The Grand Hotel is, by far, the biggest and most well-known landmark on Mackinac Island. It opened to the public in 1887 as a summer retreat. The 660 foot long porch is reportedly the longest porch in the world. The imposing architectural structure is Queen Anne style designed by architects Mason and Rice of Detroit. The hotel has 385 guest rooms and each with a different design. Seven First Ladies provided the designs for seven suites that are now named for each of them: Jacqueline Kennedy, Lady Bird Johnson, Betty Ford, Rosalyn Carter, Nancy Reagan, Barbara Bush and Laura Bush.
The only access to Mackinac Island is by water or air. Ferries run daily in season and the island sports a small airport. The island has no motor vehicles other than a fire truck and an ambulance. One travels about on bicycle, by horse or on foot. Horse drawn carriages transport hotel guests from the docks to the hotel. When the ferries stop operating as the lake begins to ice up, the hotel closes down. Snowmobiles do travel between the island and the mainland over the ice, but not enough traffic is there to sustain the hotel.
The hotel has had its share of visitors over the years. Presidents visiting the hotel include Harry Truman, John Kennedy, Gerald Ford, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton. Russian leaders Vladimir Putin and Dmitri Medvedev, inventor Thomas Edison and writer Mark Twain have also spent time at the hotel. Edison’s first public demonstration of the phonograph occurred on the main porch.
(Click on any picture to open the gallery and see the full-size pictures!)
This hotel is quite swanky. Coats and ties for gentlemen after 6 p.m. and no slacks for the ladies at all while on the grounds. Speaking of which, just to walk on the grounds and/or across the porch costs you $10 per person. Since there were seven of us, we passed and settled for pictures from the perimeter. Still, it is a very impressive sight!
Several movies used the hotel as a backdrop. The 1947 musical-comedy This Time for Keeps starred Jimmy Durante and Esther Williams (after whom the hotel’s pool is named.) The 1980 drama Somewhere in Time starred Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour. A few of the sets from the latter film still exist around the island.