The Grand Hotel is a historic lodging facility located on Mackinac Island, Michigan, a small island located at the eastern end of the Straits of Mackinac within Lake Huron between the state's Upper and Lower Peninsulas. Constructed in the late 19th century, the facility advertises itself as having the world's largest porch. The Grand Hotel is well known for a number of notable visitors, including five U.S. presidents, inventor Thomas Edison, and author Mark Twain.
In 1886, the Michigan Central Railroad, Grand Rapids and Indiana Railroad, and Detroit and Cleveland Steamship Navigation Company formed the Mackinac Island Hotel Company. The group purchased the land on which the hotel was built and construction began, based upon the design by Detroit architects Mason and Rice. When it opened the following year, the hotel was advertised to Chicago, Erie, Montreal and Detroit residents as a summer retreat for vacationers who arrived by lake steamer and by rail from across the continent. At its opening, nightly rates at the hotel ranged from US$3 to US$5 a night.
Grand Hotel's front porch is purportedly the longest in the world at some in length, overlooking a vast Tea Garden and the resort-scale Esther Williams swimming pool. These areas are often used by guests on a casual family vacation, for large conventions, or concerts during the hotel's annual Labor Day Jazz Festival. The hotel has drawn some criticism for its charging a fee for non-guests to enter the building and enjoy the view from the famous porch.
Five U.S. Presidents have visited: Harry Truman, John Kennedy, Gerald Ford (raised in Michigan), George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton. The hotel also hosted the first public demonstration of Thomas Edison's phonograph on the porch and regular demonstrations of other new inventions were often conducted during Edison's frequent stays. Mark Twain also made this a regular location on his speaking tours in the midwest.
In May each year, the Grand Hotel serves as the headquarters for the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce's Mackinac Policy Conference that attracts politicians, businessmen and labor leaders from across the state and the northern midwest region.
The Grand Hotel is unique in its late 19th century decor. Designed by Carleton Varney, Dorothy Draper's protege, the hotel is decorated with vibrant colors and the constant theme of geraniums. No two of the 385 guest rooms are designed alike. There are four types of rooms: Category I, Category II, Category III, and Named Rooms. There are six two-bedroom suites consisting of two named rooms connected by a parlor. Two of these suites, the Grand Suite & the Carleton Varney suite, overlook the Mackinac Bridge and the Straits of Mackinac, while the Presidential suite is located in the center of the hotel with a balcony over the porch. A detached structure added in early 2000 was named the Masco Cottage; the facility includes two downstairs bedrooms with private bathrooms along with a kitchen, living room, and dining room area. Upstairs are two bedrooms, a bathroom, and a media parlor.
Additionally, six suites are named for and designed by six former First Ladies of the United States, including the Jacqueline Kennedy Suite (with carpet that includes the gold presidential eagle on a navy blue background and walls painted gold), Lady Bird Johnson Suite (yellow damask-covered walls with blue and gold wildflowers), Betty Ford Suite (green with cream and a dash of red), Rosalynn Carter Suite (with a sample of china designed for the Carter White House and wall coverings in Georgia peach), Nancy Reagan Suite (with signature red walls and Mrs. Reagan's personal touches) and Barbara Bush Suite (designed with pale blue and pearl and with both Maine and Texas influences).
Beginning in 2007, many rooms have air conditioning. Formerly, air conditioning was only available in public rooms, such as the lobby, parlor and main dining room. Due to the building's design it was difficult to add air conditioning to the guest rooms. Air conditioning for 170 rooms will come from newly installed water heat exchangers in the bathrooms. The exchangers cool the air through contact with the cold water system.
Mackinac Island does not allow motor vehicles (except for emergency vehicles) and transport to and from the dock to the hotel is via horse-drawn carriage. The only motor vehicles allowed in recent history were cars brought over for the filming of Somewhere in Time. During the winter months, when ice prevents ferry transport from the mainland, the hotel is closed.
A stay at the hotel is expensive; as of 2007, the smallest rooms start at $345 per night, including a full breakfast and five course dinner at the hotel's Main Dining Room restaurant. Also, rooms and meals incur a mandatory 19% gratuity that is added to the cost; tipping is otherwise prohibited.
At dinner, the restaurant Main Dining Room restaurant requires coat and tie for gentlemen and dress or pantsuit wear for ladies. Breakfast and dinner are available to non-guests as well for $30 and $75 respectively. The lunch buffet is $30 for guests and $45 for non-guests; the $15 non-guest entrance fee can be used towards the purchase of lunch. Other restaurants within the hotel include the Jockey Club at the Grand Stand, the Gate House, the Pool Grill, the Fort Mackinac Tea Room and the Woods snack bar located along the eighteen hole golf course.
The hotel is owned by R.D. (Dan) Musser III
In 1957, the Grand Hotel was designated a State Historical Building. In 1972, the hotel was named to the National Register of Historic Places, and on June 29, 1989, the hotel was made a National Historic Landmark.
The hotel is also on the Conde Nast Traveler "Gold List" of the "Best Places to Stay in the Whole World" and Travel + Leisure magazine's list of "Top 100 Hotels in the World." The Wine Spectator has provided the Grand Hotel its "Award of Excellence" and Gourmet Magazine's "Top 25 Hotels in the World" list. The American Automobile Association (AAA) has provided the facilities with a four-diamond rating. The Grand Hotel is also the world's only five-star hotel without valet parking, as motor vehicles are prohibited on the island.
The Grand Hotel served as a backdrop for the 1980 film "Somewhere in Time" starring Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour. Every October the hotel hosts an annual convention for fans of the cult-classic.