By David Wulff, AIA

We were recently on Mackinaw Island, Michigan, and for those that are not familiar with the island, it’s in Lake Huron between the lower and upper peninsulas of Michigan. The island is approximately 8.2 miles in circumference (I know because I rode a bike all the way around). For those that are not familiar with the island, the only way to get there is either by plane or ferry boat. The island banned cars early in the 1900’s because the cars made so much noise that they scared the horses. The island probably wouldn’t be the tourist attraction it is today if cars were allowed. The main mode of transportation is horse carriage, bicycle, or walking.

I had an office in northern Michigan years ago and designed a few buildings on the island, and that was an interesting experience. All deliveries to a job site are by horse and buggy. There’s no motorized backhoes, bulldozers, etc. authorized for use during the summer tourist season. Even UPS delivery is by horse and carriage.

David’s wife, Myrnelle, in a horse drawn carriage.

As we were driving around the island on our horse drawn carriage one day I noticed that there were no garages next to the houses. And then I realized that there was not a need for one. No cars: no garages. Duh!

So it got me to thinking, what would we do if we didn’t have cars? Maybe we would have a horse barn, but would Lake Lure even be the same place it is today? I doubt that many houses would be constructed where they are today because of the terrain of the mountains. It would just be too difficult to get up some of the hills with horses.

So, let’s go back to the question of the garage. My garage has a workshop at the back half of it. If I didn’t have a car, I would probably have a workshop and maybe a horse and carriage barn. I doubt that I would have as much “stuff” as I do today if I had to go to Rutherfordton to do my shopping. Certainly we couldn’t just drop everything and go to Lowes for something. It would be an all day trip. We might still have UPS delivery though.

Consider then how different our houses would be designed. Today we want the garage as close to the house as possible and perhaps attached. If the “garage” was for horses, it certainly wouldn’t be attached to the house. Need to deal with that odor thing. Personally I prefer house designs that don’t advertise the garage. Either have the garage separate with a covered walkway or if attached, have the garage door somewhere other than facing the street.

As we sat on the porch of our Mackinaw Island B & B in the evening, we listened to the clop clop of the horses and watched them as they went by; our thoughts drifted to how perfect life is when we take it a little slower.

DAVID H. WULFF, ARCHITECT welcomes the design challenges presented by new projects and is dedicated to developing innovative design solutions. David H. Wulff, AIA, 167 Trails End, Lake Lure, NC 828-625-5537, www.dwarchitect.com.