Awakenings

Long abandoned, one of the state’s most intriguing historic sites comes to life in August.
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Fayette building reflections John McCormack
Fayette Building Reflections by John McCormack

For 24 years in the mid- to late 1800s, the community of Fayette was a bustling company town tucked beneath towering limestone bluffs along Bay de Noc at the Garden Peninsula’s Snail Shell Harbor. The community of nearly 500 grew up around two blast furnaces, a large dock and several charcoal kilns used by the Jackson Iron Company, which produced 230,000 tons of charcoal pig iron over 24 years before closing in 1891. 

The abandoned town — with its hotel, company store, town hall, employee housing and production facilities — changed hands several times before it was purchased by the State of Michigan in 1959.

Old wagon fayette John McCormack
Old wagon at Fayette – photography by John McCormack
Fayette Pilons John McCormack
Fayette history emerging from the lake by John McCormack

Today, the Historic Fayette Townsite is one of Michigan’s most unique state parks. Nearly 20 structures, some in various states of ruin, are open for tours from May through October. Scheduled guided tours are also available on select dates. 

One to mark: Saturday, Aug. 10. On Heritage Day, Fayette is far from a ghost town. Travel north to celebrate life in the 19th century with activities including a children’s watermelon eating contest, traditional music performances, period displays and a silent auction. Visitors ages 13 and up can also take part in a vintage “base ball” game with the Fayette team, playing by 1860s’ rules on the town’s original field.

Fayette doorway light John McCormack
Fayette Arched Doorway Framing the Daylight by John McCormack
Alder Creek
Photography Courtesy Cory

Admission to Heritage Day is free of charge, although a Michigan State Parks Recreation Passport is required for park entry. Learn more at michigan.gov/Fayette. Uncover more of Michigan’s ghost towns at ghosttowns.com/states/mi.

— Tai Alexander, Michigan BLUE Magazine.

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