Photo credit: Patrick Newcomb on Flickr
Recently, while pondering possible material for the Yooper Steez blog, I found myself wondering what the oldest building in Michigan might be. I was pleased to discover through Google search that I had already stood inside the building holding this title during my latest trip to Mackinac Island. Built in 1780, the Officers’ Stone Quarters in Fort Mackinac is the oldest surviving building in Michigan.
Fort Michilimackinac, on the Lower Peninsula’s shoreline, was the original military fort in the Straits region. The Straits made a favorable location for a military post because of its position in the Great Lakes, a prime area in the fur trade, and its proximity to Native Americans, who were sought as allies. The British gained control of Fort Michilimackinac through their victory over the French in the French and Indian War. As the Revolutionary War progressed, British Commandant Patrick Sinclair chose to relocate the fort from the easily-accessed shoreline to the inland limestone cliffs of Mackinac Island, where it became Fort Mackinac. The walls of the Officers’ Stone Quarters were built at least four feet thick with limestone to withstand attack. Many of the other buildings in the fort were reassembled from the buildings torn down from Fort Michilimackinac.
Blue prints from the Library of Congress
The U.S. gained control of Mackinac Island and Fort Mackinac following the Revolutionary War, then lost control to the British after the War of 1812. After an unsuccessful American invasion during the Battle of Mackinac Island in 1814, the U.S. regained control by treaty in 1815. The fort was continued as a fur trading post, but lost its military significance. It became a reserve location for troops awaiting deployment to other locations. In 1875, Fort Mackinac became part of Mackinac National Park, where troops acted as park rangers while continuing to hone their military skills.
Photo credit: The Photographic Logbook
In 1895, U.S. Congress closed Fort Mackinac and Mackinac National Park and gave both to the State of Michigan. Today, Fort Mackinac is a significant tourist attraction in Mackinac Island State Park. The Officers’ Stone Quarters is one of fourteen historic buildings in the fort and holds the (fun for everyone) Kids’ Quarters museum and the Tea Room and Restaurant. The building’s location overlooking the harbor offers one of the best views on the island.
Other old surviving buildings in Michigan
Fayette Furnace Complex – operated from 1867-1890
St. Anne Roman Catholic Church Complex in Detroit – completed in 1887
Home of fur trader John Johnston (in Sault Ste. Marie, the oldest city in Michigan) – built in 1815, but the addition that remains today was built in 1823.
State Capitol building in Lansing – completed in 1878.
Voigt House in Grand Rapids – completed in 1896 – (Other homes in the Heritage Hill district date back to 1843)
Marquette Harbor Lighthouse – completed in 1865
Header photo from Paint Your Landscape