Attached To:

  1. Andrew Morin

This stereograph of a Mackinac harbor view dates c. 1870. The Flint Photographer J.A. Jenny captures the old Agency House in the foreground, with the Indian Dormitory to its right. Each of these buildings has an interesting history. The Indian Dormitory In 1836, Henry Rowe Schoolcraft (1793-1864) negotiated an important treaty. It stipulated the sale of most tribal land in the northern Lower Peninsula and eastern Upper Peninsula of Michigan to the federal government. In return, tribal members received twenty years of annuity payments, to be made at Mackinac Island. The treaty allowed for a dormitory to house Indians who came to the island to receive their annual allotments. Schoolcraft designed the plans for the structure in 1837, and Oliver Newberry of Detroit built it. Sources indicate that presumably the two-story building, completed in 1838, was to accommodate tribal chiefs when they came to Mackinac Island. However, by 1848, it became a building used for a variety of purposes. From 1858 to 1867, for example, it served as a United States customs house. When the customs house moved to Sault Ste. Marie, the Dormitory became the Island’s local schoolhouse until 1960. In 1964, the Mackinac Island State Park Commission purchased the building and restored it to conform to the original Schoolcraft plans. It operated as a museum of Native American culture from 1966 until 2003, when the Mackinac State Island Park Commission closed it. In July of this year, The Dormitory will reopen as the new Richard and Jane Manoogian Mackinac Art Museum. The Indian Dormitory was placed on the Register of National Historic Places in 1971. The Agency House Used as the home and office of the United States Indian agent in Michigan Territory, the Agency House burnt down in 1873. Like the Dormitory, however, it enjoyed a type of renaissance. In 1882, it became part of American literature as the home of Anne Douglas, the heroine of the novel Anne: A Novel, by Constance Fenimore Woolson (1840-1894). Woolson, the grandniece of writer James Fenimore Cooper, was born in New Hampshire, but grew up in Cleveland, Ohio. The Woolson family became early tourists of Mackinac Island, staying at the Agency House. Constance later wrote and lived in New York City and St. Augustine, Florida. A fairly successful writer, her travel narratives were published in Harper’s New Monthly Magazine and Putnam’s Magazine. Woolson left the United States for Europe after her invalid mother died in 1879. While in Europe, Woolson became friends with author Henry James. The depth of that relationship is speculative since letters between the two were destroyed. In 1894, Constance Fenimore Woolson fell to her death from a window of her apartment in Venice, Italy. Source: Seeking Michigan.com A Tale of Two Buildings By Mary Zimmeth, Archives of Michigan | June 1, 2010