St. Patrick’s Day on Mackinac Island

People all over the world observe St. Patrick’s Day every March 17. What began as a religious holiday

Two Drinks at Mary’s Bistro Bar on Mackinac Island
As far back as 1805, Irish soldiers stationed at Fort Mackinac were freed from duty to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. ‘Interestingly, all the troops except the Irish ‘were to be sober’ on the 17th of March,’ Mackinac Island historian Keith Widder writes in his account of soldier life at Fort Mackinac.

honoring the fifth-century saint who brought Christianity to Ireland has evolved through the centuries into a general celebration of Irish culture. These days, whether people are Irish or not, they wear green, march in parades and enjoy a beverage or two on St. Patrick’s Day.

On Mackinac Island, there’s a strong historic link to Ireland that makes St. Patrick’s Day festivities all the more authentic.

Yes, there was a strong French presence on Mackinac Island going back to the 1700s. But the middle of the 19th century brought a wave of Irish immigrants. And although it was the British who moved Fort Mackinac to Mackinac Island’s high bluffs, it was those Irish immigrants who perhaps have played an even bigger role in making Mackinac Island what it is today.

Did you know that many of today’s tourist destinations on Mackinac Island were founded by Irish families?

It goes all the way back to 1852 when Irishman Charles O’Malley built Island House hotel. It was one of the first summer hotels on Mackinac Island and today remains a popular place to stay.

As the mIrish immigrants made a lasting impact on Mackinac Islandilitary significance of Fort Mackinac waned through the middle of the 19th century, it was the Island House and other Irish-owned places to stay that helped Mackinac Island blossom into a popular tourist attraction. Bogan Lane Inn, the Murray House hotel and the Cloghaun B&B also were founded by Irish who came to Mackinac Island to escape their homeland’s Great Potato Famine in the mid-1800s. In fact, the Cloghaun was started by Thomas and Bridget Donnelly, whose uncle was O’Malley.

Another Mackinac Island destination with Irish ties is the Inn at Stonecliffe, on the West Bluff. The mansion was built in the early 1900s by Michael Cudahy, who like so many other Irish immigrants came to the United States during the potato famine. In his honor, the restaurant at The Inn at Stonecliffe is known as Cudahy Chophouse.

Yet another Irish immigrant who came to Mackinac Island during the potato famine was Stephen O’Doud. That name, shortened over the years to Doud, remains very notable on Mackinac Island.

Doud’s Market, which dates to 1884 and is the oldest grocery store in the country, was started by Stephen O’Doud’s sons, James and Patrick. Patrick also worked as a contractor and built several cottages and homes on Mackinac Island including the Governor’s Summer Residence and the Windermere Hotel, while James’ granddaughter, Margaret Doud, has served as maAmerican Flag Raised Outside Windemere Hotel on Mackinac Islandyor of Mackinac Island for nearly 50 years.

Because St. Patrick’s Day is on the calendar in March before tourist season kicks into gear, the festivities on Mackinac Island typically involve only the year-round residents (although you’re certainly welcome to join us!). But whenever you visit, any time of year, there’s reason to remember the Irish impact on Mackinac Island and toast St. Patrick.


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