchased showing the New Mackinac Hotel, Arch Rock from below, Robinson’s Folly and Devil’s Kitchen. Stereoview cards were a popular souvenir in the late 19th century. The three-dimensional views could be purchased from many local stores and taken home to be viewed through a stereopticon. P.B. Greene, J.A. Jenney and Webster & Albee were some of the photographers who took the images and published them on Mackinac Island or in cities around the Great Lakes.

Stereoview of Arch Rock

A stereoview of Arch Rock

A stereview of the New Mackinac Hotel

A stereoview of the New Mackinac Hotel.

This is only a small sample of the type of objects Mackinac State Historic Parks collects during a given year.  We are always looking for donations and items to purchase which will help the commission to continue its mission of educating the public about the history of the region.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mackinac Island State Park Commission Meeting

­­­­Meeting Notice

MACKINAC ISLAND STATE PARK COMMISSION

Friday, September 24, 2021

1:30 p.m.

21001 Van Born Rd

Taylor, MI

 

DUE TO COVID-19 PUBLIC HEALTH & SAFETY CONCERNS, THE MACKINAC ISLAND STATE PARK COMMISSION MEETING WILL BE HELD VIRTUALLY VIA ZOOM.

Members of the public may access the Zoom meeting in one of two ways:

  1. Download the Zoom application, or go to zoom.us/join in a web browser, and join the meeting using Zoom meeting ID: 811 3938 2497, Passcode: M81XhN
  2. Using a telephone, dial by your location:

+1 929 205 6099 US (New York)
+1 301 715 8592 US (Washington DC)
+1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago)
+1 669 900 6833 US (San Jose)
+1 253 215 8782 US (Tacoma)
+1 346 248 7799 US (Houston)

Also, enter Zoom meeting ID: 811 3938 2497, Passcode: 670180
Find your local number: https://us02web.zoom.us/u/kF2zGqEj

A portion of the meeting will be dedicated to public comment.  While pre-registration is not required to make a comment, to assist with the orderly presentation of the meeting, please contact Kathy Cryderman at (906) 847-3328 or crydermank@michigan.gov to add your name to a list of persons wishing to make a comment.

Please also contact Kathy Cryderman if you have a disability and feel some additional accommodation is necessary, or if you have any other concerns.  Click here for the meeting agenda and packet. 

What Can I Find at the Mackinac Island State Park Visitor’s Center?

Ready or not the 2021 season is ready to start.

The Mackinac Island State Park Visitor’s Center from Fort Mackinac.

  If you’ve visited Mackinac Island, you probably remember the Mackinac Island State Park Visitor’s Center. It’s the building with the red roof just past the Chippewa Hotel. Today, we would like to share with you what the Mackinac Island State Park Visitor Center on Mackinac Island is all about and what you can find there.

  It’s simple, really: at the Mackinac Island State Park Visitor’s Center you can find out about all things Mackinac Island State Park. Want to know what demonstrations are going on at Fort Mackinac, or are interested in buying a ticket? Wondering what all comes with your Fort Mackinac ticket? We can help! Wondering about special events like Movies in the Fort or Music in the Park? Talk to us! Curious about the juried art exhibition at The Richard and Jane Manoogian Mackinac Art Museum, the Artist-in-Residence program, or the new exhibit at the Biddle House? We have the info. Want to know about the Botanical Trail, what’s at British Landing, or the status of M-185? That’s what we’re here for.

  There are some things we cannot help you with, though. Wondering who has the best fudge or how much a taxi ride is up to the Grand Hotel? You’re out of luck. If you’re interested in a Carriage Tour you’ll need to head down to the stand on Main Street. If you’re curious about hotels on the island, or dinner reservations, or who has the best night life, the Mackinac Island Tourism Bureau is your best bet, and that building is just down the road.

A new Arch Rock t-shirt available for the 2021 season.

  Starting in 2021, the Mackinac Island State Park Visitor’s Center will also serve as the home to the official Mackinac Island State Park Store. We will have great new souvenirs and merchandise: Arch Rock t-shirts, M-185 mile marker stickers, ornaments, mugs, and magnets, just to name a few. We also have all the Mackinac State Historic Park publications pertaining to Mackinac Island and as well as a few about our Mackinaw City sites.

U.S. Coast Guard Life-Saving Station stamp.

  Did you know that the Mackinac Island State Park Visitor Center was originally the site of the Coast Guard Life-Saving Station?  It was built in 1915, the year the Life-Saving Service and the Revenue Cutter Service were merged to form the U.S. Coast Guard. The Coast Guard closed the Mackinac Island Life-Saving Station in 1969, transferring operations to its new base in St. Ignace. In 1970 the Mackinac Island State Park Commission acquired the building, and the Visitor’s Center was born. We have a passport stamp available at the Mackinac Island State Park Visitor’s Center for the Mackinac Island U.S. Coast Guard Life-Saving Station if you would like to stop by and have your book stamped for a donation.

  The Mackinac Island State Park is also home to the Mackinac Island Artist-in-Residence Apartment, on the second floor, as well as the Station 256 Conference Room, also on the second floor. The conference room can be booked for small meetings and gatherings.

  The Mackinac Island State Park Visitor’s Center and official State Park Store open May 7. We hope to see you this summer!

Girl Scouts and the Mackinac Island Scout Service Camp

The Mackinac Island Scout Service Camp has been a long-honored tradition for many scouts within Michigan. Since its creation in 1929 the program has gone through many changes, however none quite as notable as the inclusion of Girl Scouts.

In 1929, visitors who trudged up the ramp to Fort Mackinac had a breathtaking view as a reward for their climb, but the fort buildings revealed little of their past. At the time only a small museum of assorted artifacts had been assembled in part of the Officer’s Stone Quarters. Roger Andrews, vice chairman of the Mackinac Island State Park Commission, wanted to create a new way to present Mackinac’s rich history for their visitors.

  Andrews organized a contingent of eight Eagle Scouts, the highest rank of Boy Scouts, to help at Fort Mackinac for the month of August 1929. These scouts were well trained in the historical background of the island and gave free tours to fort visitors. Their routine included putting the fort flags up and down, firing the sunset gun, and blowing “Reveille” and taps on the bugle. Famously, future president Gerald Ford was one of these Eagle Scouts.

  After the successful summer, the news of the service camp quickly spread. In 1934 the program briefly went nationwide – scouts were invited from fifteen other states to spend two weeks serving as guides at Fort Mackinac. With the overwhelming response, the Detroit and Cleveland Navigation Company sponsored an essay contest to select scouts within Michigan. By 1947, twelve different troops were coming, with more than 400 scouts each season.

During the 1940s, the Mackinac Island State Park Commission received numerous requests for the inclusion of Girl Scouts. Instead of allowing the scouts to join the Mackinac Island Scout Service Camp, the commission offered temporary usage of the Scout Barracks, located behind Fort Mackinac, and land for a Girl Scout camp to construct their own barracks on Mackinac Island. Nothing came of this offer, but the idea of having Girl Scouts as part of the program did not die.

Scouts with Governor and First Lady Milliken.

In the early 1970s the Girl Scouts again asked to be part of the contingent, this time securing the support of Helen Milliken, Michigan’s First Lady. Since the Boy Scouts and Girl Scout organizations are separate, the request was carefully studied to see if Girl Scouts could meet the camp requirement. In 1974, the scout camp policy was changed to include Girl Scout troops, and Cadette Troops 464 from Ann Arbor and 1463 from Grosse Pointe Farms served with distinction. Over the years the number of Girl Scout troops coming to Mackinac has increased.

  Today, approximately half the scouts serving on the island are Girl Scouts. Several Girl Scout troops have now had more than forty consecutive years of service since coming to the island. Instead of only providing guided tours of Fort Mackinac, scouts can be found performing duties on the island ranging from flag duties, answering guest questions, assisting with service projects across the park, and many other duties that have been historically completed by their scout counterparts. Occasionally scouts will have the opportunity to participate in special events, including marching in the June Lilac Day Parade and helping with Independence Day events.

  Sadly, the Covid-19 pandemic has caused the program to be suspended for the 2020 and 2021 seasons. The scouts are a vital asset to Fort Mackinac, though, and will be warmly and excitedly welcomed back as soon as it is safe to do so, hopefully in 2022.