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Mackinac Island

A car-free town that is focused on people - and the intimate scale of the island's urbanism reflects that focus. The fine-grained details of the architecture; the human scale of the signs; the thoughtful placement of windows, doors, awnings, and colonnades; the inviting storefronts; the narrow streets; and the enclosed and defined streetspaces (there are no parking lots creating gaps in the streetwalls!) all prioritize people.

The streets have examples of both terminated vistas and deflected vistas - as shown in a few of the images in the gallery. 

The terminated vista, in this case, is accomplished with a simple, somewhat basic structure (as opposed to the more typical formal buildings like churches or city halls). In this example, the single-story gable-roofed building helps to create a visual connection from one district to another.

The deflected vista provides a general curve to the street that helps to beckon visitors to continue their journey by offering intriguing glimpses of what is ahead, while also providing a sense of enclosure to the public space.

Although Mackinac Island is not a place that could directly be applied or replicated in most cities, it does provide insight into how we can build cities with a better balance between people and the car culture.


And the fudge is great too!!

Some history and facts of this place:

Like many of the places in Michigan, Mackinac Island takes its name from our first peoples - in Odawa this name is  Michilimackinac, in Ojibwe it is Mitchimakinak, meaning "Big Turtle".  The island is located in Lake Huron, at the eastern end of the Straits of Mackinac, between Michigan's Upper and Lower Peninsulas.


The island was home to an Odawa settlement and previous indigenous cultures before European colonization began in the 17th century. Upon early settlement, the island became a strategic center of the fur trade around the Great Lakes.


Located on a former trading post, Fort Mackinac was constructed on the island by the British during the American Revolutionary War. It was the site of two battles during the War of 1812 before the northern border was settled and the US gained this island in its territory.

In the late 19th century, Mackinac Island became a popular tourist attraction and summer colony. Many of the structures on the island have undergone extensive historical preservation and restoration. Because of its historic significance, the entire island is listed as a National Historic Landmark.


The island is well known for numerous cultural events; a wide variety of architectural styles, including the Victorian Grand Hotel; and its ban on almost all motor vehicles. More than 80 percent of the island is preserved as Mackinac Island State Park.

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