2005-05-04 / Front Page

‘100 Years of Cars’ Planned To Mark MDOT 100th Birthday at St. Ignace

By Karen Gould

Taken shortly after the Mackinac Bridge opened on November 1, 1957, by Mackinac Bridge Authority photographer Herman Ellis, the photograph shows automobiles of the era and the orange primer coat that predated the green paint now on the bridge’s grating.Taken shortly after the Mackinac Bridge opened on November 1, 1957, by Mackinac Bridge Authority photographer Herman Ellis, the photograph shows automobiles of the era and the orange primer coat that predated the green paint now on the bridge’s grating.

Plans are moving forward for Michigan Department of Transportation’s 100 year celebration that will take place in St. Ignace over the Labor Day holiday weekend with a “100 years of automobiles” event, a historical exhibit, a fireworks display, and the unveiling of a historical marker, concluding with the 48th annual Mackinac Bridge Walk September 5.

Blueprints of the one-weekend event, “Cruisin’ Through The Century,” are being drawn and will include 100 years of cars from 1905 to 2005. They will be on display at Little Bear East Arena in St. Ignace Saturday, September 3, and Sunday, September 4.

Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) is seeking volunteers interested in exhibiting cars in the display, said Dawn Garner, MDOT communications representative. A Web site, www.michigan.gov/mdot100, has been established specifically for the event so car owners can apply to have their automobile considered, she said. Completed applications can be e-mailed or printed and mailed.

“To be selected will be an honor,” Mrs. Garner said.

She has contacted Ford Motor Corporation, DaimlerChrysler, and General Motors Corporation to see if they would be interested in contributing cars to the event as well.

While most of the cars will be displayed in the Little Bear East parking lot, the oldest models probably will be inside the arena, she said.

“As you walk through the area, you literally will see the evolution of the automobile and of society,” said Mrs. Garner.

She is working locally on the car event with St. Ignace Visitors Bureau Director Kelly Simmons, St. Ignace Area Chamber of Commerce Director Janet Peterson, and Michigan State University Extension Director Michelle Walk.

Also inside Little Bear East will be a display of the history of Michigan’s transportation department, including the 34 years the agency operated a car ferry service between the Upper Peninsula and Lower Peninsula. The service was discontinued after the Mackinac Bridge was opened in 1957.

An historical marker will be placed at the Bridge View Park turnout on US-2 just west of St. Ignace. The marker will point out that US-2 originally was an Indian trail. One side of the marker will be in English and MDOT is working with the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians on the possibility of having the other side of the sign in Ojibwa.

If the marker is not completed in time for an unveiling ceremony during the holiday weekend, then she said a separate event will take place.

Fireworks are being considered for Saturday night and the hope is to have them shot from a barge in the Straits with the Mackinac Bridge as the backdrop, said Mrs. Garner, or from the old State Dock in Mackinaw City. The cost may make these plans prohibitive, she said.

The Cheboygan Chamber of Commerce may join the celebration by highlighting maritime history in the area.

Side Bar To Go with Photo

The choice of colors used today on the Mackinac Bridge was a fortuitous decision. Bob Sweeney, executive secretary of the Mackinac Bridge Authority, said the bridge was depicted in a 1954 advertisement with ivory towers and foliage green trusses, and the colors worked.

An ad agency was promoting its client, who was supplying engines for equipment being used to build the bridge, and made up its own color combination because the official colors had not yet been specified.

When Bridge Authority members and consulting engineers saw the bridge in the advertisement with colors chosen by the agency, they decided that those were the colors the bridge should be painted, said Mr. Sweeney.

The Mackinac Bridge would have been painted black and gray if it had been built before World War II, as were all railroad and automobile bridges of the time, said Mr. Sweeney. Those two colors of paint offered the protective properties needed for outdoor structures, he said. After the war, paint quality improved and more colors became available.

Dr. David Steinman, who designed the Mackinac Bridge, was one of the first designers to recommend colors be used on the structures he designed, said Mr. Sweeney.

The choice of colors used today on the Mackinac Bridge was a fortuitous decision. Bob Sweeney, executive secretary of the Mackinac Bridge Authority, said the bridge was depicted in a 1954 advertisement with ivory towers and foliage green trusses, and the colors worked.

An ad agency was promoting its client, who was supplying engines for equipment being used to build the bridge, and made up its own color combination because the official colors had not yet been specified.

When Bridge Authority members and consulting engineers saw the bridge in the advertisement with colors chosen by the agency, they decided that those were the colors the bridge should be painted, said Mr. Sweeney.

The Mackinac Bridge would have been painted black and gray if it had been built before World War II, as were all railroad and automobile bridges of the time, said Mr. Sweeney. Those two colors of paint offered the protective properties needed for outdoor structures, he said. After the war, paint quality improved and more colors became available.

Dr. David Steinman, who designed the Mackinac Bridge, was one of the first designers to recommend colors be used on the structures he designed, said Mr. Sweeney.

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