Historic hospitality: making new memories of the day

From a former half-way stop for Chicago-bound stagecoaches to Italian-Renaissance splendor, check in to another era.
Henderson Castle
Henderson Castle

Tom and Christine Byron of East Grand Rapids — award-winning authors of “Vintage Views” books featuring nostalgic photos, postcards and tourism memorabilia about Leelanau County, Charlevoix, the Mackinac Straits Area and West Michigan Pike (Arbutus Press) — are fans of Michigan’s historic inns, where they often stay.

“We love the Lakeside Inn… It has this wonderful old lobby where guests can sit and exchange stories of their day on Lake Michigan and share cocktails,” they share. “We also love gracious old city hotels like the Landmark Inn in Marquette, the Park Place Hotel in Traverse City and Stafford’s Perry Hotel in Petoskey.”

Michigan offers a trove of such history-rich sites. Some, like the National House Inn in Marshall, have been welcoming weary wanderers since stagecoach days, others since the Great Lakes State first became a vacation haven for big-city refugees.

Iroquois Hotel InteriorNorthern Nights 

Once populated by soldiers and fur traders, Mackinac Island bustles with visitors from around the country seeking an historic getaway. Both the 1904 Hotel Iroquois (iroquoishotel.com) and the 1852 Island House (theislandhouse.com) are charming reminders of the island’s Victorian past. Queen of them all, of course, is the gorgeous Grand Hotel (grandhotel.com), the nation’s largest and oldest summer-only hotel, which began pampering guests in 1887 for $3 and $5 per night. 

You may not be able to own one of Wequetonsing’s “cottages,” but you can stay in the 41-room Colonial Inn near Harbor Springs (harborsprings.com), built by a Civil War colonel in 1894. In nearby Petoskey, Stafford’s Bay View Inn has been overlooking Little Traverse Bay since 1886; Stafford’s also owns the picturesque Perry Hotel (circa 1899), part of Petoskey’s Gaslight District (staffords.com).

Further west, Traverse City lays claim to Northern Michigan’s oldest operating historic hotel, the Old Mission Inn, built in 1869 (oldmissioninn.com): Once known as the Porter House, it hosted Babe Ruth and Joe Louis in the 1930s. Not far away, the eco-conscious Park Place Hotel (1878) towers over East State Street in the heart of TC’s shopping, dining, arts and other waterfront attractions.

Lake Breeze Hotel in Eagle Harbor Michigan Courtesy Vintage Views
Lake Breeze Hotel in Eagle Harbor Michigan – Courtesy Vintage Views

Downstate Delights  

Boasting more than 800 structures in its landmark district, the town of Marshall features the National House Inn, which originally served as a popular halfway stop for Chicago-bound stagecoaches. With the arrival of the Michigan Central Railroad in 1844, the inn (nationalhouseinn.com) also became closely tied to the “iron horse.”

Not far away, Kalamazoo claims an amazing array of historic homes, including the Henderson Castle on West Main Hill overlooking downtown. Built in 1895, the Queen Anne-style residence cost $72,000 to build then even and features 10 unique rooms with baths, a day spa, organic garden, vineyard and new French restaurant (hendersoncastle.com).

Interested in more vintage places to stay? Visit historichotels.org, offered by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Southeastern Sites

The tallest hotel in the world at its completion in 1924, the Westin Book Cadillac Detroit Hotel exudes its original Italian-Renaissance-style splendor and is cited in the National Register of Historic Places. But the 4-star destination also offers modern amenities, including six on-site restaurants, an indoor pool, a full-service health spa and even availability of New Balance athletic shoes. Layers of luxe bedding and grand vistas of the Detroit River or city skyline can also be found in each of its 453 spacious guestrooms (bookcadillacwestin.com).

A National Trust Honor Award winner, the Inn on Ferry Street in Midtown Detroit’s Historic District actually consists of four restored Victorian mansions and two carriage houses (innonferrystreet.com). Forty guestrooms between them each feature a unique floor plan, furnishings, fabrics, fixtures and artwork; a complimentary shuttle is also on-property to take visitors to theatres, stadiums and downtown dining just two miles away in the real world (visitdetroit.com).

— Khristi Sigurdson Zimmeth, Michigan BLUE Magazine. 

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