Island House Hotel

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Discover the Island House Hotel, which was originally constructed as a beachfront resort for Charles O’Malley.

Island House Hotel, a member of Historic Hotels of America since 2005, dates back to 1852.


Island House Hotel was constructed amid the great industrialization and subsequent social reform movements that impacted America throughout the second-half of the 19th century.

Initially constructed in 1852 as a beachfront retreat for Charles O'Malley, the Island House Hotel was one of the first vacation destinations on Mackinac Island. Captain Henry Van Allen purchased the location from O’Malley during the 1860s, thus beginning a family tradition that would last for nearly 75 years. During this time, he moved the hotel about 300 feet off the shore to its present location. Under Captain Van Allen's direction, visitors deemed the Island House as the "best family hotel" in the region.

Upon his passing in 1892, Captain Van Allen bestowed the hotel to his daughter, Rose Van Allen Webster. Together with her husband, they added the distinctive East and West wings in 1895 and 1912, respectively. The Island House Hotel enjoyed the benefits of those additions for the next 25 years, as socialites from the nation’s leading cities flocked to the area. These distinguished guests adored the location’s afternoon tea sessions and frequent ballroom dances.

Rose Van Allen Webster retained control over the Island House Hotel until her death in 1938. It sat dormant for the next several years, while her heirs struggled to pay off its taxes and upkeep costs. The location was then leased to an international peace organization called the Moral Rearmament Association in 1942. But the Island House Hotel would become vacant once more when the group left the premises for Mission Point seven years later.

Salvation arrived in the form of Harry Ryba and his son-in-law, Victor Callewart, in 1972. Dedicated to saving it from decay and possible demolition, the two men decided to obtain the rights to reopen the structure again as a the hotel. They purchased the building from Mackinac Island State Park, which had watched over the location following its abandonment by the Moral Rearmament Association. Ryba and Callewaert initiated a series of ambitious renovations as such, which ultimately saved the Island House Hotel. The two even had the destination recognized as a Michigan State Historic Site. Thanks in large part to their painstaking efforts, the Island House Hotel is still around today for cultural heritage travelers to enjoy.

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