My Special Place – Shared

In May I wrote the story, “From Sails to Horseshoes”, about Mary bringing her Friesian Teddie to the Island and received this comment from a reader:

Hi Bree – I found your blog about 6 months ago and have been following regularly. I live in Savannah, Georgia, but am actually from Michigan and grew up on the Island every summer. My grandparents owned a home on the West Bluff. When they owned it, it was called the Petunia Palace. I keep hoping for a glimpse of the house – now owned by the Manoogians. My grandparents are buried on the island. I love this story about Mary and Teddie – absolutely beautiful! Thanks for sharing the island with us all – makes me a little less homesick to see and hear of it regularly.  Leeann

I remember thinking, “Yeah!  A Georgia connection!”  I immediately emailed Leeann, thanking her for commenting, and saying I’d be happy to search my camera cards for photos of her grandparents’ home – or I could run by and take some new ones.  

“My problem,” I wrote that day, “is that the Manoogians now own two homes on the West Bluff – the one they live in and one called the ‘Foundation House’, which is used for many social events on the Island.”  I also noted, “The Foundation House was once the home of G. Mennen Williams, former Governor of Michigan.”

Imagine my delight and surprise when Leeann emailed back and gave me her full name – Leeann Williams Aldridge – Governor Williams’ granddaughter!

We chatted back and forth through a few more emails, and Leeann mentioned her family’s efforts to have the date of her grandmother’s death engraved on the Williams’ tombstone.  Coincidentally, a couple of weeks before we met online, I’d heard talk downtown that a stone cutter was on the Island and was taking care of a backlog of engraving at the cemeteries.  I mentioned all this to Leeann, thinking to myself that I’d walk up there soon to see if the Williams headstone had been engraved.

A couple of weeks later, Ted and I were coming back from Ft. Holmes, and I cut through the cemetery to check on the headstone.  And there it was.

That night I sent the best of the photos to Leeann, promising to go back later and take another shot when the light was better.

Leeann also has a blog – called Willingness to Grow ( – which I subscribed to and now happily follow.  A couple of weeks ago I received a notice that Leeann had added a post, and I eagerly clicked on the link.  Her story was entitled “My Special Place” and told of her childhood and spending her summers on Mackinac Island.  There were also wonderful family photographs of her and her brother with their grandparents.  And there, at the very end, she told about the two of us meeting online and about the photograph I’d emailed.

The photographs below of the home where Leeann spent her childhood summers were taken this afternoon, and I’ve already sent them to Leeann.

The former residence of Michigan Governor G. Mennen Williams – now known as the Foundation House.

The Foundation House – with the Grand Hotel in the distance.

I know you want to read Leeann’s post!  It’s a beautiful story, and you can read it here: if you’d like to read more about Leeann’s grandparents, she wrote a wonderful piece for Father’s Day here:

In between all the daily routine posts you read of  Ted, Maddie, Bear and I on the Island, there will occasionally be what I call a “gem of a story” like this one.  If we weren’t here, I wouldn’t find them (or they wouldn’t find me), and if I didn’t write, I wouldn’t have the joy of sharing them with you. 

A special “thank you” to Leeann for putting her blessing on the sharing of this story!

P.S.  Special note for my friend Lowell, who submitted a photo last week of the Curio Shop at Arch Rock and talked about Gov. Williams and his family riding by.  Lowell, if you’ll go back and read the comments on that story, you’ll find one from Leeann!


34 thoughts on “My Special Place – Shared

  1. Wow, what a wonderful story! I remember that house and walking by it everytime we are there and thinking what a beautiful home it is. This is so awesome!

    • Gail – no clue why that is happening. I can go there with no problem, and Hilde did also. If all else fails, Google “Willingness to Grow” and the blog will come up – then go to “My Special Place”.

  2. Brenda, Can’t tell you how much I enjoy your blog!! I love this story about Leeann! Can just imagine how happy both of you are to have found each other. I am very happy too that a stone engraver was found who could do the work on the graves. I was waiting for one to be found, and willing to come to the Island. I remember the Williams’ and their beautiful home.

  3. Brenda,

    Well now, isn’t that a surprise? I’m so glad LeeAnn was among those who enjoyed my remembrance. I did not know Gov. Williams and his wife, Nancy, had the house on the Island, nor did I know they were buried on the Island. Thank you so much for a very interesting story.

    One of these days, I may just have a little detective work for you to do for me.

  4. Brenda, my husband and I stay at the Grand every October and we always take one of our many walks on the west bluff. This house has been my all-time favorite every year. The street is usually very quiet and so enjoyable. Thank you for the story about LeeAnn, her family and her history. How else would we learn so much about our Island, her people and her admirers? You are truly a Blessing in so many of our lives. Thank you so much for your stories, photos(!) and for connecting so many “dots” for us!

  5. The “summer” house that Leeann spent her summers in is breathtaking! I am always interested in who lives in the homes, what their history is, etc. I went to Leeann blog (willingness to grow) and read her article! She did a great job! I think it speaks volumes about the island that her grandparents could have been buried in several different places but chose the quietness of Mackinac. You do such a great job of giving us such interesting info about Mackinac! Keep up the good work Detective Horton! LOL

  6. Great story. I had no trouble getting to the link. Was neat to read her story and see the old pics. I could understand as a child LeeAnn had no idea what a fabulous house that was. Every year on our annual visit to the island, we sit and relax at the end of the west bluff and marvel at the fabulous houses. And yes, we ‘dream’ of somehow buying, living in one of these houses!

  7. I would like to tell Yvonne from Iowa that there is a terrific book out telling of the historys of 73 “cottages” on the Island.. It tells of the original owners, gives details of the architecture, and has black and white photos of how the cottages looked “back then” and color pictures of the cottages today. The book is titled HISTORIC COTTAGES of MACKINAC ISLAND and (if still in print) can be ordered from the Book Store.

  8. Brenda – it is so touching for my family and me to see the incredible pictures of the house and the tombstone. It is obvious that the house is loved – and that means a lot to us. I am very grateful to have made the connection with you as it is renewing so many loving memories of my childhood. Thank you so much for that – and for all of your kindnesses. Thank your readers for their kind comments as well!! Best, LeeAnn

      • Hey Karen – probably about 10 years ago. I currently have no plans to visit, but after connecting with Brenda, I have an urge to make some!

    • LeeAnn and Brenda- I just spent an enjoyable hour? going back and forth between your blogs to read this island story. I have also jotted down a couple of books to read, a few recipes and some thoughts to ponder (from LeeAnn’s cold stupor drive with books on tape). My husband and I will be on the island in October and we will have a “drive by” of the old family home. Thank you ladies.

  9. Bree,

    Thanks for the great touching story and love to hear the history and see the photos. I can’t wait to read LeeAnn’s blog. It goes to show you how it’s truly a small world and how we all feel a connection somehow in one way or another to each other and our “Michigan” connection as well.

  10. Who would have guessed how far blogging reached! How neat that you have been able to make a connection with someone from the past. I, too, have loved that house along with the other on the West Bluff. I think we have all dreamed of spending summers there! Can we get the book through Jill’s store?

  11. What a great story and wonderful pictures. That is a fabulous house. I love the house and the pictures and will go to Leanne’s blog now. The island has been a sacred and special place for many and certainly is for me.

  12. What a beautiful story! Itsn’t it amazing how we are all somhow connected?! the house is simply amazing! I always wondered the history of those magnificent homes. Thanks so much Bree and thankyou Leann!

  13. I was looking for an article in the old “Mackinac Living Magazines” (not published anymore (but old ones still available) & came across the story about The Foundation House with PHOTO’s INSIDE & OUT. Vol. VI.
    I knew I had seen pics published inside the house somewhere.

    Loved the comment, Jeani, “Jill’s Bookstore”. LOL

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