Fort Mackinac – Mackinac Island

Jul/24/2011 3 Malia Lane
Mackinac Island, Michigan

While you can visit Fort Mackinac as a separate deal, I made this a stop at the end of the Mackinac Island Carriage Tour.  It was a perfect top-off of a great day on historic Mackinac Island!

From the moment I was greeted by this beautiful Victorian lady, I could pretend I was being swept back in time and left myself open to experience what life was like for the people who lived at Fort Mackinac.  I told her that as a little girl I dreamed of wearing dresses like this and sometimes I felt like I was born in the wrong era because I still have such an attraction to most things Victorian.  But on a warm day like today was, I was glad not to have on all those petticoats and long heavy material to weigh me down!

The fort was actually founded during the American Revolution, and I felt especially fortunate to have met Greg Hokans, Chief of Development and Marketing, who initially introduced me to the fort and shared some of its history and mission: “to preserve, protect and present Mackinac’s rich historic and natural resources.”  Such a worthy endeavor enriches us all!

A nice spot for such an interesting lesson was The Tea Room located on the fort grounds.  It’s operated by the Grand Hotel and not only is the view grand, the refreshments are fabulous!

But in order to get a more personal viewpoint on life within the fort walls, there are people in character garb who can really make that period come to life with their stories and viewpoints.

And besides the organized programs held throughout the day, I also really appreciated the informal glimpses back in time that you could see just strolling through the Parade Grounds.

The scenes depicted and stories told of the fort’s history and way of life within the various buildings (all original by the way – no recreations here) were especially well done and informative and made me feel like I was peeking back in time into the things, both good and bad, that were part of life here.

I’m always interested in the furnishings and the way chores were managed in this time period.  While I think that antique stove is a beautiful and artful piece now, I sure wouldn’t want that to be my only way to cook, nor would I have appreciated having to use that wash tub for washing clothes, that’s for sure!

The cannon firing was a favorite demonstration of mine.  I got a kick out of how the soldier told us to use our “natural ear plugs” (fingers in ears) because the boom was pretty loud.  And it was!

I particularly enjoyed watching the kids having so much fun.  For me, history was one of my least favorite subjects and it could put me to sleep at my desk every time.  Now I’m fascinated by it and appreciate how the interaction provided here gets the kids’ attention and involved in the activities typical of the day so much more effectively than dull, one-dimenstional history books ever can.

They demonstrate music and dancing of the day…

And this seranade of “Shenandoah” on the balcony impressed me so much, I asked to have my picture taken with the cute soldiers.

This will probably be your first view of the fort as the ferry approaches Mackinac Island.  All those buildings at the top of the bluff comprise the fort, but it also has buildings in the back not visible from this viewpoint.  There are a total of 14 original buildings filled with interactive exhibits and period settings.

On the far left is the West Blockhouse from 1798.   The area with the yellow umbrellas is the outdoor seating for the Tea Room where you can take a break and have lunch and refreshments.  The wall to the far right is the Gun Platforms where the cannon firing demonstration took place.  For a video overview of the fort and a glimpse of what it has to offer, check out their YouTube video.

As part of your admission to Fort Mackinac, you can also visit several other historic buildings in downtown Mackinac Island.  I was really sorry I didn’t have time to visit any of these or the Mackinac Art Museum, a new development at the Mackinac Island Indian Dormitory, but time and energy just ran out this time.

I think it would take several more trips to this island before I could even begin to say I saw everything of interest, so when you plan a visit to magical Mackinac Island, leave yourself enough time to really step back in time and see it all!