2005-08-13 / Top News

Maritime Museum Opened in Mission Point Tower

By Jessica Delaney

The fifth floor of the new maritime museum is called Water, Wind, Waves, and Wakes and features several models of Great Lakes freighters. Pictures line the walls.
The fifth floor of the new maritime museum is called Water, Wind, Waves, and Wakes and features several models of Great Lakes freighters. Pictures line the walls.

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

This quote by George Santayana, a Harvard professor and philosopher, hangs in front of the door to the maritime museum in the Mission Point Resort observation tower.

The tower has been completely remodeled and engineered to serve a new purpose: a history museum dedicated to the Straits area, from freighters and lighthouses to the Mighty Mac Bridge.

Mission Point’s observation tower, which has long been a focal point of the resort, now features a new maritime museum exhibit.
Mission Point’s observation tower, which has long been a focal point of the resort, now features a new maritime museum exhibit. The tower, itself, is a study in history. It was constructed with the sound stage in the 1960s by Moral Re-Armament and was used as an observation tower. It has been closed for the most recent decade.

The engineering department at Mission Point Resort began redesigning the tower interior seven years ago, but the project was put on hold for several years. Work began again in 2003.

The sixth floor of the tower introduces the visitor to a world of green lighting and opaque seascapes.
The sixth floor of the tower introduces the visitor to a world of green lighting and opaque seascapes. Today it is nearly finished, and was opened to the public Tuesday, August 9. The exhibit has four floors on straits history and a floor on Mission Point and the Moral Re-Armament. Each floor of the exhibit has a separate and unique theme: water, wind, waves, and wakes; shipwrecks of the straits; building the Mighty Mac; lighthouses of the straits.

The water, wind, waves, and wakes exhibit features pictures and replicas of Great Lakes freighters, including a video on shipping in the Straits of Mackinac. The floor is mostly completed, although one chief exhibit is missing, which has staff very excited. The exhibit will feature a three-dimensional replica of a freighter on the Straits and will include wave motion and fiber optic stars.

One floor up, the visitor becomes immersed in a world of sea-green lighting. In a creative gesture, the sixth floor windows have been completely covered in opaque depictions of underwater landscapes, artifacts, and sunken ships. A large wall map on the inside details all of the numerous shipwrecks that have occurred in the Straits regions. Mission Point has also received pledges of donations of artifacts, though most have not yet come in. Glass cases lie open to accept the artifacts.

The seventh floor is focused on the Mackinac Bridge. Photographs line a railing along windows on three sides of the towers, allowing visitors the unique experience of looking down and seeing the construction and progress of the bridge, and then being able to see the finished result through observation windows. Donations from the Mackinac Bridge Authority will also soon be on display.

One more staircase and visitors reach the top of the tower. A sign greets visitors, encouraging them with the friendly words, “You’ve made it to the top!” A large, Fresnel lens is the centerpiece of the floor dedication to Michigan lighthouses. Diagrams explain the operation of a lighthouse lamp, while photographs of Straits of Mackinac lighthouses line the walls.

Mission Point Resort decided to open the tower to the public, even though some artifacts are still arriving and air conditioning is not yet installed.

“Even without all of the exhibits, we will open, and it’s still worth seeing,” said Pat Driscoll, the director of activities at Mission Point.

Preparing the tower was not an easy process. Owing to building codes, much of which has changed since the tower was constructed, many renovations were necessary. Different window types had to be installed, and railings had to be added along the windows for safety. Also, the tower is required to be handicap accessible, despite the fact that there is no room to install elevator service to the top floor.

To get around this problem, cameras have been installed on every floor, and a rotating video of the exhibits will be played in the activities center so that even those who cannot physically climb the stairs will have the opportunity to experience the tower.

“We’re so excited,” said Ms. Driscoll. “This is just to help people appreciate the fact that there is so much history in the area. It’s such a plus for Mission Point and for the Island. Hopefully, it will help bring more people to the Island, which is good for everyone, and even for the locals who remember it being built. It’s great for them to come and see it as well.”

Tickets to the observation tower and maritime museum are $5 for guests and $3 for children ages 4 to 12. Children under four receive free admission, and there is a discount for Mission Point guests. Tickets can be purchased in the Mission Point Activities Center.

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