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From 1929 to 1995, visitors to Hartwick Pines State Park entered through a large, two-story “log cabin” located just steps from M-93. Called the “Memorial Building” to honor Grayling native and lumberman Edward Hartwick, who died in World War I, it provided a grand introduction to the park’s pristine natural landscape. Generations of visitors marveled at the large stone fireplace, climbed stairs to see exhibits on the mezzanine and took in views of the park’s old growth forest from its wide porch.
Now, after a 24-year closure, visitors will get their first glimpse of initial changes at the landmark building as it reopens to the public Memorial Day weekend for guided tours following a partnership repair and cleaning effort by the Department of Natural Resources Parks and Recreation Division, the Michigan History Center and Friends of Hartwick Pines.
“Over the years, visitors have shared so many stories about how they remember walking through the building with their parents and grandparents. Having the Memorial Building open to the public once again means families can revisit old memories and create new ones,” said Craig Kasmer, park interpreter.
From 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday, May 24, Saturday, May 25 and Sunday, May 26, guests to the park can tour the building with a guide who will provide information on the history of the park and building. To join a tour, visitors must enter through the park’s main entrance (please do not park on M-93.) A Recreation Passport is required for vehicle entry.
The Memorial Building will be open for tours throughout the summer, depending on staff and volunteer availability. Call the Visitor Center at 989-348-2537 for the current tour schedule.
The reopening of the building coincides with another big Michigan milestone: the 100-year anniversary of Michigan state parks.
“We wanted to reopen the building this year, because 2019 is the state parks’ centennial year,” said Denise Dawson, park supervisor. “It was important for us to commemorate this important anniversary by sharing Hartwick Pines’ unique history.”
Hartwick Pines became Michigan’s eighth state park in 1927, when Karen Hartwick purchased more than 8,000 acres of land, including 85 acres of old-growth white pine, just northeast of Grayling. The next day, she donated the land to the State of Michigan for a memorial park to be named for her husband, the late Major Edward E. Hartwick. Edward Hartwick, a Grayling native, successful lumberman and officer in the U.S. Army, died of cerebrospinal meningitis in 1918 while serving in France during World War I.
Karen Hartwick included the construction of the Memorial Building in the deed agreement with the State of Michigan. It was built in 1929 from red pine logs that were cut nearby.
In 1934 and 1935, a Civilian Conservation Corps work crew located within the park made improvements to the interior of the Memorial Building and built two log structures to house a logging museum.
As part of the state parks centennial celebration, the public is invited and encouraged to share their memories of the Memorial Building and park all year long. Visitors can share their memories of the historic structure while touring the building, or post them on the state parks centennial memory map at Michigan.gov/StateParks100.
While the building has been maintained and monitored over the last two decades, its age and composition have created preservation challenges. A 2016 inspection revealed a powder-post beetle infestation in the building’s wooden structure and interior. While still structurally sound, the building’s walls and exhibit cases were being damaged by the wood-eating insects. In 2017, the DNR completed a successful fumigation that eliminated the infestation and ended the destruction.
“The inside of the building had been untouched since 1995,” said park historian Hillary Pine. “All the exhibits were still inside. It was almost like a time capsule. Unfortunately, they were in bad shape from the insect damage and needed to be removed. But now we have an opportunity to create something new in this impressive space.”
The freshly cleaned building now offers a blank slate for future use. Renovations and improvements are still needed, such as upgrading electrical and plumbing systems, meeting Americans with Disabilities Act guidelines and replacing porch beams that have rotted after 90 years of exposure to the elements.
“We also want to put new exhibits and attractions into the building that share the history of the forest, of Karen and Edward Hartwick and of the generations of families who have enjoyed the park,” said Kasmer. “We need help not only with ideas, but also in donations.”
There are two easy ways to give. Visit Hartwick Pines State Park and donate at the Memorial Building or text “Memorial” to 80888 to receive a link to a dedicated donation site.
For more information about renovations, exhibits, and tour and support opportunities at Hartwick Pines State Park and the Memorial Building, contact historian Hillary Pine at 989-348-2537 or PineH@Michigan.gov.