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Discover Hotel Iroquois, which the U.S. Secretary of the Interior has listed as a contributing structure within Mackinac Island’s famous National Historic Landmark District.  

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Hotel Iroquois, a member of Historic Hotels of America since 2023, dates back to 1902.  


In the late 19th century, an aspiring blacksmith named Robert Benjamin relocated to the tranquil shores of Mackinac Island. Mackinac Island sits on Lake Huron, between Michigan state’s Upper and Lower peninsulas.  He had just acquired a storefront called the Star Blacksmith Shop, located just a few yards away from the center of the island’s bucolic village. With his young family accompanying him, Benjamin hoped the business could provide a steady source of income for his family. However, the first two seasons proved to be incredibly difficult, as imported metal goods from industrialized machines were hard to match consistently in quality. Fortunately, significant construction projects began to occur throughout Mackinac Island toward the end of the 1880s, which wound up saving Robert Benjamin’s blacksmith shop. Indeed, local business owners desperately required his services in order to repair the building equipment that routinely broke down. Benjamin seized upon the opportunity and cultivated a reputation within the community for his masterful metalworking. The success of the blacksmith shop even generated a small fortune for Benjamin, eventually enabling him to create a gorgeous three-story house near Mackinac Island’s picturesque Biddle Point. (The Benjamin family shop remained active on Mackinac Island well into the 20th century and it still exists today as a museum.) 

Construction specifically began in 1902, shortly after Benjamin had won election as Sherriff for Mackinac County. Debuting a year later, the residence displayed a blend of beautiful Victorian architectural motifs that were still popular at the time. Among the structure’s most notable components included gorgeous dormers, cross gables, and a stunning wraparound porch. Despite the inherent beauty of their new home, Benjamin’s wife disliked living so close to the water. The two subsequently put their house up for sale and moved into a neighboring cottage further inland on Market Street. Several months then passed before the structure was finally purchased by Samuel Poole and his own family. Originally hired to serve as superintendent for Mackinac Island State Park, Poole ultimately decided to use the erstwhile Benjamin residence for other purposes. He chose to convert the entire structure into a stunning lakeside hotel that could cater to the growing number of vacationers who had started to visit the island . The Pooles completed the planned renovations quickly and opened the new hotel as the “Iroquois on the Beach” in 1904. (Local legend posits that Poole chose the name to honor a similar hotel he had visited in Chicago when the Great Chicago Fire erupted years earlier.)    

Iroquois on the Beach soon emerged as one of the region’s best destinations due to its terrific facilities and warm hospitality. The business remained in the Poole family for many years, too, with Samuel’s daughter Alicia taking over as manager during the Roaring Twenties. Then in 1954, married couple Sam and Margaret McIntire bought the Iroquois on the Beach and operated it lovingly over the next several decades. (A former Michigan State Trooper, Sam had wanted to find a peaceful line of work and collaborated with his wife to acquire the historic hotel.) Following Sam’s death in the late 1980s, Margaret continued to act as the hotel’s sole owner until her retirement in 2020. But under their watch, the Iroquois on the Beach had blossomed into a highly regarded modern holiday destination. Both Sam and Margaret themselves had become beloved fixtures among the countless guests who had continuously made reservations at the hotel. One frequent guest over more than two decades, Jon Cotton, was even inspired to buy the building from the McIntire family based on the memorable experiences he had gained during their tenure as the proprietors! Now known as “Hotel Iroquois,” this fantastic seasonal destination has since maintained its charming historic identity. The hotel offers 45 tranquil guestrooms today, as well as a wonderful dining establishment called “the Carriage House Restaurant.”  

  • 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. But its history is quite extensive, harkening back millennia. Native Americans were the first people to visit Mackinac Island, traveling across the Straits of Mackinac to conduct religious ceremonies. Known as “Michilimackinac,” they regarded it as the home of the “Great Spirit” and buried their most influential tribal chiefs in the area. Then, in 1670, Claude Dablon—a Jesuit priest from French Canada—established a small mission on the island as a means of converting the local Indians. Another missionary named Jacques Marquette succeeded Dablon a year later, although he relocated the mission’s operations across the bay to a town he called “St. Ignace.” Many more French Canadians followed in Marquette’s wake, specifically creating numerous fur trading posts all over the region. Its prosperous trapping industry made the locale incredibly important to the economy of New France throughout the 17th and 18th centuries. Its economic significance was noticed by France’s greatest rival, Great Britain, whose military seized the entire area at the end of the French and Indian War. It subsequently raised a massive citadel which they named after the island itself. The island the fortress remained part of the British Empire for the next several decades, until the American colonists obtained the area via the Treaty of Paris after the American Revolutionary War in 1783. Despite the stipulations of the treaty, the British remained in the area for many more years thereafter. It took the signing of another agreement—the Jay Treaty—for Great Britain to finally relinquish control of Mackinac Island and the rest of the American Midwest to the young United States.  

    Mackinac Island continued to occupy great strategic significance for the American military, as Fort Mackinac functioned as a great deterrent for any possible British invasions into the region by way of Canada (now a colony of Great Britain). And as with the French and Indian War, the British attempted to capture the island again during the War of 1812. As soon as the fighting commenced, British Major General Isaac Brock dispatched a massive raiding party of a few hundred soldiers that attacked the island to be known as the “Siege of Mackinac.” The American commander, fearing for the lives of his men, surrendered the fort without a shot being fired. The British then reinforced their garrison and constructed a series of new military installations at the highest point on the island that they referred to as “Fort George.” Eager to recapture the area, the American sent a force of some 700 soldiers under the command of Colonel George Croghan. Arriving outside of the island in 1814, the Americans launched an assault of their own during the Battle of Mackinac Island. Unfortunately for the Americans, the new British defenses were too strong and easily battered away their attack. The island thus remained under British occupation, only reverting back to American control when the fighting stopped a year later. The Americans kept the island fortified in the decades that followed, although the gradual development of peaceful relations between the United States and Great Britain over the course of the 19th century reduced its military significance. By the late 1890s, the American government decided to officially decommission the fort—renamed as “Fort Mackinac”—to Michigan. Michigan, in turn, transformed the entire island into the “Mackinac Island State Park.” 
    A small village along the coastline of Mackinac Island had formed in the aftermath of the War of 1812, fueled by the lucrative fur trading that had long defined the region’s economy. The great American entrepreneur, John Jacob Astor, even centered his famous fur trading company from Mackinac Island. Over time, the trapping industry was supplemented by a number of additional trades. Commercial fishing eventually overtook fur trapping as the dominant economic force on Mackinac Island, with anglers capturing all kinds of whitefish and trout in the waters of the coast. Its reputation as a fisherman’s paradise quickly attracted amateur sportsmen from across Michigan, giving rise to an equally successful tourism industry. Soon enough, several boat and railroad companies constructed hotels all over Mackinac Island, transforming it into one of Michigan’s most renowned vacation hotspots. A few local islanders established their own businesses in support of the emerging hospitality trade, opening restaurants and small trinket shops. Some even debuted their own accommodations, including Charles O’Malley and his Island House Hotel. Mackinac Island has since become an internationally renowned holiday destination, noted for its scenic beauty and amazing cultural attractions. Fort Mackinac is perhaps the island’s greatest landmark, serving as the focal point for the renowned Mackinac Island State Park. The village that resides along the coastline has also retained its Victorian ambiance, with its residents diligently preserving the rich architectural character of every building. The community remains so committed to preserving the island’s heritage that automobiles are not even allowed on the island! 

  • About the Architecture +

    Hotel Iroquois today displays a unique architectural style that can best be described as “eclectic.” Dating to the mid-19th and early 20th centuries, historians today consider “eclecticism” to be part of a much larger movement to fuse together a variety of historical designs. Earlier in the 1800s, architects—particularly those in Europe—decided to rely upon their own loose interpretations of historical architecture whenever they attempted to replicate it. Such a practice appeared within such styles as Gothic Revival, Italianate, and Second Empire architecture. But at the height of the Gilded Age, those architects decided to use historic architecture more literally when developing a building. A few architects went a step further by combining certain historical styles together to achieve something uniquely beautiful. And in some cases, those individuals felt inspired to add a new historical form onto a building that they were renovating—just like the Hotel Iroquois Ultimately, the architects felt that joining such architectural forms together would give them a new avenue of expression that they otherwise did not have at the time. They also believed that they had stayed true to the earlier forms, so long as their designs perfectly replicated whatever it was, they wanted to mimic.    

    In Europe, this approach first appeared as a rehash of Gothic Revival-style known as “Collegiate Gothic.” The European architects then used such a mentality to influence the unfolding philosophies of both the Beaux-Arts school of design, as well as the emerging Renaissance Revival-style. Many architects in America followed suit, the most notable of which being Richard Morris Hunt and Charles Follen McKim. The American architects who embraced “eclecticism” were at first interested in the country’s colonial architecture. Much of the desire to return to the time period was born from the revived interest in American culture brought on by the Centennial Exposition of 1876. Pride in preserving the nation’s heritage inspired the architects to perfect the design principles of their colonial forefathers in new and intriguing ways. This interest gradually splintered into other revival styles, though, like Spanish Colonial and Tudor Revival. Some Americans even infused the approach with the popular Beaux-Arts aesthetics of France, such as Hunt and McKim. Yet, the birth of Modernism in the 1920s and 1930s eventually ended the worldwide love affair with “eclecticism,” for architects throughout the West became more enchanted with the ideas of modernity, technology, and progress.