Mackinac Island visitors are closer to being able to step back into Michigan’s history with the reconstruction of Fort Holmes, a defensive structure built during the War of 1812 on the island’s highest point, thanks to a $250,000 appropriation that recently gained approval in the state Legislature.
State Reps. Frank Foster and Wayne Schmidt, and Sen. Howard Walker, have been working to include the funding for the Mackinac State Historic Parks Commission project in Senate Bill 608, a supplemental appropriations bill. The money covers half of the estimated $500,000 expense that also relies on private donations being raised by Mackinac Associates, the friends group supporting Mackinac State Historic Parks.
“The Fort Holmes project builds on the cultural and heritage pieces of our state’s Pure Michigan campaign, so this appropriation is an investment in our state’s history and the tourism that it helps generate,” said Foster, R-Petoskey. “I appreciate my colleagues in the Legislature, especially Rep. Bumstead, for helping to support enhancing the Mackinac Island experience, and congratulate the many Island friends and supporters who have worked so hard to make their vision a reality.”
Rep. Jon Bumstead is chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Natural Resources and helped the project funding in SB 608 through the appropriations committee process in the House. Fort Holmes was originally built by the British in 1814 during the last fights between the United States and England for control of the Northwest Territory. The British named their outpost Fort George, and when the Americans returned to the island in 1815 it was named after Major Andrew Hunter Holmes, who was killed during an 1814 battle.
“Fort Holmes is part of our northern Michigan history and heritage,” said Schmidt, R-Traverse City. “By partnering with local stakeholders to finance the restoration we are not only reconstructing an important state landmark, but we are doing it in a way that is also fiscally conservative.”
Since the War of 1812, the site of the fort has seen structures rebuilt and removed by the Mackinac State Historic Parks as time and deterioration took their toll. Currently, the site consists of little more than an earthen mound covered in weeds. The 2014-15 restoration will be done during the bicentennial of the three-year-long War of 1812, with about $200,000 used to reconstruct the earthworks, log encasement, and moat, and the remaining $300,000 funding construction of the blockhouse and interpretive elements.
“This is an important project not only for Mackinac Island, but for the entire state,” said Walker, R-Traverse City. “Restoring the Fort will not only further highlight the historical importance of Mackinac Island in our country’s rich history, but it will also provide one more attraction for island visitors. I am pleased that we were able to secure funding for this Pure Michigan project.”
SB 608 now goes to the governor for consideration.