In Michigan, it is a well-known fact that Mackinac Island is a wonderful place to visit, but cars are not allowed.
What most people may not know is that years ago, cars were allowed, and for today’s column I will provide a brief history as to how that changed and some island facts that you might not know about.
In the late 19th century, the “Village of Mackinac Island” comprised some 20 percent of the island’s land mass, with the rest being state park land. Back then, the primary methods of transportation were by saddle horses and horse drawn carriages.
At that time automobiles or “horseless carriages” started appearing. These vehicles were both noisy and smoky.
Village residents and carriage tour operators did not care for them, and after a doctor’s car scared some horses, they went to the village’s leaders to complain. As a result, the village council passed a resolution July 6, 1898, “That the running of horseless carriages be prohibited within the limits of the Village of Mackinac.”
Mackinac Island became a city in 1900 and the ban has continued under local ordinance in one form or another to this day. There is an exception for emergency and service vehicles.
Mackinac Island has the distinction of being the only city in the country with such a law.
As to the state park land, in 1900 a summer cottager ignored the ban, brought his vehicle to the island, and drove through the park. When he did, it frightened and injured several horses and wrecked some carriages.
In response to this accident, the Mackinac Island State Park Commission imposed a vehicle ban in 1901, which also remains in effect.
In 1910, the state finished construction of Lake Shore Road, which goes around the island. In 1933, this road was designated as “M-185” by the Michigan legislature and became an official state trunk line highway. It is narrower than other similar highways, and in keeping with the existing law, motor vehicles were banned. M-185 is the only state highway in the country to have this status.
There’s much more to learn about Mackinac Island. As a starting point, I suggest going to the official Mackinac Island website at www.mackinac.org.