Baert Baron Mansion, Zeeland
B&Bs rich in Michigan history, yet loaded with today’s comforts
All over the state you can stay in homes built by 19th Century lumber barons that are now bed and breakfasts, thanks to people with vision, money, and a deep appreciation for Michigan history who have rescued them from uncertain fates.
Who are these passionate preservationists who have repurposed, renovated, restored and, in many ways, redefined these grand old homes?
They are people of many past professions who decided to become #MichBnB innkeepers.
Let’s hear it for the efforts these intrepid innkeepers have made to provide guests with today’s comforts — plumbing, lighting, central heat and air, WiFi — while preserving the past glory of their homes.
Of course, it isn’t only lumber barons who built these Queen Anne, neoclassical, Italianate, and Greek Revival homes between the 1860s and into the first quarter of the 20th Century:
- Kalamazoo House was built by a cigar maker at a time when Kalamazoo was known for that industry.
- A Civil War hero and probate judge built the what is now the Historic Webster House B&B.
- Dempsey Manor B&B in Manistee was built in the French Neo-Renaissance style for lumber baron James Dempsey.
- A contractor for Michigan Southern Railroad built the first incarnation of Munro House Bed and Breakfast and Spa.
- In Fennville, a university agricultural researcher who identified Southwest Michigan’s soil and climate as ideal for apple and peach orchards built what is now Kingsley House B&B.
- Zeeland’s first physician built today’s Baert Baron Mansion.
- In Ann Arbor in 1917, another doctor bucked architectural trends of the day and constructed a Swiss chalet-style home built of solid granite blocks. Today, it and adjacent buildings comprise Stone Chalet Bed and Breakfast Inn.
- The summer retreat for the family of the man who innovated the semi-trailer is now Maple Cove B&B in Leonard.
- The chief engineer for a fleet of Great Lakes steamers built what is now Heather House Bed and Breakfast in Marine City, choosing a location and adding lots of balconies to assure terrific views of boat traffic on the St. Clair River.
And the list goes on… Beautiful homes. Fascinating stories.
Why have so many of Michigan’s grand old homes become B&Bs? Three reasons:
- Because ordinary people just don’t need 12 bedrooms and butler’s pantries anymore
- Because it seems criminal to divvy up these classics into apartments
- And because you need a very cool Michigan history getaway.
Take your pick….