Mackinac Island - the Fudge Capital of the World!
The first thing you notice when you walk down Main Street on Mackinac Island is that there are a lot of fudge shops. In fact, there are more than a dozen shops within 3 blocks of each other. Murdick’s Fudge claims to be the first and it opened in 1887, but there are at least 3 other shops that claim to have been established right around that same time.
We ended up buying our fudge at Ryba’s, because we happened to be walking by as they were pouring out a fresh sheet of the gooey stuff and it smelled fantastic. Ryba’s opened on Mackinac Island in 1959 - a relative newcomer on the Island.
What’s with the different spellings of the word “Mackinaw”? It’s Mackinac Island, but it’s also Mackinaw City? It turns out that the French spelled it Mackinac and the English spelled it Mackinaw, but it’s always pronounced Mackinaw. The Island was ruled by the French, then the British, then the US, and then by the British again. Finally, after the war of 1812 the US took over control of the Island and the surrounding territory for good. In the end, they just let the citizens of the local communities spell it however they liked.
By the 1820s the fur trade was flourishing. The American Fur Trading Company was based on Mackinac Island, and furs from their camps in Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota flowed to Mackinac every summer. On Market Street the furs were counted, sorted, baled and shipped to the East Coast and Europe.
By the 1830’s fishing replaced fur trading as Mackinac Islands primary industry. The region’s waters were filled with white fish and lake trout. The trade routes that once carried furs quickly adapted to carrying fish to cities like Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, and Buffalo.
By the 1880’s Mackinac Island had become the most fashionable summer resort on the Great Lakes. The palatial Grand Hotel opened in 1887, and by the 1890’s mansions were being built to keep up with the new standard set by the Grand Hotel.
The island is known for the absence of motorized vehicle traffic, and it does give a visitor the feeling that they are stepping back in time. The horse drawn carriages and carts are seen pulling everything from tourists to garbage. Bicycle is the preferred mode of transportation, but there are 2 motorized vehicles on the island - a fire truck and an ambulance.
Oh, and did I mention the Fudge Shops? Fudge, not furs, or fish, is the #1 export of Mackinac Island today.