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Fire devours landmark -Mackinaw City

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Fire devours landmark

Mackinaw City pizzeria, history museum destroyed

From the Detroit Free Press - August 30, 2005

A popular Mackinaw City pizzeria and an upstairs history museum filled with one-of-a-kind Mackinac Bridge artifacts were destroyed by fire Sunday, wiping out a landmark in this tourist town.

Investigators were trying to figure out Monday what started the fire at Mama Mia's pizzeria and the Mackinac Bridge Museum on Main Street.

Tourists about to board ferries to Mackinac Island often made the restaurant and museum a last stop. The pizzeria, one of the oldest establishments in the city, was the brainchild of owner J.C. Stillwell. Upstairs, the museum was his passion.

As a worker on the Mackinac Bridge, which opened in 1957 and spans the Straits of Mackinac, Stillwell started the museum with several objects he kept from his work. Bridge workers and their families also have donated items to the collection.

"It's an icon in this community. The family has been here a long time. The pizzeria and the museum have been here a long time," Fire Chief Fred Thompson Jr. said Monday.

He said there were many irreplaceable items, such as the original scuba diving suit used by ironworkers while planting the footings for the bridge.

In addition, helmets, hard hats, photographs and newspaper articles written during the building of the 55-story suspension bridge were lost in the fire. The 5-mile-long engineering feat is heralded as the longest suspension bridge in the world, according to the Mackinac Bridge Authority. It took 42 months to build and claimed five workers' lives by drowning.

The engineering and the history behind the bridge are a point of pride for people such as Stillwell.


One historic object survived.

An iron bell, which topped the building, was saved by firefighters who worried it could injure someone if it fell.

The fire started about 10 a.m. Sunday and wasn't put out until about 2 p.m., once 80 firefighters from Mackinaw and nearby cities were involved, Thompson said. Pizzeria employees reported the fire after seeing smoke coming from an upstairs storage room, he said.

Foul play is not suspected, Thompson said.

Read the entire article here

This is a huge loss. I finally got to visit this museum last year and it is definitely a place worth visiting.

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I read that article a little bit ago in the Newspaper and I never went to either of those places but I was still sad about the loss of them. One thing I read in the article that I didn't know was that 5 workers died when constructing the Mackinac Bridge from drowning.

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I wouldn't say I loved the restaurant, but I did love the museum they built upstairs. I had a pizza which was good, but my wife ordered a lasagna which was one of those microwavable ones you find at the grocery store. They didn't even take it out of the container or remove the plastic wrap on the top!

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Damned those fires!

This was a great asset to Mackinac City because it sure beat those classic 'jip-joints' (as my father often referred to them) that are speckled throughout the area where you can buy rubber tomahawks, fake vomit or pet rocks.

If anyone

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