MHA's Mission, Vision & History
Maritime Heritage Alliance exists to preserve, interpret, share and promote the maritime heritage of the Great Lakes.
Maritime Heritage Alliance's vision is for Traverse City to be the maritime history center of Northern Lake Michigan.
The history of MHA is best described by two of its founding members, Bob Core and Rich Brauer. These two individuals first met at monthly meetings of the Great Lakes Cruising Club back in the early 1980s. Their love of classic wooden boats, along with their shared interest in preserving the heritage of boats of historic significance from the Grand Traverse Bay area drew them together. With some others,they acquired boats that needed work and, what began as a way to teach kids how to build boats and to understand the maritime history of the region, developed into an organization that today seeks to preserve, share, and interpret the maritime heritage of the Great Lakes.
From humble beginnings in a variety of locations, one being an old, vacant fire hall on Cass Street and another being the former zoo at Traverse City's Clinch Park where visitors were as enthralled by the boatbuilders under their makeshift canopy as they were by the wolves in their cages nearby, the organization slowly took shape.
The decision was made to built a Mackinaw boat and in 1982 the Gracie L was launched. She was named after Rich Brauer's two-year-old daughter. To this day, Rich thinks that all the fresh-baked cookies he brought to the boatbuilders each morning had something to do with the choice of name. The Gracie L can be seen today at the MHA boat shop; her presence is often requested at boat shows and exhibits in the area.
In 1985, the fledgling organization decided to build a 56-ft. replica of the Madeline, an 1845 schooner that had significant historical value in the area. It took five years to build and sails today throughout the Great Lakes as one of Michigan's officially recognized Tall Ships. When in home port, the Madeline takes passengers out into Grand Traverse Bay and leaves them dreaming of what it must have been like back in the mid 1800s when schooners plyed the Great Lakes, overloaded with goods to be delivered to distant ports according to schedule, regardless of the weather.
The graceful Witchcraft was donated to MHA in 1982 by the Livingston family of Northport. After extensive renovation, she was re-launched in 1993. Today, 13 years later, Witchcraft is again being restored under the careful supervision of MHA's master boat builders.
With tremendous support from the community and corporate sponsors, Maritime Heritage Alliance prospered. In 1992, MHA acquired the Welcome, a replica of a sloop that sailed the Great Lakes from 1774 to 1781. After undergoing extensive repairs, Welcome became a favorite of crew and visitors alike, as she participated in historical re-enactments and displays around the Great Lakes. Welcome has been gifted to Emmet County for the purpose of becoming a centerpiece of their planned Headlands Dark Sky Park Conference Center. The Welcome was 'welcomed home' on November 7, 2014 at a ceremony at the Headlans that was attended by several MHA members.
When the Maritime Heritage Alliance moved to its current location in Greilickville on M-22 just north of M-72 in 2006, there was space for restoration work and boat storage. That year, an H-28 was donated to MHA. Built in 1954, the Arcturos underwent extensive restoration and can be seen today sailing in west Grand Traverse Bay.
In 2008, Henry Barkhausen of Harbor Springs, MI donated the cutter Champion to MHA. Built in 1968, Champion has provided educational sail training opportunities to the greater Northwest Michigan community and is used today for a number of MHA's educational programs, most notably the SAIL Champion program for at-risk youth.
Today, MHA's members are able to not only see history come alive, but also to be a part of the process. It is an adventure. We enjoy every moment of it.