The History of Mackinac Island

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Mackinac Island is a 3.8 sq. mile island that sits in Lake Huron, between Michigan’s Upper and Lower peninsulas. Mackinac Island State Park, with trails, woods and rock formations, covers most of the island. It was settled by Europeans in the late 1600s and early 1700s, and soon became a strategic position as a center of commerce of the Great Lakes fur trade. The original Ft. Michilimackinac was started by the French in Mackinaw City on the mainland. The British took control after their victory over the French in the Seven Years War. During the American Revolutionary War with the British in 1780, the British moved the garrison and the fur trading community to Fort Mackinac. Ft. Mackinac later became the site of two battles during the War of 1812. After the war, the British were forced to turn it over to the Americans. Following the war, John Jacob Astor’s American Fur Company was centered there.

Following the Civil War, the island became a popular tourist attraction and summer colony. Beginning in 1898 motorized vehicles were prohibited on the island when a car frightened several horses. This ban continues today. After the fur trade waned, Mackinac became a fishing center, and in 1875, Congress made it the second National Park. It later was turned over to the state and became Michigan’s first State Park.

To accommodate the growing number of tourists, the boat and railroad companies built hotels including the famed Grand Hotel. Souvenir shops started to spring up along with many summer home cottages. Today many of these structures remain which gives the island a wonderful, historic feel and charm. Today the season on the island is generally the last part of May through the end of October.

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