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About Fayette Townsite
Today, Fayette’s wealth of cultural and natural resources offers a unique blend of Michigan history and scenery. Fayette has an abundance of surviving structures from the 19th-century industrial community that was built to smelt iron ore. The blast furnace, hotel, office, residences, town hall, machine shop and other structures offer a rare glimpse into the diverse community and its operations. The museum village is nestled in a harbor surrounded by white cliffs, green forests and blue Lake Michigan waters.
The advantageous natural resources are what led Fayette Brown, a manager of the Jackson Iron Company, to select the site and begin building the town in late 1860s. The harbor was essential for the transportation of people, supplies and iron ore. The limestone cliffs provided flux for the smelting process and construction materials. The surrounding forests provided charcoal to fuel the blast furnace.
Between 1867 and 1891, Fayette was a bustling, noisy and dirty industrial community. During that time, the primarily immigrant population of approximately 500 people produced nearly 230,000 tons of pig iron ingots at Fayette. Most of the iron produced at Fayette was shipped to steel producers on the lower Great Lakes and converted into railroad rails and steel for the growing nation.
The blast furnace and supporting structures like the machine shop were the lifeblood of the town, but it was also a somewhat isolated community with a range of business and activities. Fayette had a coronet band, baseball team, horse racing track, school, post office and company store. Amid the steam whistles, smoke and whirl of engines were noises of children playing, the clattering of horses and clinging silverware from the hotel’s dining room.
When the Jackson Iron Company ceased smelting operations in 1891, most workers and families moved to other towns. Some residents remained in the area, and the site became a local tourist destination. In 1959, the site was acquired by the State of Michigan. Since then, we have developed visitor facilities, stabilized the remaining structures and installed exhibits that interpret Fayette’s rich history.
Fayette is a living museum, telling the story of a company town in the 19th century, nestled on the Garden Peninsula in the central Upper Peninsula.
Eleven buildings house museum exhibits. They are open to the public and include the hotel, machine shop, company office, town hall and residences.
A massive blast furnace still stands on the site, and is part of the well-preserved history of this former 19th century industrial site.