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Directions: The Mackinaw Historical Society Heritage Village is located about two miles west of downtown Mackinaw City in northwest lower Michigan. From downtown Mackinaw City, head west on Central Avenue — the main street through the downtown. The entrance to the village is just east of Headlands Road.

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Pestilence House

The Mackinaw Historical Society Heritage Village consists of a variety of historic structures from about 1880 through 1917. This was a period of dramatic changes in transportation, communication, housing, health care, and nearly every other aspect of life. The last existing Pestilence House in Michigan is part of the village. A Pestilence House is a quarantine facility that was found in nearly every Michigan community around 1900. This example was built in the 1890s, and was rediscovered in 2004. It had been used as a machine shop, but had been abandoned.

 

Pestilence House

Pest Houses could be found in almost every small Michigan town. In those years, smallpox was a real danger, along with diphtheria and cholera. This was an era when germs and viruses were poorly understood. The local doctor might also be the barber and bleeding was still used as a treatment. Quarantine was the most used procedure to stop the spread of contagious diseases. No one yet realized how important something as basic as clean hands was. Hand washing would have been a complex undertaking. There was no running water. It had to be hauled to the Pest House in buckets. In winter, the water had to be warmed, on a wood burning stove. Patients of all ages and genders were housed in the same building. The different areas may have been separated by nothing more than cloth curtains. Infected persons remained inside until they were better. One in three individuals didn't survive.

Advances in medical treatment made Pestilence Houses obsolete. Pest Houses that weren't re-purposed deteriorated and fell apart, or were dismantled and destroyed. This is the only intact Michigan example I have found. It has been faithfully restored. The village covers about 140 acres with lots of unique and one-of-a-kind buildings. One example is the the bone room, a small kiosk with hands on displays that will fascinate kids of all ages.