Mackinac Island, MI


On the highest point of Mackinac Island — our nation’s second ever national park, which since became a state park, which feels something akin to Disneyland-does-Michigan-history — there are some nicely obscured remains of an old fort. Not the big, shiny, white fort that you can see from the mainland, the one with the 19th century military reenactors, the one you have to pay $10.50 to get in to. The other one, that was left to ruin, called Fort Holmes.


Fort Holmes was originally built in 1812 as Fort George, by the British army, who’d managed to kick the Americans off the island at the start of the war. Two years later they gave it back by treaty. So the Americans got the fort, victoriously renamed it after a major who’d died in battle, and promptly abandoned the entire structure to decay. Well, almost. First they used it for target practice!

Apparently Civilian Conservation Corps workers rebuilt the entire structure from scratch (thanks, Wikipedia)… and once again, it’s been utterly overgrown and left to decay. It’s endlessly interesting to me what gets preserved and what doesn’t. Maybe Obama can give it another go with one of his crafty socialist schemes, harhar.


What’s left of the fort, however (or of course?), is one of the more interesting sites on the island. From the outside it looks like a long, grassy bump in the landscape. You enter through gates built into the side around one end, and find yourself in something like a shallow bowl or mini-arena. Weirdly, it’s perfectly shorn. I can just picture a parks worker in ear protectors riding a John Deer around the edges.


It reminded me of James Turrell’s installation in The Hague — two thumbs up. Just missing a stone chaise (sarcophagus?) in the middle: