Jim Brennan has taken the first step and
admitted that he has a problem. "It's a sickness," he said.
There are no rehab centers to treat Brennan's addiction, which
has consumed his life for the past 14 years. Brennan is addicted to
The 50-year-old Emmett resident runs http://www.michmarkers.com/ a
personal Web site that features photos of more than 1,350 designated
state historic sites and the text from the markers that accompany
them -- nearly all of which Brennan has visited.
This year, the Detroit Free Press named http://www.michmarkers.com/
the best Michigan travel Web site.
"Not bad for a guy in his basement," said Brennan, a manager at a
Royal Oak software company.
So close, yet so far
At one point, Brennan said he had photographed close to 90% of
the state's markers, but lately he has fallen off.
He used to be able to plan trips to catch dozens of the
green-and-gold signs at once. In a single day he photographed 60
Now he has done so many that there are no "target-rich
environments" left. It's hard to get excited about making a trip to
Alpena to photograph a single marker, he said -- and the state keeps
adding more signs.
"Next year, they'll put up 40 more of them, and they'll be all
over the place," he said. "Now, they've put in enough that it makes
sense for me to make a push to get them all."
Brennan started the project in 1988. He liked to read the markers
but soon forgot what they said, so he started photographing them.
"When I first started searching for them, there wasn't even a
good list," he said.
He went to the state Bureau of History in Lansing and started to
assemble his own list. He started planning family vacations around
the markers. Brennan said his three children, who are now in their
20s, were tolerant of their dad's obsession.
"At some point, you have to bribe them," he said. "My daughter
insisted that after three (markers) we had to stop at a Dairy Queen.
So in addition to 1,500 historical markers, I know where there's an
awful lot of Dairy Queens."
Sometimes, Brennan said, he would arrive at a site only to
discover the marker was missing. The state is sponsoring an amnesty
program that allows people to return stolen markers without facing
Brennan realized the Internet was an ideal way to publish his
"Each one of these markers is part of a story, but you don't get
the whole story until you put it together," he said. The Web site
"is the only place that it comes together. That is the contribution
-- not the rather second-rate photography.
"I would say this is among the most significant things I've ever
done," he said, "and I'm really proud of it."
m You can call reporter Bill Chapin at (810) 989-0741.