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