2018-02-10 / Top News

Mackinac Island State Park

Visitors Center Work Tops Winter Projects
By Stephanie Fortino


Mackinac Island State Park Manager Sue Topham stands in the new art studio and event space on the second floor of the Mackinac Island Visitors Center, which is undergoing renovations this winter. New arches built by park carpenters Bill Pechta and John McClure will be installed above where Mrs. Topham stands Friday, January 26. Mackinac Island State Park Manager Sue Topham stands in the new art studio and event space on the second floor of the Mackinac Island Visitors Center, which is undergoing renovations this winter. New arches built by park carpenters Bill Pechta and John McClure will be installed above where Mrs. Topham stands Friday, January 26. Transforming the second floor of the Mackinac Island Visitors Center from storage to a beautiful artist studio and apartment is the priority construction project at Mackinac Island State Park this winter, and the first visiting artist could move in this summer.

With Haldimand Bay to the front and Fort Mackinac behind, the building offers incredible views, said Park Manager Sue Topham.

The building was built to house a coast guard lifesaving detachment in 1915.

This winter, the second floor is filled with tools, sawhorses, and supplies waiting to be installed. When it’s finished, the space will house a new art studio and gathering space that will be opened to the public for special events. Artists will stay in a small, private apartment equipped with a kitchen, bath and laundry facilities, in place of the former kitchen. a new kitchen window was installed to provide an outdoor view above the kitchen sink. The old shower room is being converted to a private bathroom for the resident artist. The original maple hardwood floors will be refinished, adding a vintage feel to the space, and the kitchen and bathroom will be tiled.


Repairing and repainting signs is a common winter task at Mackinac Island State Park. A sign that had rotted waits for repairs behind Fort Mackinac. Repairing and repainting signs is a common winter task at Mackinac Island State Park. A sign that had rotted waits for repairs behind Fort Mackinac. In the workshop behind Fort Mackinac, carpenters Bill Pechta and John McClure have built large, wooden arches for the art studio and gathering space. Other updates will include the installation of new door, sidelights, and transom off the studio and events space. An outdoor stairwell and balcony will be added, leading from the porch behind the Visitors Center near the marina and Chippewa Hotel, up to the second floor. The new door will serve as the main entrance to the second floor. The existing interior staircase on the side of the building will be used as the private entrance for the artist.


Wooden arches that will be installed in the art studio at the Visitors Center are perched on benches inside the shop at Mackinac Island State Park. The arches were designed and built by carpenters Bill Pechta and John McClure. Wooden arches that will be installed in the art studio at the Visitors Center are perched on benches inside the shop at Mackinac Island State Park. The arches were designed and built by carpenters Bill Pechta and John McClure. A wet bar for coffee service will also be added in the studio, and new restrooms will be installed for the public to use during special events. Coat racks and umbrella stands will create a new entry point.

The site has already undergone asbestos abatement, as contaminated floors and other materials were removed nearly a year ago. The state park hired a contractor specifically trained to deal with the asbestos. The state park staff is trained to remove the remaining lead paint that covers the walls.


These kiosks at Marquette Park received new cedar roofs this winter. Maintenance is one of the primary tasks for the crew at Mackinac Island State Park during the winter. These kiosks at Marquette Park received new cedar roofs this winter. Maintenance is one of the primary tasks for the crew at Mackinac Island State Park during the winter. All the framing has been completed, and as of Friday, January 26, the rough electrical work was nearly done. After the work was inspected and plumbing installed, the drywall will be installed, and other work will take place. New energy efficient lighting and water saving faucets and appliances will make the site environmentally friendly.

In addition to the major renovation at the Visitors Center, the state park has also done regular maintenance projects this winter, like reroofing the kiosks at Marquette Park, snow plowing, and hosting a variety of winter recreation skiing and ice skating activities. More work preparing the sites for the new Mackinac Island Botanical Trail, including removing downed trees, will occur this winter. The trail and path were established last fall.

Another upcoming project is the installation of a new public restroom behind Fort Mackinac, which will be the only public restroom open year-around on the Island. The bids for the new shelter building and restrooms near the ice rink went out in late January, Mrs. Topham said, pointing out the project has taken a few years to come to fruition. Once a contractor is selected, the restroom facility will be made on the mainland and brought over to the Island after the boats start running again.

Also waiting to be installed in the shop are several kits for the bathrooms in the Major’s Quar- ters, which is undergoing renovations this winter, too. The kits were shipped to the Island earlier by freight boat, Mrs. Topham said, just one of the many preparations for the winter season.

Among the projects already completed this season are new windows at the Major’s Quarters and Captain’s Quarters that replace old screens. The buildings are just outside the fort walls. The newly enclosed porches will help keep out water and dust from the foyer of the buildings, which house the Mackinac Island State Park commissioners when they visit the Island. The buildings also received new roofs and were repainted just as the first snowfalls occurred this winter, Mrs. Topham said. Painter Lou Bunker is working inside the buildings, repainting rooms in time for next season.

State park signs are also being rebuilt and repainted in preparation of the upcoming tourist season, which begins with the opening of Fort Mackinac May 3.

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