Monday, July 7, 2014

Building the Mackinac Bridge by Debbie Lynne Costello

MICHIGAN: First I'd like to dispel a common practice for how to say Mackinac. The "ac" on the end of Mackinac is pronounced "aw" Mac-in-aw. The island was named by the natives that lived in the area.

Public domain Wiki

They thought the upper peninsula looked like a turtle so they called it Mitchimakinak which meant "Big turtle". When the French came they used a version of the pronunciation and called it Michilimackinac, however the end was pronounced "aw" by the French. When the British came they heard it pronounced MichilimackinAW. They shortened the name and spelled it how it sounded, Mackinaw. So you will see spellings both ways but regardless of how it is spelled it is always pronounced with the "aw".

 Amazingly, the bridge was envisioned in 1880. In the 19th century the need for Michigan's resources like minerals and timber increased making the area an important transport interchange. The upper and lower peninsulas were separated by water and only accessible by boats and ferries. 1881 saw three railroads reach the straits of Michigan along with a railroad car ferry (a ship designed to carry railway vehicles with one level having railroad tracks).

Mackinac Bridge backers got their encouragement with the dedication of the Brooklyn Bridge in
1883.  A year later, a store owner out of St. Ignace reprinted an artist's conception of the famous New York structure in his advertising and put a caption on it "Proposed bridge across the Straits of Mackinac."

The first meeting of the board of directors of the Grand Hotel at Mackinac Island on July 1, 1888. Cornelius Vanderbilt II (click here and here to read my posts on the Vanderbilts) said: "We now have the largest, well-equipped hotel of its kind in the world for a short season business. Now what we need is a bridge across the Straits." (According to the minutes of the meeting.)

There were some crazy ideas thrown out to connect the two peninsulas. One being a floating tunnel
that was suggested by the 1920 highway commissioner. But despite the decades that passed since the first thoughts of a great bridge to cross the span of the water, in June of 1950 the Mackinac Bridge Authority was appointed. May 7th of 1954 construction started and on November 1st 1957 the bridge saw its first cars. The Mackinac bridge is a five-mile long suspension bridge, and the longest in the western hemisphere.

There are some fantastic facts about the bridge. You can check them out here.

Debbie Lynne Costello is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of the Steve Laube Agency. She attended Heritage University, where she studied Journalism and worked in the editing department.

She has a short story coming out in Guideposts 2014, Christmas Cup of Cheer. She has completed five full length novels set in Charleston and Savannah areas in the late 19th century along with one Medieval, and is now seeking homes for them.

She and her husband have four children and two grandbabies. They live in upstate South Carolina with their family, dogs, cat, Arabian horses, and miniature donkey.

Pictures courtesy of Wiki.


  1. Mackinac Island is on our bucket list and I'm trying to find a discounted price at the GRAND HOTEL! Know of any?
    Since there is a bridge to the island, I wonder why they don't allow visitors to drive cars. Can you drive over the bridge and then ride a horse and cart? or must I ride the ferry over? So many questions! I liked reading your post about the shape of the turtle and the building of the bridge. sharon wileygreen1ATyahooDOTcom

    1. Sharon, I don't think you'll get discount tickets for the hotel. The best you'll do is get an off season price or a package discount. I plan to write next month on Mackinac Island. I'll try to answer some of these questions you have. Thanks for coming by and taking time to leave a message.

  2. Debbie, my first try to post didn't work so I'll try again. Thank you for clearing up the spelling/pronunciation. I've seen and heard it both ways and wasn't sure what would be correct. Now I'll know. Great post.

    1. You're welcome! I'm glad I helped straighten that out for you. :o)

  3. Debbie, is it the age of the bridge t6hat keeps people from being able to drive across? But it sounds like it was never used. Strange. Sure enjoyed reading this tho. Thanks. Maxie > mac262(at)me(dot)com >

    1. No, it isn't the age of the bridge. The bridge is used to connect the upper and lower peninsulas not the island. Although the 1888 meeting took place at the Grand Hotel and Vanderbilt proudly boasted of it's popularity, he wanted the bridge to connect both peninsulas of Michigan. The bridge bears the name of the Island, but ferries are the only way to get to the Island. Hope this helps straightens things out for you. I'm posting next month on the Island. And I'll try better to clarify things.

  4. Enjoyed your article, Debbie Lynne. Is this where Somewhere In Time was filmed? I'm in love! Would so love to visit.