Cartier Mansion: A Time Capsule of Ludington’s Past

Front view of the grand Neo-classic mansion, the Cartier, located in Lexington

In the quaint coastal town of Ludington, where the whispers of Lake Michigan and lighthouses echo through the streets, there exists a stately mansion that transcends mere brick and mortar. The Cartier Mansion, with its neoclassic facade, elegant columned Porte cohere, and intricate woodwork, stands as a living testament to Ludington’s rich heritage and history.

Old pictures of the Cartier family

A Lumber Baron’s Vision

Picture the year 1905: the air thick with the scent of pine, the rhythmic hum of sawmills echoing across the landscape. It was during this era that Warren Cartier, a lumber baron, decided to build his family home. The mansion’s Roman-pressed brick exterior, adorned with Bedford limestone trim, exuded opulence.

But the Cartier Mansion wasn’t just a residence; it was a reflection of Ludington’s prosperity. The town thrived on timber, and Warren Cartier’s legacy was etched into every plank. Shown below are some of his accomplishments:

  • Cartier Lumber Company: Returning to Ludington after college, Cartier joined his father’s lumber business. The Cartier Lumber Company became synonymous with prosperity, its planks echoing the town’s growth.
  • Mayor and Recorder: Cartier’s civic contributions were significant. He served as Ludington’s mayor in 1899 and again in 1903. His leadership extended beyond politics; he also held the position of city recorder.
  • Business Ventures: Cartier’s entrepreneurial spirit knew no bounds. He founded the Ludington State Bank, played a pivotal role in the Ludington Gas Company, and even ventured into telecommunications with the United Home Telephone Company.
  • Community Involvement: Cartier’s affiliations spanned various societies and organizations. He was a member of the Knights of Columbus, the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks (BPOE), and the Royal Arcanum. As recording secretary of the National Catholic Extension Society, he championed community causes.
  • Legacy in Notre Dame: Notre Dame wasn’t just a college for Cartier; it was where he honed his character. The Fighting Irish’s practice field, Cartier Field, bears his name—a testament to his enduring impact.

Catherine “Kate” Dempsey Cartier, a woman of grace and resilience, played an integral role in Ludington’s vibrant history. Let us unravel the threads of her life:

Picture of Kate Catier in the front of Cartier Mansion

Kate Dempsey Cartier: A Luminary in Ludington

In 1888, Kate Dempsey exchanged vows with Warren Antoine Cartier, a couple whose legacy would echo through Ludington’s streets. Their union was more than a marriage—it was a partnership of vision and determination. The couple built this magnificent home in 1905. No expense was spared at the time and included:

  • Modern Conveniences: When built, the Cartier House boasted modern amenities—a steam heating system, a pulley-operated draft system for cooling, and chandeliers lit by both gas and electricity.
  • Interior Splendor: Within its walls, mahogany, cherry, walnut, white maple, oak, and hickory intermingle. The main floor hosts a tiled anteroom, a library, a kitchen with a butler’s pantry, a music room, and a living room. The sweeping staircase leads to bedrooms where Warren, Kate, and their children find solace.
  • A Darkroom and Gymnasium: The third-floor harbors secrets—a darkroom for capturing memories and a gymnasium where echoes of laughter once danced.

Sign about Mrs. Cartier electric car

  • Kate Cartier’s Electric Car

    Kate Cartier was known for her state-of-the-art electric car that she parked under the Porte cohere or in the Carriage House, which now houses the mobility-enhanced and dog-friendly Edison Suite. One can imagine that her 1917 Detroit Electric Car caught some attention as she drove down the Main Street of Ludington.

Thomas Edison was a close friend of the Cartiers and encouraged them to adopt modern technology, particularly electric devices. Kate Cartier’s 1917 Detroit Electric Car can be viewed at Historic White Pine Village, a few minutes from Cartier Mansion. 

As you sip coffee on the veranda, imagine Kate’s footsteps—the rustle of her skirts, the warmth of her laughter. She wasn’t merely a matron; she was a custodian of Ludington’s history.

Pictures of Abby & Genevieve Schoenberger, former owners of the Cartier Mansion

Guardians of Elegance

Enter Abby and Genevieve Schoenberger, local luminaries who recognized the mansion’s significance. They became its custodians in 1950, ensuring that its mahogany banisters, leaded glass windows, and ornate fireplaces remained intact. Abby Schoenberger, a butcher and owner of a quaint Scottville grocery store, brought a touch of practicality to the grand residence. Meanwhile, Mrs. Schoenberger, a graceful dancer, imbued the carriage house loft with the rhythm of her lessons for many years. While raising their family within the mansion’s walls, the Schoenberger couple became the true guardians of its historic character. Their dedication ensured the preservation of the mansion’s original essence, evident in the enduring beauty of its floors, woodwork, and even some of its original wall coverings. They hosted garden parties, where guests sipped tea amidst blooming roses, their conversations echoing with tales of Ludington’s yesteryears.

In 2005, the torch passed to Gary and Sue Ann Schnitker. They transformed the mansion into a bed and breakfast for all to enjoy and to step back into the mansion’s enchanting history. Each room whispered secrets- the creak of an original wooden floorboard to the scent of aged leather.

Couple holding hands in front of a chess set- Cartier Mansion
Innkeeper/Owners, Chris & Jenna Simpler Photo credit: Photography by Sue Brown

A New Chapter

And now, the Cartier Mansion thrives under the care of Jenna and Chris Simpler. Jenna, with her impeccable hospitality, ensures that guests experience more than comfort- they experience quiet luxury and thoughtfulness. Chris, a culinary artist, conjures breakfast that evokes nostalgia. Farm-to-table details include procuring pork shoulders from the local butcher that are freshly ground, spiced and crafted into fresh house-made sausage.

two leather brown club chairs in the Carriage House at the Cartier Mansion
Common area in the Carriage House Photo credit: Photography by Sue Brown

The Simplers took great care in remodeling the Cartier Carriage House to include four guest suites, each with its unique features. Each suite includes Comphy brand bedding, private bathrooms with Beekman 1802 bath amenities, and individual climate control. Heated bathroom floors, fireplaces, mini-fridges, and, Smart TVs Keurigs are all standard amenities. You’ll also have access to Cartier Mansion’s common areas, including a conservatory, a library, a parlor, and a grand dining room.

Blue silk Room at the Cartier Mansion
Blue Silk Room in the mansion

The mansion includes six historical and grand guest rooms. Stepping outside the sanctuary of your room, a world of shared spaces awaits exploration. Immerse yourself in the tranquility of the conservatory, lose yourself in a captivating novel within the library’s walls, or gather for lively conversation in the elegant parlor and grand dining room. The mansion caters to both leisure and productivity, offering a variety of indoor and outdoor games alongside a well-stocked selection of books. High-speed mesh WiFi keeps you connected, while private work areas can be arranged upon request, ensuring a seamless blend of relaxation and productivity.

Views from the porch at the Cartier Mansion
Private verenda in the King Suite

So when you sip your morning coffee on the veranda, gaze out at Ludington’s historic streets, and listen to the wind rustling the ancient oaks, remember that you’re part of a lineage. The Cartier Mansion invites you to share and be a part of its stories. And as you ascend the grand staircase, imagine the footsteps that came before- The Cartier Mansion isn’t frozen in time; it’s a living canvas.

Grand staircase at the Cartier Mansion
Grand Staircase at Cartier

To experience this remarkable mansion’s grandeur and history book your stay today- where history unfolds and detail whispers!

For reservations and inquiries, visit their MBBA listing here.