Mackinac Island’s Inn in Stonecliffe will reopen in 2023 after huge renovations and expansions

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MACKINAC ISLAND, MI — When one of the best-known lodging spots in West Bluff, Mackinac Island closes for an entire season, it raises a lot of speculation about what the renovation will look like. Last week, that buzz escalated after the foundation that now runs The Stonecliffe Inn revealed new details that show just how extensive this year-plus renovation and construction project will be.

Long known for its century-old mansion and Summer House suites, Stonecliffe plans to open for the 2023 season with updated bedrooms and bathrooms, new private cottages, new employee accommodation, a wellness center , an events center and barbecue pavilion which will be home to a tasty range of outdoor dining options like pizza nights, grilled and smoked foods and whitefish boils.

It’s a big push for the property which began in 1904 as the largest summer residence on the island. It was built atop West Bluff for Michael Cudahy, an Irishman who rose through the ranks of Chicago slaughterhouse jobs to become the owner of the Cudahy Packing Company, a giant among meat packing companies of the era. before the depression. The mansion has changed hands – and been in use – a handful of times since then. Stonecliffe hosted politicians, a televangelist and even briefly served as a college whose ski team students cleared a slope there. Eventually the property became a guest house. Its last large-scale renovation dates back more than 20 years.

RELATED: How a Mackinac Island mansion’s performance hall became the dining centerpiece of the Grand Hotel

Stonecliffe’s most recent refresh and expansion is in the hands of its new owners, which is an interesting variation on Mackinac where some of the larger properties are owned by families with ties to several other businesses on the island.

Last November, the Pulte Family Charitable Foundation was the gifted property of Stonecliffe. The foundation is named after the late Bill Pulte, a Detroit native who founded Pulte Homes and made the homebuilding company a household name for several decades. When Pulte died in 2018, he was a silent partner in the band that owned Stonecliffe.

Now part of the family foundation, Stonecliffe joins a small portfolio of hotels which, in turn, channel 100% of their profits into the foundation’s efforts. The main goals are endowments and grants for specific projects that help disadvantaged or underserved people around the world, according to the foundation. Some of the recent donations include $1 million to McLaren Northern Michigan Hospital to build a hospital behavioral health unit in Cheboygan, part of the foundation’s charitable donations of nearly $5.8 million associations in 2021.

Other hotel properties managed by the foundation include the Hilton Garden Inn in Laramie, Wyoming and Saint John Resort in Plymouth, Michigan.

“Stonecliffe, in our eyes, is a phenomenal property,” said Kevin Doyle, Chief Operating Officer of Pulte Family Foundation Holdings. “We see this as an opportunity to generate more revenue that can serve this mission,” he said, noting with a laugh that “there are easier ways to make money than owning a hotel.”

Stonecliffe’s back yard offers stunning views of the Straits of Mackinac and the Mackinac Bridge. Photo provided by the Pulte Family Charitable Foundation.

MAJOR RENOVATIONS, NEW EXPERIENCES

Once the foundation was offered to Stonecliffe, a tour of the property showed that it needed a lot of updating – and some expensive infrastructure upgrades. The team also wanted to make changes, including adding buildings to expand rental opportunities and creating and renovating employee housing.

They had to close for the 2022 season to accomplish this big list of works, which includes adding air conditioning and new windows in the mansion. Their goal is to reopen next spring. Bookings for 2023 are not yet being accepted, but Stonecliffe fans should keep an eye out for its Facebook page for this opportunity.

Even with over a year to accomplish everything, the schedule remains tight.

“It’s so difficult to do anything on the island,” Doyle said, a nod to the incredible logistics involved in tackling any large-scale renovation and construction project on an island. where vehicles are largely off limits and there is a finished window before winter ice forms. bring food by boat. And once they arrive by boat, horse-drawn wagons are needed to transport most things from the downtown ferry docks to the West Bluff spot of Stonecliffe, which is near the airport. and “The Woods” at the back nine of the Grand Hotel golf course.

Coming from a family of builders, the Pulte Foundation has the development expertise to develop the project and keep it on schedule. Once the property is ready for guests again, Schulte Hospitality will take care of day-to-day operations. This group operates 192 hotels in 38 states, including The Graduate hotels in Michigan. “They’ll bring that boutique sensibility,” Doyle said.

Hostel in Stonecliffe

Stonecliffe’s Mansion is getting refurbished bedrooms, new bathrooms, a new library and an updated pub. Photo provided by the Pulte Family Charitable Foundation.

Upgrades and additions include:

  • Stonecliffe Cudahy Manor: While locals and regulars won’t notice any big changes on the exterior, “the interior does a lot of work,” Doyle said. The bathrooms are being renovated. Air conditioning is being added. “We replaced every window. We found a way to do it from the inside, without touching the stained glass. The common area will feature a new library and an updated pub with a traditional Irish vibe, just with a bit more glamour.
  • Summer House Suites: Renovations are underway on its 32 units. Exterior and balcony works are on the list, as well as updates to bedrooms, furnishings and bathrooms.
  • Private cabins: Four are added. Three of them will have three bedrooms. One will have a single room. How they’re described: “The new private accommodations for families or groups traveling together will include a full kitchen, living space and private patio.”
  • Wellness Center: This will offer state-of-the-art fitness equipment, locker rooms and a sauna. A bridal preparation area will also be included to accommodate the weddings that have become popular at Stonecliffe.
  • Location of the event: Overlooking the Straits of Mackinac, this is designed to complement the Cudahy Mansion.
  • Barbecue pavilion: This will expand on ‘The Lawn’ outdoor dining concept which has become a big draw at Stonecliffe over the past couple of years. This new space will house a pizza oven, a smokehouse, a grill and even a spit. It’s meant to be a gathering place for guests, visitors and locals and will feature a small plate menu and events like pizza night and whitefish boils. “Our goal is to take The Lawn and invest more in this dining experience that people love,” Doyle said.

All of these upgrades will overlook one of the most unbeatable backyard views on the island, with the Sound and Mackinac Bridge in the distance.

“Our vision, if you will, is that this will truly be an elevated kind of Mackinac experience. It’s away from the hustle and bustle of downtown.

Hostel in Stonecliffe

The Stonecliffe Inn is set to reopen for the 2023 season. Photo courtesy of the Pulte Family Charitable Foundation.

A PLACE FOR ALL

Then comes the component that is at the heart of the foundation’s mission: to provide good housing options to employees. The foundation builds new duplexes and other housing nearby, and renovates existing housing for workers. When completed, they will be able to provide housing for approximately 65 employees. Some of these units are created because they are good for families, adding year-round options for workers.

“Our priority, from a safety and quality of life perspective, was to build new housing within walking distance of the property. We also wanted to build duplexes that would help attract year-round employees with families, who would want to be part of the Mackinac Island community,” Doyle said.

The old Stonecliffe staff quarters had too few bedrooms. And what they had was in poor condition. The foundation has identified improvements and construction as a priority.

“Employee housing is so critical,” he said. “If your goal as a foundation is to improve the lives of others, we must have dignified housing.”

It’s also a common thread that the foundation hopes other island owners will pick up on. “We take a more active role in something like this than would be typical in a non-profit organization. The reason this is worth all the effort is the employee housing. If we can help set the standard for the living situation on the island, it also has a ripple effect on other businesses.

The foundation no longer owns businesses on Mackinac Island, but Doyle said Pulte’s family does. Pulte’s wife and one of his children own the Harbor View Inn, and Pulte’s brother Patrick and his family own the Murray Hotel.

“I strongly believe that what we are doing is great for a number of reasons,” Doyle said of the renovation and reopening of Stonecliffe. While he says he and the other team members feel personally fulfilled by this island mission, it also pretty much masks Pulte’s belief in silent philanthropy.

“Our real goal is not just to make Stonecliffe a better place, but to make Mackinac a better place.”

To learn more about the history of Stonecliffe, check out the hostel’s website here.

Expansion of Stonecliffe in 2023

The Stonecliffe’s Mansion and Summer House suites will be joined by private cottages, an events center and wellness center in addition to an outdoor barbecue area. Image courtesy of the Pulte Family Charitable Foundation.

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