2017-08-05 / Columnists

A Look at History

Builder Patrick Doud Designed Unique Mackinac Island Structures
BY FRANK STRAUS


Patrick Doud Patrick Doud A significant fire at the Patrick Doud house, on Lake Shore Drive, has called attention to one of the most significant carpenter-builders in Mackinac Island’s history. The interior of the house was severely damaged, but much of it was saved with the help of work by firefighters from at least four separate jurisdictions. The historic 2.5-story shingle style frame house is described as being able to be rebuilt and refurbished.

Patrick Doud, after whom the house is named, started out as a participant in what historians call the “fishing era” on Mackinac Island. What are now the Coal Dock and the Arnold Dock were piers, in the 1800s, for passenger and freight steamboats. One of the key cargoes from the Island was barrels of salt fish. Fish caught fresh in the Straits of Mackinac would be taken to a commercial icehouse – one of the icehouses survives on the Coal Dock to this day – and preserved until the filleted flesh could be salted down. Salt fish fillets were laid down, crosswise, in a carefully-constructed “wet barrel” made by coopers like Patrick Doud from staves so carefully joined and fitted together that the brine would not leak out of the barrel. The barrel-sized keg containing the fish could then be rolled onto a steamboat, shipped to a Great Lakes city, and sold. A well-made barrel could be rolled just like a wheel, and many of the oldest United States cities have narrow alleys to make it possible to deliver commercial goods to warehouses and shops. The oldest alleys of this type are often one barrel wide.

Doud’s talent with wood made it possible for him to transition his skills when the fishing era gave way in the 1880s to the summer-cottageand tourism era. When the big railroads reached Mackinaw City in 1881, a new generation came to Mackinac Island. Although the Straits of Mackinac was being overfished and the catch was dropping, the clear northern waters were more attractive than ever to summer visitors, tourists, and cottagers. Starting at Hubbard’s Annex in 1884, new summer housing developments cropped up alongside Mackinac’s harbor shores and in select locations up on the bluff. Wealthy newcomers demanded comfortable, ostentatious residences in line with overall Gilded Age tastes.

Patrick Doud, now a master carpenter, hired building crews to raise many of the most prominent structures of Mackinac Island. Examples include the governor’s summer mansion, the historic Stonecliffe Cottage, and the Wawashkamo clubhouse. Other buildings, such as the Windermere Hotel, were sharply expanded by Doud and his men. Patrick Doud’s grandniece, Margaret Doud, continues to own and operate the Windermere Hotel to this day. Buildings such as the Windermere Hotel and the Patrick Doud House had to have structures that would be both simple and impressive to viewers. Many of the people who would see these facades would do so from passenger ferryboats that were steaming or motoring up or down the shore from St. Ignace.

“Shingle Style” cottages such as the Patrick Doud house were meant to enhance the sense of being close to the water. Imaginative owners and passersby could compare the overlapping shingles to the scales of a fish. Architectural historians are more likely to point to the prominence of large, glassed-in windows as a key element in what was in the 1880s a new Victorian summer building style. The great swatches and ribbons of dark, shingled house surface were balanced out by large rectangles of shiny, reflective glass. Shingle Style structures such as the Patrick Doud house could be built with dormer windows to further accentuate the contrast and add energy to the overall façade. Doud, who had never gone to architectural school, successfully taught himself enough of a command of Victorian aesthetics to make himself a fully acceptable contractor to licensed architects and make his work saleable to a wide variety of fussy, demanding customers. Patrons like Chicago lawyer Lawrence Andrew Young, who had leased a prominent location at the top of Fort Street directly above the harbor, knew that their summer houses would be seen by hundreds of thousands of people every season. Their homes had to look good from both the inside and the outside. Patrick Doud’s work on the Young Cottage, for architect Frederick Perkins, was so successful that the cottage was repurposed decades later as Michigan’s summer governor’s mansion.

By the 1910s, Doud and his crew were spending more of their time expanding and rebuilding existing cottages. In some cases, they added to work done by Doud and earlier crew of men one or two decades earlier. For example, the building near Stonecliffe that now contains the Woods restaurant and bowling alley, was built in 1916 by Doud’s crew as a ballroom and social structure for Stonecliffe’s second owner, the Kentucky creosote king A.T. Hert.

The Patrick Doud new cottage building era came to an end 100 years ago with the construction of Rockwood (1917), a summer residence in Hubbard’s Annex. The one-story World War I-era cottage marks the transition from Victorianstyle summer building to the more modern architectural tastes of the 20th century. Unlike its predecessors, Rockwood does not sit on a main street and use shingles and windows to impress passersby, but like earlier cottages, it has a big, cozy fireplace and lots of living space for a family.

As a builder, Doud married into the Chambers family; his wife, Catherine, was William K. Chambers’ sister. Three generations down, grocer Andrew Doud is a key member of the Mackinac Island community. Patrick Doud’s kinfolk ties with the Chambers families and other families means that his heritage is numbered into many of the oldest and most established year-around people of Mackinac Island.

Return to top

Click here for digital edition
2017-08-05 digital edition