"Wisconsin-Happy Festival State", by Eve Phillips. My husband and I love to travel in the state of Wisconsin where we live and get great pictures on the way. My name is Laurie Kutil and photography has become a great passion of mine since 2010. One thing I have learned in researching each town before visiting it is that, "Every town has it's story". When I do uncover those stories by connecting with local residents, our experience becomes so much richer. In turn, sharing the stories with you brings me joy :)
We had just recently heard the news that Yerkes Observatory will be closing on October 1st of this year and knew we had to hurry back to take another tour before they ended. The news had just been announced a week or two earlier.
My first visit was actually in 6th grade in February 1977. Here is a picture I took then.
We went together for the first time in 2012. Richard Dreiser has been giving almost all of the tours since 1980, 38 years! Six years later, he said he remembered us and was happy to see us again. He is really nice and we will miss him. He is writing a book though about Yerkes so we look forward to getting that when it’s published.
It wasn’t really crowded since the news only just came out about the closure a week or so earlier. We heard that the tour groups in September were quite large. We could look around the hallway shortly before the tour started.
The back of the hallway was cordoned off, it wasn’t in 2012. Let’s see what is back there.
Richard began by showing some beautiful photos taken by the Yerkes telescope and others in the hallway adjacent to the lobby.
After discussing these photos, we then moved out to the lobby. It is quite beautiful, decorated with terracotta accents, marble floor and a skylight in the ceiling. The light fixtures are original too. The building was officially opened in 1897.
Under the skylight.
Richard pointed out the many features in the decorative artwork of the building in the lobby area. Faces, angels, and owls abound!
We then moved outside, where Richard pointed out the many distinguishing features in the artwork on the columns and above the door. Art is everywhere at this building, something you don’t see anymore.
Then, we went back in and concluded the tour at the big telescope. We could not go up on the platform on this visit.
Yerkes had been visited by many scientists, including Albert Einstein in this group photo taken in the 20’s.
We all got a special treat that most people don’t get to see, the dome rotating (see video at 48:33). He went to the console on the right side of the dome and made the adjustments.
Laurie Kutil 2012
Our tour came to a conclusion 10 minutes later, Richard spent the remaining time answering questions. Went back down the stairs.
Saw the library and stopped in the gift shop.
Our visit concluded here. We are sad this valuable resource is no longer a part of the University in Chicago. However, it may reopen again at later date under new ownership. I will update this post if this happens. We hope Richard will be hired to continue his excellent tours. Meanwhile, enjoy the video of the original tour.
On Day 2 of our trip, we headed to Mackinaw City to catch the Arnold ferry to Mackinac Island. Our first view of the Mackinac Bridge really built up our excitement! Residents and visitors alike LOVE their bridge and are not shy about showing it. The Mackinac Bridge Authority, located in both Mackinaw City and St. Ignace, takes care of the bridge and the many people crossing it every day. There is a $4.00 toll payable on the St. Ignace side, which helps pay for maintenance and professional drivers. They drive people across the bridge in bad conditions or if you have a fear of bridges. Tune your radio to 530 or 1610 AM to hear a broadcast on bridge conditions. If there are good conditions, you hear a welcoming message to the Upper Peninsula (U.P.).
The next day dawned with a beautiful sunrise outside of our hotel, the Super 8 Beachfront. After breakfast there we began our day of fun!
Our first attraction was the Mackinaw Bridge Museum downtown, they opened at 8 AM. This museum is quite large, you need at least an hour to explore it. Two videos are playing, showing the building of the bridge. You can buy them both together for $30 for a great souvenir. Having a meal at Mama Mia’s Pizza sounds like a good pairing with a visit here too!
This museum is located in Mackinaw City’s main shopping district. To us it resembled Broadway Street in the Wisconsin Dells. In the center of it all is Mackinaw Crossings. There you will also find their historic train depot, now a restaurant.
Mackinaw City has a great many historical markers, more than we had time to see. Some of them are interactive, there are audio clips to go with each marker. It is part of the Mackinaw City Historical Pathway. This is what the signs look like.
We walked on the trail to the shore, from here you could see the new telescope building going up. It should be done by next summer! This is where you look at the blackest sky possible. If you wish to do some stargazing in your area, use this light pollution map as a guide.
It was lunch time, we headed to one of the city’s favorite places, Darrow’s Family Restaurant. The Darrow family also were the Mackinac Bridge builders as well. It was pretty busy!
We also paid a visit to Wawatam Park, named after a brave Indian Chief who lived in this area. You can see Mackinac Island in the background behind the wood carving of the Chief. There is also a historical pathways sign here.
We also went to the Gary R. Williams Memorial Park, where we got day and night pictures of the Mackinac Bridge. A freighter passed under the bridge at night while we were there.
We also enjoyed visiting the Icebreaker Mackinaw Maritime Museum, a retired Coast Guard Ship. What a great tour and view from the deck! This was the last attraction we visited that day.
Two freighters passing in front of Mackinac Island!
We finished our day with dinner at the Dixie Saloon, located at the endpoint of the famous Dixie Highway. It follows most of the outline of Michigan. I have been near the beginning of this highway when I lived in Illinois. It passes through Chicago Heights. The restaurant does not have free wi-fi, but you can pick up a signal from the nearby Shepler’s Ferry.
This rounds out our only full day in Mackinaw City. We had views of other attractions we may get to on a future visit.