Dogs ran away howling, carriage horses became unmanageable, and the local people seemed stunned as the loud, sputtering, popping automobile started up the hill from the harbor towards the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island. It was the first of these “Horseless Carriages” to intrude on the peaceful island, and it would be the last! The year was 1898, and within days of this incident, a city ordinance banning automobiles was passed which is still in force today.
The lack of motorized transportation and so many more unique differences have allowed Mackinac Island and the Grand Hotel to retain the magic of the simpler, yet elegant times of more than a hundred years ago. Here in the confines of a tiny island near the juncture of Lakes Huron and Michigan, a visitor can experience the finery and ambiance of the Victorian era with most of the modern conveniences, except motor vehicles!
Built in only 93 days, The Grand Hotel opened in 1887 and has remained an American phenomenon with an eclectic history. The famous front porch, known for its classic rocking chairs and elegant cocktail parties each evening, is 660 feet in length and is said to be the longest in the world. From here, one can easily see the Mackinac Bridge, which opened in 1957 and is a magnificent feat of engineering that joins Michigan’s upper and lower peninsulas. At 8,614 feet, it is the longest suspension bridge in North America.
During The Grand Hotel’s long history, five standing presidents have been guests. These include Harry Truman, John Kennedy, Gerald Ford, George H.W. Bush, and Bill Clinton. Movies have also been a part of The Grand Hotel’s history. One of those was This Time For Keeps in 1949 starring the renowned actress and Olympic swimmer, Esther Williams. Additionally, the poignant love story, Somewhere in Time, with Christopher Reeve, Jane Seymour, and Christopher Plummer, was filmed at The Grand Hotel in 1979.
Chris McBeath Smells the Flowers at The Grand Hotel GardensSince none of the 385 rooms at The Grand Hotel are decorated alike, the upkeep and daily maintenance of this massive structure and adjoining grounds is mind boggling! More than 50,000 Grand Pecan Balls, the hotel’s most popular dessert, are served each season. The Grand Hotel’s Front Porch flowers include 2,500 geraniums in 260 planting boxes. One ton of bulbs, including 25,000 tulips and 15,000 daffodils, are planted each fall, and more than 125,000 bedding plants (annuals) are used to create the gardens throughout the hotel grounds.
These are all lovely facts, but they tell little of the tenacity and hard work that has kept The Grand Hotel from succumbing to depressions, wars, and times of financial short comings. Though it would take a novel to tell the complete story, the credit for the success and longevity of The Grand Hotel must go to the efforts of W. Stewart Woodfill and the Musser family, who still owns the property.
As it was more than a hundred years ago, the island is still accessible only by boat or plane, and both visitors and residents must travel by foot, bicycle, or horse-drawn carriage, which can be a visual delight. Therefore, Mackinac Island and The Grand Hotel continue to be one of the only places on the globe where one can take pleasure in a lifestyle that was coveted and lived by presidents and kings in another golden era!
Reservations: 1-800-33-GRAND (800-334-7263)
All other calls: 1-906-847-3331
Mackinac Island, MI 49757
Web Site: www.grandhotel.com