I remembered visiting Fayette as a teenager many years ago. And I mean, many. So it was with high hopes that we arrived one summer morning after a pleasant breakfast at the Cedar Street Café in Manistique and a nice, traffic-free drive down the Garden Peninsula. The nearly empty parking lot was followed by a short stop into the visitors center, which had a panorama of the site as it looked in the 19th century.
Fayette has seen a lot of restoration. We hiked by the forges and charcoal furnaces, deftly avoiding poison ivy, and snacking on raspberries - very important not to confuse those two plants. Hiking trails can be found on the west side of the harbor, and well-worn paths wind through the restored buildings. Fayette has both history and scenery, with the added bonus of being fairly remote. It's not unknown to tourists, but it is out of the way.
We visited nearly every building in the park. We were rewarded with a brief dance recital by a seven-year old in the theater, spent far fewer time than my daughter would have wanted in the schoolhouse (toys are fun no matter what era they come from, apparently), and saw how much harder life was in Fayette than it is in my house near Lansing. Not an air conditioner was to be found back then, not even in the fancier homes of the doctor or superintendent.
Fayette is a place to learn about a past. Plaques abound on the buildings that remains - which is quite a few. We also learned that swimming in Snail Shell Harbor is frowned upon, which is fine - the bay-side beach looked much nicer anyways. Many of the buildings contained restored rooms with period furnishings. And for all the extensive building that was done, Fayette only manufactured pig iron from 1867 to 1891.
Even if you're not a history buff, Fayette is worth a visit. The buildings in the idyllic setting are wonderful, and it is a nice stop between Manistique and Escanaba, the latter being our next stop.