Work underway to build first new Colonial Michilimackinac building in more than a decade

What’s happening: Construction crews are hard at work in Colonial Michilimackinac this February, a historic site that has hosted workers hammering nails into boards for more than 300 years now. Crews are constructing the first new building at Colonial Michilimackinac since 2013, an addition to the Southwest Rowhouse that will host a new exhibit upon the building’s opening later this May.

What’s planned: Colonial Michilimackinac, the reconstructed 1715-era French fur trading village at Michilimackinac State Park in Mackinaw City, will use the new building to host “Slavery at the Straits.” The new exhibit examines the role slavery played in the area in the 17th and 18th centuries, utilizing archaeological and archival research to tell the story of the enslaved Black and Native American men and women forced to work at the former fur trading outpost and Fort Mackinac, which was also built in 1715.

Why it’s important: “This new exhibit explores the lives of these enslaved individuals and how their experiences fit in with the larger story of Michilimackinac, allowing us to present a more complete vision of the site in the 18th century,” says Steve Brisson, Mackinac State Historic Parks Director.

But that’s not all: This winter and spring is a busy one for the Mackinac State Historic Parks team as they ready several new buildings, attractions, and exhibits for the opening of tourism season this May. A bevy of new tours, programs, and exhibits are planned to make their debut this summer, including a program that examines why the Michilimackinac community abandoned their village and fort for nearby Mackinac Island in 1781. And later this summer, work will resume on the restoration of Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse, which includes the addition of new sidewalk, interpretive signs, and a privy, pump, and flagpole.

Island living: Meanwhile on nearby Mackinac Island, construction continues on the Milliken Nature Center, the new tourism center being built to complement Arch Rock. The Center will feature exhibits on Arch Rock and island geology at large, an interactive 3D map of the island, and modern restrooms. It’s expected that the Milliken Nature Center will open on Friday, May 3. Several new programs, walking tours, and exhibits are planned throughout the island this season.

What they’re saying: “2024 will be an exciting year because we are continuing to expand the programs we offer as well as adding greater depth to our classic programs, creating a fun and educational experience for anyone coming to Mackinac Island,” says Jack Swartzinski, Mackinac State Historic Parks’ Interpretation Coordinator.

Visit Mackinac State Historic Parks online for up-to-date programming news, seasonal openings, and more.

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here or send him a tweet @mikegalbraith.
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