September 29, 2011

The Grand Hotel...Our Summer Place

Childhood memories of summer vacations often fill my thoughts. How fortunate we were as children to experience some of the most wonderful, educational and fun-filled family trips during the summers growing up in Jackson, Mississippi. Mother and Daddy adored planning our trips and vacation spots each year. All of our trips included driving or flying to a different state and having the opportunity to experience fine dining, tours of grand homes, and spending weeks at beautiful hotels. One of the most memorable trips we had was traveling to Michigan and spending a week on Mackinaw Island at The Grand Hotel.

 The week was the annual meeting and gathering of friends and members of The Flying Physicians. The island was magical...almost going back in time of lazy summer days on a quaint coastal island where the homes are exquisite with their landscaping, only bicycles and horses are allowed for getting around the island and shops selling homemade fudge, candy and homemade goodies are abundant. We toured the island both by bicycles- built- for -two and by horse drawn carriages. Once I learned that Esther Williams swam in that huge Olympic sized swimming pool, I headed straight down the hill in my new bathing suit and pretended I was making my own movie with all the water acrobats I could invent. Oh, to be a kid again!! If you should ever have the opportunity to travel to Michigan, try to plan to trip over to Mackinaw Island and experience the charm of the past.

Mackinac Island is about 8 miles in circumference and 3.8 square miles in total area. The highest point of the island is the historic Fort Holmes (originally called Fort George by the British before 1815). According to the 2010 census, the island has a year-round population of 492. The population grows considerably during the summer as hotels, restaurants, bars and retail shops, open only during the summer season, hire short-term employees to accommodate as many as 15,000 visitors per day.

The  Grand Hotel opened in 1887 and was  billed as a summer retreat for vacationers who arrived by lake steamer from Chicago, Erie, Montreal, Detroit, and by rail from across the continent. Room Rates were $3 to $5 a night. In the 1890s, The Grand Hotel's Front Porch,noted as the longest in the world—becomes the principal meeting place for all of Mackinac Island, as well as a promenade for the elderly and a "Flirtation Walk" for island romantics. Grand Hotel Manager James "The Comet" Hayes invites an agent of Edison Phonograph to conduct regular demonstrations of the new invention. In 1895  Mark Twain gave a lecture in the Grand Hotel Casino and  Admission would have cost you $1.00. At the turn of the century, the automobile found its way onto the island. The Grand Hotel supported an island-wide ban and a law was passed, but not strictly enforced until the 1930s.

In the year of 1919, the  hotel raised it's rates to  $6.00 a day per person. It was in 1947 that the movie, " This Time For Keeps", starring Jimmy Durante and Esther Williams was filmed on the island and at Grand Hotel. Another movie, "Somewhere In Time", was filmed at Grand Hotel in 1980 which starred Christopher Reeve, Jane Seymour, and Christopher Plummer.

In 1998,  five new Named Rooms in honor of former First Ladies Lady Bird Johnson, Betty Ford, Rosalynn Carter, Nancy Reagan, and Barbara Bush were added to the west end of the hotel. Two new two-bedroom suites, the Grand and the Carleton Varney, were also added to the west end. It was during the year 2002 that "The Jacqueline Kennedy Suite"  was added.

It takes 500,000 gallons of water to fill Grand Hotel's Esther Williams swimming pool.
There are more than 500 horses on Mackinac Island.

Five U.S. Presidents — Clinton, Bush, Ford, Kennedy, and Truman — have visited Grand Hotel.

One ton of bulbs are planted in the fall, including 25,000 tulips and 15,000 daffodils.

More than 125,000 bedding plants (annuals) are used to create the many gardens on Grand Hotel grounds.


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