2017 Winter Visit to Grand Hotel and Mackinac Island

The Grand Lady resting during the winter on what looks to be a spring day! Behind the facade there is a lot going on. Lets take a look inside.

At the end of February a few full-time employees traveled with Dan Musser, III, President Grand Hotel up to the hotel to see the progress of the construction projects currently going on. After the hotel closes each year around, 25 full-time staff members move from Mackinac Island to Okemos, Michigan four hours south of Mackinac Island to work in the Grand Hotel Sales Office. Come spring those same employees move back up to Mackinac Island where they call home for the other six months. Five full-time employees stay in Okemos all year around.

With two months until opening, most projects were starting to look finished. A few of the biggest projects going on include the reconstruction of the east end of the Front Porch, addition of three new Cupola Suites, and updating and painting furniture throughout the hotel and in guest rooms. 

Annie Farrell, Julie Rogers, Dan Musser, III, Jerry Toney

During the winter someone can travel by ferry from the mainland to Mackinac Island if the water is open (which it was this day) but ferry schedules are very limited. Or you can choose to travel by airplane and land at the Mackinac Island Airport which is what we did. Grand Hotel is approximately 1.5 miles away. Snow was at a minimum the day we traveled so we were not able to hop on a snowmobile which is usually the most popular mode of transportation this time of year. Instead, just like summer, a horse-drawn  taxi picked us up!

Horse-drawn carriage taxi ride from the airport to Grand Hotel.

 Through the woods we went to greet the many staff members busily working on all of the projects – some big and some small.

 The main entrance this time of year is the back dock which when the hotel is open is where employees  enter and exit to report for work every day. It is also the primary area for all of the luggage that comes in and out of the hotel. Some days over 1,000 pieces of luggage are transferred through the back dock. 

The back dock, which usually holds luggage, is transformed into a work area during the winter.

The flower boxes that line the Front Porch with geraniums are each individually handcrafted along along with other carefully crafted woodworking items. 

Woodworking in progress.
Finished handcrafted geranium boxes.
All the red carpet is removed and repairs are being made.
The Front Porch construction needs to be kept insulated and warm.
Bill, the electrician, working on the new section of the Front Porch.
Reconstructing the east end of the Front Porch this winter will complete the renovation of the full 660 feet. The west end was completed in 2016.
East end Front Porch construction.

The full 660 feet of the famous World’s Longest Porch will be fully reconstructed after this winter. It was taken down to the original wood floor that had not been renovated in 50 years. The west end was done last winter and this winter they are completing the east end which will complete the project. The end will result in a brand new Visqueen flooring from one end to the other. 

The Main Dining Room, which is usually the gathering place during meal time, looks a bit different!


Even the Geranium Bar awning needs a break.

Walking through the hotel this time of year, the air has a chill because it is not heated. As a wood framed hotel, heating the entire hotel is not an option. It would cost a lot of money to keep the hotel heated and for safety reasons it is not recommended.

New furniture from Carleton Varney arrived!
The Parlor is home to lots and lots of wood waiting to be placed.

Upstairs is where most of the work is being done right now, especially the 4th floor where the new Cupola Suites are being built. But our first stop was floor two where painting and updates to furniture were being made throughout the hallway and in guest rooms. On an average day 10 pieces are restored. They sand the surfaces to paint, then hand paint the detail by paint brush. Jason St. Onge is the head painter at Grand Hotel, and owner of St. Onge Latex and Groove who manages the daily painting projects. He has worked for the hotel since 2005 and a common question he gets every year is  “Will you finish on time?”  Opening day, the doors open and everything is ready to go. Between now and then a lot of behind the scenes work is done, even if it requires working around the clock to get it done in time to greet the first guest in May.  

Caleb hard at work sanding and painting furniture.
Travis is sanding every corner getting ready for a fresh coat of paint.
Every piece of furniture is carefully looked at.
Every detail is paid attention to.
Grand Hotel green is perfectly mixed and ready.

Check-out the crew in action!

We then made our way up to the fourth floor to check out the brand new Cupola Suites are being built on the east end looking out over The Jewel golf course and out to the beautiful Straits of Mackinac. The views are going to be spectacular! 

A view from one of the new Cupola Suites.
A view of the Mackinac Straits. The water is open this winter.
Crews are busy and construction is underway.
One of the Cupola Suites already had drywall up.
Taking a look from one of the sitting areas.

It will only be a few short weeks before Carleton Varney, Grand Hotel’s longtime interior designer will put the finishing touches on these new suites and they will be ready for guests this season! It was exciting to see all of these projects underway and see firsthand how it all comes together. It is amazing the amount of work that goes into making sure America’s Summer Place is in the best shape ever for all of our guests who visit every summer. Six months of the year guests are creating memories, and six months of the year employees are working hard behind the scenes to make it the best it can be!  

We will see some of you very soon! Grand Hotel opens for it’s 130th Anniversary Season, May 4th.

28 thoughts on “2017 Winter Visit to Grand Hotel and Mackinac Island

  1. Love, love love. I love how through all the maintenance and improvements the history, charm and tradition are preserved. Visited first as a child and returned in 1987 for our first overnight stay for Labor Day weekend and have returned every year since. Our children have never missed a Labor Day weekend at the hotel since they were born (now 15 & 19)–we love this family tradition!

    1. How special! Thank you for sharing your family’s tradition. We look forward to seeing you and your family again this year.

  2. I love all the”inside”information straight from Grand Hotel. I know so many people who ask what goes on in the winter. The new furniture looks beautiful as always. Thanks for the sneak peek before the new season begins. I can’t wait to see it all in person.❤

    1. We are glad you enjoy the inside information. We are always hard at work to make sure it looks great. See you in a few weeks on Mackinac Island!

  3. In the areas were the work is being done, the furniture painting on the 2nd floor and the 4th floor suites – how are those areas being heated? When staying at the Grand it’s lovely to experience the attention to detail given in every area!

    1. Good question! They have space heaters and then larger ones in some areas that keep it nice and warm. They turn them on as needed.

  4. LOVE seeing anything behind the scenes!! My favorite place on earth! Had the privilege of staying 4 times, planning the 5th in 2018!

  5. Such a special place. Michigan’s GEM. <3 The Duck looks like a very sweet man. What a legacy he'll leave. When my husband and I visited in October, we loved the flower boxes on the porch. So beautiful 💐 Can't wait to come back!

  6. Thank you for the information and for taking such good loving care of the Grand Lady. We stayed for the first time in 2015 for the Somewhere in Time weekend and was transported back to 1912. The Grand Hotel is magical.

  7. Making our first trip this May/June it has been a dream of mine for 37 years. When I met my husband 13 years ago and told him about my “pipe dream” he promised to make it come true! Yea I met my Richard Collier…I am so excited to sit on that grand porch with my love. Most likely will be an emotional moment “in time”
    Thank You for keeping this grand dames history alive ❤️

  8. For years I have been coming to the hotel for qigong and meditation retreats. This year my whole family will be staying at the hotel for our 50th anniversary. From a 7 year old to a 70 year old the hotel offers the best in food and entertainment. See you soon.

  9. Kay and I have been honored to be members of the Grand Club since 2005 and each season upon our return it is a treat to see the renovations that the Musser Family and Staff have planned.
    The early morning on the 660 foot long porch with a cup of delicious coffee listening to the Island come alive is a “bucket list” memory.
    Kenny’s “Welcome Home” greeting to the Main Dining Room to all makes us feel special.
    Our thanks to the Musser Family and Staff for having the dedication, courage and foresight to save the Grand Hotel for all of us to enjoy.

    1. Thank you for being our guest and returning every year. It is guests like you that make it worth it. We look forward to seeing you this season.

  10. I love being able to see the work being done during the winter months. I’m so excited to come up for my 2nd ever visit. I will be bringing my mother up for Mother’s Day Weekend. The Grand is a slice of Heaven I can’t wait to show her.

  11. I enjoyed running a 10k around your island in 2004. I always wanted to know what the square footage of the whole entire hotel is. 639 rooms and the porch is 660 ft. long. wow wow wow. Incredible,fabulous, beautiful, Please tell me how big the grand hotel is. I am so coming soon. I want some fudge. thank you….

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *