2005-05-20 / News

Renovations to Scout Barracks Retain History

By Jessica Delaney

The Scout Barracks has housed Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops for more than 70 summers. Restoration is needed inside the building, but the exterior is in good shape.
The Scout Barracks has housed Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops for more than 70 summers. Restoration is needed inside the building, but the exterior is in good shape.

Many of the state’s oldest buildings are on Mackinac Island. From the oldest structure in Michigan (the walls of Fort Mackinac) to the Biddle House, the Island is known for its historical buildings. Not so well known, perhaps, are some of the newer buildings, though many of these hold great historical significance as well.

The Mackinac Island Scout Camp Barracks is one of these lesser-known structures. Built in the 1930s in a clearing north of Forth Mackinac, it may not carry the historical significance of the fort or the 19th century structures on the Island, but through the years and through the ways in which the building has been used, it has become a part of the history of the Island.

Constructed in 1935, the Scout Barracks was built specifically to house Eagle Scouts who came to Mackinac for guide duty at Fort Mackinac. In 70 years, the guide program, has been expanded to Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, but all are still housed in the Scout Barracks.

Now, the building is in need of renovation.

According to Steve Brisson, Chief Curator for the Mackinac State Historic Parks, if the Barracks had needed renovations 40 years ago, or if the Barracks themselves had been built more recently, sections might have been added or torn down. But today, the goal will be to preserve the history that the building represents, while upgrading the facility to meet the demands of modern living.

Renovations are needed for the kitchen and bathrooms, the lighting needs repair, and work is required to correct a problem with the roof rafter system. Another, more major change, will involve making the infirmary on the ground floor accessible to double as a bedroom for physically disabled scouts.

“An effort will be made to preserve all of the historic integrity of the interior,” said Mr. Brisson. “We need to bring it up to code, it needs to function today, it needs to be safe, and we need to be sensitive to people with disabilities,” he said, “ but we have to be sensitive to the history of this place.”

In total, renovations will cost $250,000 and the money is being raised through private donors.

“Fundraising comes from private donors interested in the scout program, from those interested in Mackinac Island, and from private corporations looking to make a donation,” said Mr. Brisson.

Fundraising began in the spring of 2004 with an initial goal of $8,000 to fund an engineering study for the project. More than $20,000 was raised and the structural engineering report was completed in December. Fundraising continues for the remainder of the $250,000.

To ensure that the Scout Program runs smoothly, there will be an attempt to make certain that all needed renovations occur during the fall and winter months.

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