Update: On Oct. 12, 2014, the Welcome came home to Emmet County and is being stored at the Headlands International Dark Sky Park. Complete details will be updated here, but this past article can provide some details about what is planned with the vessel now that's it's back in Mackinaw City.
The Welcome, back home to Emmet County
The replica 1774 Armed Sloop Welcome is currently owned and maintained by the Maritime Heritage Alliance in Traverse City. Emmet County has been in talks with the MHA to acquire the vessel, at a cost of $1, for use as a showpiece in a possible new structure at the Headlands International Dark Sky Park.
The Welcome is a replica of the 1774 ship that was originally built in Mackinaw City at Michilimackinac by John Askin. At 55 feet in deck length and overall sparred length of 87 feet, the Welcome was built by the Mackinac Island State Park Commission at Fort Michilimackinac to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. For four decades it served as a window to the past, making American history come alive for thousands of people who toured her decks.
In 1992, the MHA became custodian of the vessel, with the group’s craftsmen and women spending untold hours rebuilding major portions of the hull and other features. Over the last several years, the MHA has sought a new permanent home for the Welcome that would illustrate its maritime significance, protect its story and preserve her for the public.
Emmet County learned of MHA’s efforts to find the Welcome a new home, and contacted the group expressing its interest in displaying the ship in an indoor environment and for educational opportunities. Earlier this week, the MHA board passed a resolution in support of the County’s preliminary proposal to house the ship inside a potential new museum/heritage center at the Headlands, which has been discussed by the Board of Commissioners for some time.
“The Board of Directors and the Welcome Committee determined that the request to acquire Welcome received from the Emmet County Board of Commissioners dated Oct. 30, 2013, expressing a desire to repurpose the welcome as the primary showpiece of a proposed Heritage Center at the Headlands best embraced the vision of MHA for Welcome’s future,” the MHA board agreed in a resolution on Nov. 11, 2013.
The County Board of Commissioners will now work with county staff to draft a memorandum of understanding that would spell out the requirements of each entity for acquiring the Welcome.
“The ultimate goal would be to have this ship on display at the Headlands. It’s a terrific opportunity for this whole region,” said Emmet County Board Chairman Jim Tamlyn.
Assisting in the potential acquisition have been members of the Emmet County Historical Commission, in particular Dick Moehl and Sandy Planisek. Parks and Recreation Director Laurie Gaetano noted this project falls in line with the mission of the Historical Commission and its efforts to preserve and protect this region’s history and historical assets.
“There are a lot of forward-thinkers in this county and I’m continually amazed by the Emmet County Historical Commission and their ideas and enthusiasm,” said Commissioner Larry Cassidy at the Nov. 12 Administrative session of the BOC.
If the Board approves moving forward with the Memorandum of Understanding, the ship could come home to Emmet County by summer of 2014. It’s also possible that the Board and the historical commission could seek donations and grants to help fund the project and future placement of the ship.
Commissioner Dan Plasencia noted he sees the ship being an attraction that brings more people into Emmet County, and also as a tool for teaching schoolchildren about the maritime history of Northwest Michigan. “This is an important learning opportunity for this area, to have something like this that belongs to the public,” Plasencia said. “It’s going to be a big attraction.”
As the MHA board noted, “Welcome would be returning to Emmet County, Michigan, her place of origin.”