As I research some of the historical books written about Mackinac Island, I relish the opportunity to put pieces of information together, that separately may be interesting, but compiled become fascinating. Such is the case with Anne Cottage, located on Main Street. It's hard to miss.
Situated just east of Marquette Park and the Indian Dormitory, it is the first private residence you reach on Main Street when walking east from downtown. In my early visits to the island, I thought it was Anne's Cottage - that made sense to me figuring someone named Anne had an affiliation with the beautiful home. Partly true, but the full story is much more interesting.
Constance Fenimore Woolson was born in March of 1840 in Claremont, New Hampshire and was a summer visitor to Mackinac Island beginning in 1855. Miss Woolson was the great niece of novelist James Fenimore Cooper, best known for his novel The Last of the Mohican's. Miss Woolson began writing fiction and travel stories for publications including Harper's Magazine in the 1870's and later wrote fictional novels including Anne, which was published in 1880.
Anne was set on Mackinac Island and much of the story takes place at the Agency House, which in the book is Anne's home. The Agency House, formerly located on the eastern side of Marquette Park, was built for the local Indian Agent to conduct business and distribute funds to the Native Americans who came to Mackinac Island to collect their payments for turning over their land to the United States. The neighboring Indian Dormitory was later built for the visiting Indians, who opted to continue pitching wigwams along the shore rather than stay in the dormitory.
The Agency House burned to the ground in 1873, and the land remained vacant until the State Park Commission plotted three new lots for cottages in an effort to increase revenues for operations. Lease requirements for the new cottages included such items as construction was to begin within one year of the signing of the lease and that the cottages be worth at least $3000. The land leases, still in effect, cost at the time a minimum of $100 a year. In May of 1899, Sallie and Alvin Hert of Brazil, Indiana signed the lease for one of the plots and began construction of their cottage. Mr. Hert was the Mayor of Brazil and operated a general store there.
Since their new cottage would be built where the Agency House once stood, they chose the name Anne Cottage in honor of Miss Woolson, whose book was still popular some twenty years later. The original cottage they built was expanded in the early 1900's when the Hert's became more affluent and looks today much as it did in 1915. Today the cottage has 10 bedrooms and is over 8,000 square feet. The estate includes a stable and caretaker's cottage behind the home.
The Herts sold the home in 1915 to their next door neighbor and owners of the Brigadoon Cottage, Susan and George Arnold of The Arnold Transit Company. Through the years, the home passed through several other owners including Mark Twain's daughter Clara Clemens and New York Yankee's owner George Steinbrenner. The cottage is currently owned by Frankenmuth Realtor Scott Rausch and is for sale for $3.6 Million.
Now you know the story of Anne Cottage. But the story of Anne and Miss Woolson doesn't end there.
In 1916 her nephew, Samuel Mather of Cleveland, OH, who also served as her financial advisor before her death in 1894, placed a tablet along the East Bluff in honor of his still popular aunt. Known as Anne's Tablet, it is secreted away in Sinclair Grove - a stand of cedar trees near the Lewis Cass Memorial at Cass Cliff.
Anne's Tablet rests in a shady spot with a wonderful view of Haldimand Bay and Round Island and features three small concrete benches engraved with the named works of Miss Woolson. The tablet itself features a relief of a young girl reaching toward a tree branch. The inscription reads:
“She used to whisper to them to tell them how much she loved them ‘her dear friends’.
She loved the island and the island trees;
she loved the wild larches,
the tall spires of the spruces bossed with lighter green,
the gray pines and the rings of the juniper.”
Hear the rustling and the laughing of the forest and the
wash of the waters on the pebbly beach.
Constance Fenimore Woolson
Author - Traveller
has expressed her love of this island and its
beauty in the words of her heroine 'Anne'
Anne's Tablet is one of my favorite spots on the island. It is only a few minutes walk from downtown, but is so secluded you would think you were much farther inland. You can still hear the clip clop of hooves on the streets below, which I believe adds to the magic of this respite from our normal lives.
To reach Anne's Tablet, take Crow's Nest Trail which is located behind the Indian Dormitory and the children's playground in Marquette Park. It's a steep set of wooden stairs, but benches are conveniently located along the stairs. When you reach the top of Crow's Nest Trail, you'll be across the street from Crow's Nest cottage, which was built by Valcoln Mather. Turn left onto Anne's Tablet Trail for the short, beautiful and relaxing walk to the Tablet.