It has 11 bedrooms, nine-and-a-half baths, more than 7,000 square-feet and a porch with stunning views of the Jewel Golf Course, Grand Hotel, Mackinac Bridge and the harbor far below. It has hosted guests including Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, Gerald R. Ford, John F. Kennedy, and Harry Truman.
And it invites you for a visit, too.
It has been 75 years since the Mackinac Island State Park Commission bought what became the Michigan Governor’s Summer Residence. To this day, the home remains one of many unique sights to see on a narrated carriage tour around Mackinac Island.
The property is also open for free public tours every Wednesday through the summer (*Note, this tour is not available during the 2021 season.) About 4,500 people from around the country tour the residence each year, guided by knowledgeable docents who share interesting tidbits about the home’s furnishings and the people who have stayed there through the decades.
For starters, here are a few basics on the Michigan Governor’s Summer Residence:
- The historic three-story home at Huron Road and Fort Street, near Fort Mackinac, was one of the first cottages built on state parkland as Mackinac Island transitioned from a military hub to a tourism attraction. But it wasn’t built as a second home for the governor.
- The Governor’s Summer Residence originally was built in 1902 as a private cottage for the family of Lawrence A. Young, a prominent Chicago lawyer. Young was a Princeton University baseball team captain whose father, Louisville attorney Bennett H. Young, led a cavalry raid from Canada into Vermont as a Confederate Army colonel during the Civil War.
- Before building his cottage, called “The Knoll,” on Mackinac Island, Lawrence A. Young moved from Kentucky to Chicago and married Mable Wheeler, a daughter of the Chicago City Railway president. (Wheeler later died in her 40s at The Knoll.) Young worked in law for the railway and the city and served as president of the Washington Park Club, which had one of the country’s finest horse racing tracks at the time.
- The property where the Governor’s Summer Residence sits, on a bluff overlooking the Straits of Mackinac, is one of several in the state park that was leased for private cottages around the beginning of the 20th The cottage was built by Patrick Doud, the great-uncle of longtime Mackinac Island Mayor Margaret M. Doud.
- Features of the home include Michigan white pine construction on the outside and Georgia yellow pine on the inside. The house includes a full basement, servant’s quarters, and an outside garden.
- The Young family kept the cottage until the 1920s when it was purchased by a wealthy Detroit-area family. Then, in 1944, the state park commission bought it for $15,000 – or about $218,000 in today’s dollars. Prisoners were brought to the island to help renovate the cottage, and the commission has maintained the home ever since.
- Each day, in a tradition started by Gerald R. Ford when he visited Mackinac Island as a teenager, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts serving on the island in the Governor’s Honor Guard conduct flag ceremonies outside the home.
- In 1997, the Governor’s Summer Residence was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Come see the Michigan Governor’s Summer Residence yourself. Here’s the latest tour schedule.