July 24, 2014
A calm night on the Straits of Mackinac, and Michigan’s signature bridge was looking fine!
I’ve posted a ton about the Mighty Mackinac Bridge here on Michigan in Pictures, but had never seen this excellent summary of how it came to be courtesy the Michigan Dept. of Transportation’s page on I-75 and the Straits of Mackinac:
The five-mile stretch of water separating Michigan’s two peninsulas, the result of glacial action some twelve thousand years ago, has long served as a major barrier to the movement of people and goods. The three railroads that reached the Straits of Mackinac in the early 1880s, the Michigan Central and the Grand Rapids & Indiana Railway from the south, and the Detroit, Mackinac and Marquette from the north, jointly established the Mackinac Transportation Company in 1881 to operate a railroad car ferry service across the straits. The railroads and their shipping lines developed Mackinac Island into a major vacation destination in the 1880s.
Improved highways along the eastern shores of Michigan’s lower peninsula brought increased automobile traffic to the straits region starting in the 1910s. The state of Michigan initiated an automobile ferry service between St. Ignace and Mackinaw City in 1923 and eventually operated eight ferry boats. In peak travel periods, particularly during deer season, five mile backups and delays of four hours or longer became common at the state docks at Mackinaw City and St. Ignace.
With increased public pressure to break this bottleneck, the Michigan legislature established a Mackinac Straits Bridge Authority in 1934, with the power to issue bonds for bridge construction. The bridge authority supported a proposal first developed in 1921 by Charles Evan Fowler, the bridge engineer who had previously promoted a Detroit-Windsor bridge. Fowler’s plans called for an island-hopping route from the city of Cheboygan to Bois Blanc, Round, and Mackinac islands, thence to St. Ignace, along a twenty-four-mile route. The Public Works Administration flatly rejected a request for loans and grants to implement this project.
A plan was then drawn up for a direct crossing from Mackinaw City to St. Ignace, but they were again denied funds. In 1940, a plan was submitted for a suspension bridge with a main span of 4600 feet. This design was a larger version of the ill-fated Tacoma Narrows Bridge in Washington State, a structure destroyed by high winds on November 7, 1940. Although the disaster delayed any further action, the activities of 1938-1940 nevertheless produced some important results. The bridge authority conducted a series of soundings and borings across the straits and built a causeway extending out 4200 feet from the St. Ignace shore. The Second World War ended any additional work, and the Legislature abolished the bridge authority in 1947.
William Stewart Woodfill, president of the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, almost singlehandedly resuscitated the dream of a bridge across the Straits of Mackinac. Woodfill formed the statewide Mackinac Bridge Citizens Committee in 1949 to lobby for a new bridge authority, which the legislature created in 1950. A panel of three prominent engineers conducted a feasibility study and made recommendations to the bridge authority on the location, structure, and design of the bridge.
The State Highway Department, which had just placed a $4.5 million ferryboat, Vacationland, into service at the straits in January 1952, remained hostile to the bridge plan. In April 1952, the Michigan legislature authorized the bridge authority to issue bonds for the project, choose an engineer, and proceed with construction. The authority selected David B. Steinman as the chief engineer in January 1953 and tried unsuccessfully to sell the bridge bonds in April 1953, but by the end of the year, the authority had sold the $99.8 million in revenue bonds needed to begin construction.
October 26, 2013
An Absolute Michigan feature via Michigan History Magazine on the opening of the Mackinac Bridge on November 1, 1957 says (in part):
With the bridge ready for traffic, but fearing inclement autumn weather at the Straits, officials decided to have an official “opening” on November 1, 1957, but an official “dedication” in late June of the following year.
Amazingly, the weather on the first day of November (preceded by two days of rain and fog) was sunny and pleasant. However, the weather in late June was so cold and wet (with six-foot waves on the Straits) that some of the events were shortened or canceled altogether. According to one observer, it “was a bleak, gray day, more like March than June, and the only parader who looked happy was a snow queen from Cadillac, who rode on an ice throne float, throwing snowballs made of popcorn.”
…On November 1, after paying the $3.25 toll (taken symbolically by former U.S. Senator Prentiss Brown, who chaired the Mackinac Bridge Authority), Governor G. Mennen Williams crossed the bridge (driven in a car by Mrs. Williams because the governor had forgotten his driver’s license). Then, according to United Press International correspondent Thomas Farrell, cars lined up for one mile on both sides of the Straits “swarmed” on to a bridge whose size “staggers the imagination.”
In his opening day remarks, Governor Williams predicted that the bridge would add $100 million annually to the state’s tourist trade. He continued, “Michigan at last is to be one state, geographically, economically and culturally, as well as politically.”
I think we can probably agree that it’s had a tremendous impact on Michigan! About this photo with a unique view of the festivities, Dave writes:
A friend found this large format color slide earlier this year and I scanned it at high resolution. It shows Governor G. Mennen “Soapy” Williams at the tollbooths on the St. Ignace end of the Mackinac Bridge on the day it opened, November 1, 1957. I have seen many photos of this day, but never one quite like this.
The annual Labor Day Bridge walk across the Mackinac Bridge takes place this Monday (September 2, 2013). UpNorthLive reports that you can turn your Labor Day bridge walk into a one of a kind experience with a trip to the top of the Mighty Mac!
More than 40,000 people are expected to participate in the 56th Annual Labor Day Bridge Walk which will take on Monday, Sept. 2.
For the second year in a row, the Michigan Department of Transportation and the Mackinac Bridge Authority are asking the public to share their Labor Day Mackinac Bridge Walk experiences on social media with photos and videos. One person sharing their memories will be chosen at random to receive a once-in-a-lifetime tour to the top of the Mackinac Bridge.
Through Monday, Sept. 9, you can post your memories of walking the bridge, either this year or in a previous year, on Instagram and Twitter using the hashtag #MightyMacWalk13. Memories can include photos or videos.
A lucky person whose entry is chosen at random by computer will receive a tour for two to the top of the bridge, courtesy of the MBA. The person who travels the furthest to walk the bridge this year and post a memory will win a Pure Michigan gift pack, courtesy of the Michigan Economic Development Corp.
Read on for more and check out the pics on Twitter and Instagram. Get all the details on the annual Mackinac Bridge Walk from the Mackinac Bridge Authority. If you want to see what it looks like from the top, check out my friend Spike’s Mackinac Bridge slideshow!
Much more on the Mackinac Bridge at Michigan in Pictures!
September 3, 2012
Right now thousands of people are participating in the Mackinac Bridge Walk, an Michigan tradition that began on Labor Day of 1958 and has continued every year since then. While just 68 people made that first walk, it now averages over 50,000 people. You can tune in for some shots from the Mackinac Bridge Cam and see one from this morning on the Michigan in Pictures Facebook.
If you’d like a little Labor Day reading, I heartily recommend How Labor Won Its Day from the Detroit News Rearview Mirror.
Much (much) more about the Mackinac Bridge on Michigan in Pictures!
December 21, 2010
December 4, 2010
September 2, 2010
Every year, thousands of people come to the Mackinac Bridge on the morning of Labor Day for the annual Mackinac Bridge Walk. They’ll do it again at the 53rd annual walk on Monday, September 6, 2010 from 7-11 AM.
Get all the history of the Mackinac Bridge Walk from Michigan in Pictures and click that button for tons more info on the Mackinac Bridge.
View the photo larger in mackinacbridgerun’s slideshow.
June 4, 2010
In this week’s Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce e-News, Laura Oblinger wrote :
In 1957, the Mackinac Bridge connected the state to new economic and social opportunities. More than a half-century later, high-speed Internet service (broadband) can have a similar impact by connecting all regional businesses to the global marketplace. Statewide broadband deployment is projected to result in a $400 billion increase in the state’s gross state product over 10 years.
If tourists can remain connected to their work, it could mean an additional $52 million to the Traverse City area economy due to stays being extended by just two days.
Check this out bigger!
Much more about the Mighty Mackinac Bridge from Michigan in Pictures!
November 21, 2009
Built by the American Ship Building Company of Cleveland in 1903 for the Pere Marquette Railway Company, the “Pere Marquette 20″ became the “City of Munising” in 1937. The Michigan Department of Highways used the ship to ferry autos across the Straits of Mackinac until 1959. The ship was used for potato storage by a Washington Island, Wisconsin firm until 1973.
Michigan State Ferry Album has some photos of the City of Munising and other ships that plied the Straits.
September 1, 2009
The annual Mackinac Bridge Walk is a Michigan tradition that has been held every year since the Bridge opened in 1957. This year is the 52nd annual and it takes place (as always) on Labor Day (September 7) from 7-11 AM. The walk is free and you can get all the details from the official Mackinac Bridge web site.