Fort Michilimackinac is 300 years old

May 4, 2015

A sketch of Fort Michilimackinac drawn in 1765.
Credit William L. Clements Library

Fort Michilimackinac opens today in Mackinac City. The original fort was built 300 years ago by the French during their war with the Meskwaki Indians.

Only a few pieces of the original Michilimackinac remain, but a reconstructed fort is open to visitors. Brian Dunnigan is a historian at the William L. Clements Library in Ann Arbor and says there is a fair amount of documentation detailing what the fort looked like in the latter part of the 18th century.

“The fort, as it’s reconstructed, essentially represents the fort under British control as it appeared, let’s say, just before the beginning of the American Revolution,” he says.

The largest remaining section from the original fort is the room known as the powder magazine, where gunpowder was stored.

Phil Porter at Mackinac State Historic Parks says the British burned the fort when they moved out to Mackinac Island in 1781. But the powder room had a sod roof.

“And the sod collapsed on the burning wood and extinguished it so it was just charred and that charred wood was more resistant to decay,” Porter says. “So when archeologists dug it up 200 years later they discovered much of the ruins of the powder magazine.”

The celebration of the tri-centennial will include historical reenactments on Memorial Day weekend and other events throughout the summer.