Grand Hotel

View our
special offers

Discover Grand Hotel, which was a summer retreat for vacationers on Mackinac Island who arrived by lake steamer from Chicago or Detroit.

timeline icon

Grand Hotel, a member of Historic Hotels of America since 2001, dates back to 1887.


Architectural Design at Grand Hotel, Mackinac Island

Discover who designed the Grand Hotel with resident Historian Bob Tagatz.


The Grand Hotel was constructed at a time when the United States was defined by great economic prosperity, industrial expansion, and significant social reform. When it opened in 1887, the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island was established as a summer retreat for vacationers who arrived by steamer from Chicago, Erie, and Detroit, as well as by rail from across the continent. The hotel's 600-foor Front Porch soon became the primary meeting spot for anyone on Mackinac Island, especially for island romantics who referred to it as “Flirtation Walk.” A number of leading American figures frequented the Grand Hotel around this time, including Thomas Edison and Mark Twain. Scenes of Edison impressing crowds with his new inventions on the hotel’s Front Porch were common sights around the beginning of the 20h century.

In 1919, W. Stewart Woodfill joined the Grand Hotel as a desk clerk. After serving the business in several capacities over the next few years, he purchased the hotel in 1933. The Grand Hotel reached new heights in its popularity due to Woodfill’s outstanding stewardship. He attracted ever-increasing numbers of guests to the hotel and even convinced Hollywood producers to shoot portions of the film, This Time for Keeps, on-site in 1947. R.D. “Dan” Musser joined the staff as a cashier four years later and quickly rose through the ranks to become Woodfill’s most trusted lieutenant. Woodfill eventually sold the Grand Hotel to the Musser family in 1979, which they have operated ever since.

Under the Mussers watchful eye, the building has grown exponentially while also maintaining its grand historical charm. In the 1970s, Dan Musser and his wife, Amelia, began a complete renovation of the Grand Hotel with the help of architect Richard Bos and interior decorator Carleton Varney. Two decades later in 1998, six newly named rooms opened in the West Wing in honor of First Ladies Lady Bird Johnson, Betty Ford, Rosalynn Carter, Nancy Reagan and Barbara Bush. These rooms were then joined by The Jacqueline Kennedy Suite and The Laura Bush Suite during the 2000s. The expansion of the hotel continued into the next century with construction of the Millennium Wing, which debuted in 2001. This fantastic location features a 300-seat addition to the Main Dining Room, 42 new guestrooms and The Grand Pavilion—a 3,600-square-foot private meeting room and dining room.

For years, this spectacular historic hotel has acquired numerous awards and accolades. The Michigan Historical Association first identified the Grand Hotel as a State Historical Building in 1957. The U.S. Department of the Interior then listed it on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972, later recognizing it as a National Historic Landmark in 1989. The Michigan Department of Energy, Labor & Economic Growth also certified the hotel as a “Green Lodging Michigan Leader” in 2017, due to the reduction of its own carbon footprint. Numerous travel organizations have bestowed praise upon the Grand Hotel as well, such as Conde Nast Traveler, Travel + Leisure, and Gourmet magazine. The Grand Hotel is even received a Four-Diamond rating from the American Automobile Association (AAA) and consistently ranks among the best historic hotels in Historic Hotels of America.

  • About the Location +

    Located within the Straits of Mackinac at the confluences of Lake Michigan and Huron, Mackinac Island has been among the nation’s most celebrated holiday destinations since the late Victorian era. People from across the Midwest flocked to the island for its cooler weather and reclusive environment. In order to preserve this quaint, rustic charm, many of the island permanent residents passed legislation prohibiting vehicles onto the island. This ordnance is still in effect today, which helps to preserve Mackinac Island’s historical character. Yet, before Mackinac Island became an internationally renowned vacation retreat, it served as a military outpost on what was then the American frontier. For much of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, the island functioned small bastion against incursions from the British Empire to the north. This was especially true during the War of 1812, when Mackinac Island became the site of two strategically important battles for control over the Great Lakes. A small population of Native American and French-speaking fur-traders soon resided in the area, giving it a unique identity that was to last for decades. The military presence on the island never fully left until the end of the 1800s, when Fort Mackinac closed down in 1895. Visitors today can explore Fort Mackinac—now listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places—which is part of the much larger Mackinac Island State Park.

  • About the Architecture +

    In 1886, representatives from the Michigan Central Railroad, the Grand Rapids and Indiana Railroad, and the Detroit and Cleveland Steamship Navigation Company formed the Mackinac Island Hotel Company. These individuals yearned to capitalize upon the nation’s growing desire for recreational travel, and saw Mackinac Island as the perfect place to construct a luxurious hotel. As such, the group hired the Detroit-based architectural firm, Mason and Rice, to design the project. Charles Caskey and his brother-in-law, Alphonse Howe directly oversaw its development, though. The team decided to design the massive five-story-tall structure with Queen Anne-style architecture, accented with aspects of Colonial Revival aesthetics. When construction concluded a year later, the building debuted with 286 outstanding accommodations. The Grand Hotel’s original owners later added on additional wings to the hotel in 1897 and 1912, which greatly increased the amount of the facilities located onsite. Among the buildings constructed around that time are a Superintendent’s Residence, a Carpenter’s Shop, a Powerhouse, a stable for 50 horses, and the Grand Hotel’s West Wing.

    The Grand Hotel has undergone a series of extensive renovations since the 1970s that have sought to modernize it while also preserving its rich historical ambiance. The Musser family added several new additions in 1987, such as the Woodfill Conference Center and the Cupola Bar. Special boutique shops appeared a few years later in the mid-1990s, like Astor’s Hair Salon, Rebecca’s, Margaret’s Garden, and Grand Hotel & Co., Fine Jewelry. The Mussers also developed a series of suites named in honor of prominent former First Ladies, such as Lady Bird Johnson, Nancy Reagan, and Barbara Bush. These suites were then joined by The Jacqueline Kennedy Suite and The Laura Bush Suite during the 2000s. The construction of these suite coincided with the addition of some 60 other guestrooms, which raised the total number of accommodations at the hotel to 393. Several of these spectacular accommodations reside within the Grand Hotel’s Millennium Wing or are among its fantastic Cupola Suites.

  • Famous Historic Guests +

    Thomas Edison, famous American inventor known for such inventions as the motion picture camera and the light bulb.

    Mark Twain, renowned author known for writing The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

    Jimmy Durante, celebrated comedian known for his roles in The Great Rupert and It Happened in Brooklyn.

    Esther Williams, renowned swimmer and actress known for her roles in Million Dollar Mermaid and Bathing Beauty.

    Christopher Reeve, best known for his reprisal of Superman in the 1970s.

    Jane Seymour, renowned actress known for her roles in Live and Let Die, Somewhere in Time, and Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman.

    Arnold Palmer, legendary professional golfer responsible for winning 95 separate tournaments.

    Lady Bird Johnson, First Lady to former U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson (1963 – 1969)

    Harry S. Truman, 33rd President of the United States (1945 – 1953)

    John F. Kennedy, 35th President of the United States (1961 – 1963)

    Gerald Ford, 38th President of the United States (1974 – 1977)

    George H.W. Bush, 41st President of the United States (1989 – 1993)

    Bill Clinton, 42nd President of the United States (1933 – 2001)

  • Film, TV and Media Connections +

    This Time For Keeps (1947)

    Somewhere in Time (1980)

Image of Historian Stanley Turkel, Historic Hotels of America Image of Stanley Turkel's Book Built To Last: 100 Year Old Hotels East of the Mississippi, Historic Hotels of America.

Guest Historian Series

Read Guest Historian Series

Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 208;

Hotel History: Grand Hotel (1887), Mackinac Island, Michigan

By Stanley Turkel, CMHS

The "Grand" as it is called on the island, is a historic coastal resort with a spectacular 660-foot long, three-story high porch. Below this covered veranda is a manicured lawn sloping down to a formal flower garden where 10,000 geraniums bloom in season among other flower beds with wild blossoms. The hotel is located on Mackinac Island which is in the straits between Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. It has thrived because of an important decision made in the 1920s. All private cars and trucks were outlawed on the island which gives visitors a chance to live in a village without automobiles. In their place, islanders depend on bicycles and horse- drawn carriages and wagons. Originally called Plank's Grand Hotel after its builder John Oliver Plank, one of America's top hotel builders and operators in the late 1880s and early 1900s.

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. The hotel opened on July 10, 1887 and took a mere 93 days to complete.

The Grand has managed to maintain its 19th century charm and to survive into the age of budget hotels, interstate highways and recreational vehicles. It offers a rare level of luxury with a sense of style that has mostly gone out of style. The meals are American plan featuring five- course breakfasts and formal dinners with jackets and ties on gentlemen and ladies "in their finest". No tipping is permitted at the Grand with an 18% gratuity charge added to every bill.

Five U.S. Presidents have visited: Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy, Gerald Ford, 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.

Additionally, six suites are named for and designed by seven 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), Barbara Bush Suite (designed with pale blue and pearl and with both Maine and Texas influences) and the Laura Bush Suite.

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 Conde Nast Traveler "Gold Lists" the hotel as one of the "Best Places to Stay in the Whole World" and Travel + Leisure magazine lists it as among the "Top 100 Hotels in the World." The Wine Spectator noted the Grand Hotel with an "Award of Excellence" and it made Gourmet magazine's "Top 25 Hotels in the World" list. The American Automobile Association (AAA) rates the facilities as a Four-Diamond resort. In 2009 the Grand Hotel was named one of the top 10 U.S. Historic Hotels of America by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

In 2012, the Grand Hotel celebrated its 125th anniversary with a series of memorable events: Saturday night dinner with former Michigan governors in attendance, presentation by Grand Hotel interior designer Carlton Varney, Friday night fireworks, live performance by John Pizzarelli and much more. A special edition 125thanniversary coffee table book was published.

2018 marks the Grand Hotel’s 131st Birthday and over 85 years of Musser Family’s ownership.


About Stanley Turkel, CMHS

Stanley Turkel is a recognized consultant in the hotel industry. He operates his hotel consulting practice serving as an expert witness in hotel-related cases and providing asset management an and hotel franchising consultation. Prior to forming his hotel consulting firm, Turkel was the Product Line Manager for worldwide Hotel/Motel Operations at the International Telephone & Telegraph Co. overseeing the Sheraton Corporation of America. Before joining IT&T, he was the Resident Manager of the Americana Hotel (1842 Rooms), General Manager of the Drake Hotel (680 Rooms) and General Manager of the Summit Hotel (762 Rooms), all in New York City. He serves as a Friend of the Tisch Center and lectures at the NYU Tisch Center for Hospitality and Tourism. He is certified as a Master Hotel Supplier Emeritus by the Educational Institute of the American Hotel and Lodging Association. He served for eleven years as Chairman of the Board of the Trustees of the City Club of New York and is now the Honorary Chairman.

Stanley Turkel is one of the most widely-published authors in the hospitality field. More than 275 articles on various hotel subjects have been posted in hotel magazines and on the Hotel-Online, Blue MauMau, Hotel News Resource and eTurboNews websites. Two of his hotel books have been promoted, distributed and sold by the American Hotel & Lodging Educational Institute (Great American Hoteliers: Pioneers of the Hotel Industry and Built To Last: 100+ Year-Old Hotels East of the Mississippi). A third hotel book (Built To Last: 100+ Year-Old Hotels in New York) was called "passionate and informative" by the New York Times. Executive Vice President of Historic Hotels of America, Lawrence Horwitz, has even praised one book, Great American Hoteliers Volume 2: Pioneers of the Hotel Industry:

  • “If you have ever been in a hotel, as a guest, attended a conference, enjoyed a romantic dinner, celebrated a special occasion, or worked as a hotelier in the front or back of the house, Great American Hoteliers, Volume 2: Pioneers of the Hotel Industry is a must read book. This book is recommended for any business person, entrepreneur, student, or aspiring hotelier. This book is an excellent history book with insights into seventeen of the great innovators and visionaries of the hotel industry and their inspirational stories.”

Turkel was designated as the “2014 Historian of the Year by Historic Hotels of America,” the official program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. This award is presented to an individual for making a unique contribution in the research and presentation of history and whose work has encouraged a wide discussion, greater understanding and enthusiasm for American History.

Works published by Stanley Turkel include:

Most of these books can be ordered from AuthorHouse—(except Heroes of the American Reconstruction, which can be ordered from McFarland)—by visiting, or by clicking on the book’s title.

Contact: Stanley Turkel

Sign up for our Newsletter


  • HHW Logo
  • NTHP Logo
  • AA Logo
  • WHHA Logo
  • STE Logo