The Grand Hotel is an integral part of Mackinac Island, and when she closes, and her employees leave for sunnier climates, it is the final puzzle piece the island needs to officially complete the season.
Jill and I were at the Grand Monday afternoon for “the running of the chairs” – a tradition where every available employee reports to the front porch, picks up a rocking chair, or a bench, or a table and brings it into the hotel ballroom to be stored for the winter. For the last two seasons, the hotel has offered a “Close the Grand” special, and guests have been privy to all the customs and chores that surround closing a hotel of the Grand’s caliber for the season.
Monday was a cold, gray day, and not many guests were out on the porch just minutes before the "run" began.
No one told the Grand porch geraniums Tuesday was closing day. They were still as beautiful as ever.
Jill - getting in one last "rock". The gentleman behind her in the window chose to stay inside where it was much warmer!
Inside, I asked why a chair was placed in the middle of the "runway" and was told it was there so the runners carrying furniture over their heads would veer around the chair and not hit the chandelier above.
At precisely 3 p.m., employees who could leave their positions began to go out on the porch and bring in the furniture. First the west end of the porch was cleared . . .
. . . and then the east end.
This carrying method allowed the employee to keep his hands warm in his pockets!
Along with the rocking chairs came the tables sitting beside them.
Hmmm . . . obviously a carrying technique that calls for the avoiding of the chandelier!
Once inside, the furniture was carried through the lobby and up the steps into the Grand ballroom.
In less than 30 minutes the 660 foot front porch and the Geranium Bar next to the Main Dining Room had been cleared, and every piece of furniture was neatly placed inside the ballroom.
The giant chess set, which sits on the east end of the porch and has pieces as large as the children who play with them, now sits on the ballroom stage - where nightly, during the season, big band music is played for dancing guests.
The porch is bare - west . . . .
. . . . and east - except for the giant pots of geraniums.
Knowing the geraniums would be gone after Tuesday's closing, I stopped to take a few last photographs.
A new tradition this year was offering the geraniums to the guests as they left the hotel.
Another perk guests of the Grand have during the Closing of the Grand special event is the opportunity to walk into any of the hotel’s rooms if the house staff is inside cleaning and has left the door open – which they are encouraged to do. Jill and I decided to wander around upstairs and see if we could find any of the special suites open – like one of the five First Lady Suites. We didn’t see any of those, but we were lucky enough to find the door to the Presidential Suite open, and Oh. My. Goodness. I felt funny taking photos of the suite to post online (just didn’t seem right, and I know that’s weird), but I will tell you it was huge, with a large bedroom with two four-poster beds on each side of a very large living area. The only photo I took inside was this one – one of five Presidents who have stayed at the Grand,
President John F. Kennedy
BUT – we stepped outside on the balcony of the Presidential Suite, and I had no qualms whatsoever photographing the view from up there. The Presidential Suite is directly above the front doors, and that huge balcony above the doors is the Presidential Balcony.
Round Island Lighthouse from the balcony - pretty nifty view, huh?
Looking over the Tea Garden toward Round Island . . .
. . . and out over the Straits of Mackinac to the bridge.
The Masco Cottage is another part of the Grand Hotel I never thought I’d get to see. It is attached by a walkway, and is actually a separate house with two stories, several bedrooms and bathrooms, a library, kitchen, sunroom . . . . well, you get my drift. It is GRAND! Again, we got lucky and found housekeeping busy at work and just walked in. Again, no photos inside, but the views from THAT porch were unbelievable!
From the Masco Cottage porch, you look directly out at the Governor's Summer Residence. You can also see the tower at Mission Point.
Looking over the Jewel Golf Course you can see the Straits and Round and Bois Blanc Islands . . .
. . . and straight down Cadotte is the Round Island Passage Lighthouse. Wonder if they'd let me just spend the night on that porch . . .
At 9:30 Tuesday morning, Jill and I were back at the Grand for the official closing. Guests gathered in the lobby and, in what has been the tradition for many years, R.D. Musser Jr. and son Dan Musser III walked down the stairs to the landing above the lobby, ringing the bell that signaled the end of the season.
Walking around to the Grand entrance on Tuesday morning, I got to watch an assembly line of gardeners unpotting a few of the thousand or so geraniums no one took home. These flowers will go into the Grand compost pile, and it will take three years before 2011's geraniums become 2014's potting soil. Full circle once more.
In the flower bed outside Margaret's Garden, workers were removing the wooden coverings (which will be stored inside) and covering the lights with protective shields.
All the tulips bulbs now rest safe in the ground, where they'll sleep the winter away, then awaken to announce spring.
In the Grand lobby, employees and guests awaited the arrival of the Mussers.
Check-out would immediately follow the Mussers' announcement, so most everyone knew this was the final "moment" in the Grand's season.
R.D. Musser, Jr. took the microphone first and thanked everyone for a wonderful season. Musser just recently announced his retirement and has turned over the responsibility of running the 1887 Mackinac Island landmark to . . . .
. . . his son, Dan Musser III. He invited guests back next year for the celebration of the Grand Hotel's 125th birthday. Wow! I can't wait to see what they have planned!
Mr. Musser graciously allowed Jill to snap this photo.
After the closing bell, the hundreds of remaining details that have to happen to allow the lady on the hill to sleep through the winter began. Friend Mary and her crew removed all the remaining geraniums from the flower boxes on the porch.
Each one of the almost 1300 geraniums was planted by hand in the spring, and now they were removed the same way.
The last guests boarded the Grand omnibuses for the trip to the ferries.
Later that afternoon, the Grand posted this photo of the carpet being covered in front of the check-in desk, . . . .
. . . and sheets covering all the Grand furniture.
The Grand Lady on the Hill is dark tonight. During the winter, there are very few areas that are heated because 99% of the administrative offices are moved off the island and downstate. During winter days, work is done throughout the hotel – but only the part being worked on is heated. Closing chores will continue for several days, but when the sun sets, the magnificent white building stands a lonely vigil.
She has earned her winter’s sleep.
Today Ted and I went to the ferry dock to see Jill and Frankie and Hershey off. It’s usually Jill waving to us as we leave, but it didn’t work out that way this year – goodbyes are always sad.
On Thursday I’ll be taking Bear for a final grooming in Cheboygan and buying a few groceries to see us through until we leave on Sunday. There’ll be a post on Friday – I’ve spent some time these last few days photographing the closing of the island, and I think you’ll enjoy seeing that – sad also – but part of the circle.
We’re barreling toward Sunday now. Almost done packing. See you back here on Friday.
Missing ya'll already!
Missing ya'll already - did I already say that?