Vanderbilt & the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island

Right now, my husband and I are watching the movie Somewhere in Time starring Christopher Reeves and Jane Seymour.  This is one of his favorite movies and we hope one day to actually visit the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island where the movie takes place.

Vanderbilt Suite at the Grand Hotel

Well, he just told me that there is a suite there called the Vanderbilt Suite, so off I go to find out what the association could be and guess what I learn – the hotel was opened in 1887 by a group of investors headed by Cornelius Vanderbilt! Very cool.  I must research this further.


9 thoughts on “Vanderbilt & the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island

  1. Hi All,
    I’m the great grandson of John Oliver Plank, the hotelier who “built” the Grand Hotel, was part owner and served as manager for the first couple of years of its long existence. The hotel opened July 10, 1887 which was well after the reported death of “The Commodore.” However, hand written records by John Plank dated July 1,1887 indicate that a Vanderbilt was among the first stock holders of the hotel. Moreover, a 1935 history of the Grand Hotel states that “a party of eastern people headed by Commodore Vanderbilt were present for the opening.” Unless Cornelius’ death in 1877 is in error, it had to be another Vanderbilt. Any further research regarding this puzzle would be appreciated.

    • Hi John – you have made me realize that there is indeed a mistake in that article – i’ll have to fix it. Email me! (taneya at gmail dot com)

      • Hi Taneya,
        I’ve come to the conclusion that history is often full of errors. I’m trying to get information about the early years of my great grandfather John Oliver Plank in preparation of a power point presentation that I’ll be making at the Grand this October during the celebration of the hotel’s 125th. I have loads of stuff about him from about 1880 on, but practically nothing about his years as a youth. He was born July 10, 1857 in Shiloh, Ohio (also called Planktown in those days due to the large number of Planks in that area). His schooling, what he did during the Civil War, etc., are still a mystery. He opened the Grand on July 10, 1887 on his birthday. Thirty years old and already a millionaire!
        If you have any ideas on how I can get info about his early years, I’d love to our thoughts.
        Thanks, Jon

      • Hi Mike. While I have a lot of historical stuff relative to Grand Hotel, I do not have any architectural drawings or plans regarding the building itself. When Grand Hotel opens in May, you might try contacting Bob Tagatz at the Hotel as he is the resident historian and might be able to help you. I do know that my great grandfather John Oliver Plank used essentially the same plans for for another hotel which he opened in 1889 in St. Joseph, MI which he called, “Plank’s Tavern on-the-beach. I do have photos of it which illustrates the similarity between the two hotels, if you’d like to see them.
        The contractor of the Grand project was Charles Caskey from Harbor Springs. There’s quite a story about how he got the bid to build the hotel and how the project almost got derailed before it even started.
        By the way, Plank was 1/4 investor and its first proprietor of Grand Hotel. He also put in a substantial amount for furnishings as well. I have an hour long PP program about Plank and all his endeavors which I give to interested groups, and plan to write a book about him. In all, he was involved with over 40 hotels during his lifetime, as well as much real estate around the country.Sort of a “Donald Trump” of his era!! (no political reference intended).

  2. Hi, my husband and I are on our honeymoon and staying in the Vanderbilt suite as I type this. It is lovely, the room, hotel and grounds. Please make a point of visiting Mackinac and the Grand Hotel if you get the chance.


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