2009-08-08 / Top News

Michigan Historic Marker Removed from Lake View Hotel

By Karen Gould

This circa 1900 photograph of the Lake View Hotel shows the structure before the major expansion on the east side of the building that is visible today. Various expansion and remodeling projects from the 1960s through today added restaurants, a bar, indoor pool, more rooms, and included changes to the outside of the structure. (Photograph courtesy of Mackinac State Historic Parks) This circa 1900 photograph of the Lake View Hotel shows the structure before the major expansion on the east side of the building that is visible today. Various expansion and remodeling projects from the 1960s through today added restaurants, a bar, indoor pool, more rooms, and included changes to the outside of the structure. (Photograph courtesy of Mackinac State Historic Parks) A Michigan historic marker that was placed in front of the Lake View Hotel August 14, 1985, was taken down last fall after 23 years when state experts visiting the Island discovered changes made to the hotel compromised the historic character of the building. The hotel was registered as a state historic structure in 1982.

Also, the building was considered a contributing structure to the Island's National Historic Landmark designation when application was made to the National Park Service for the status in the 1960s. During a national historic landmark survey in 1999, it was still considered a contributing building.

Built in 1858, the Main Street hotel, first known as the Lake View House, has undergone various renovations in its 151-year history. After it was designated a state historic structure, the building was expanded. Work included adding 38 guest rooms for a total of 85 rooms, two restaurants, conference facilities, and an indoor swimming pool. The three-year project began in 1983 and was headed by then-owner Harry Ryba.

Lake View Hotel on Main Street today has been extended and includes a third turret and fourth floor. Window placement has been changed since the 1900s, stone facing on the ground level, and a fourth floor added. A sign in front of the hotel near the sidewalk was erected and replaces the state historical marker that was removed last fall. Lake View Hotel on Main Street today has been extended and includes a third turret and fourth floor. Window placement has been changed since the 1900s, stone facing on the ground level, and a fourth floor added. A sign in front of the hotel near the sidewalk was erected and replaces the state historical marker that was removed last fall. Since then, stone facing has been added to the front of the building along with other renovations made by current owner Ira Green.

"In this case, it just became one structure where the lines were blurred and you couldn't even tell there was an historic building there any longer," said Laura Ashlee, historical marker coordinator with the State Historic Preservation office in Lansing. "The addition really overwhelmed the historic structure."

"It's not just one thing, its a combination," she said. "It is really the end result of all the things that [owners] did."

The criteria for a state marker, said Mrs. Ashlee, specifies that additions to historic structures should be distinguishable from the original building. The difference should be clear between the new construction and what is historic.

One of the requirements of the Michigan Historical Markers Act, the state legislation governing the markers program, stipulates owners should work with the state when making changes to buildings, she said. The owners should consult with architects in the State Historic Preservation Office.

The legislation also gives the Preservation Office the right to recall a marker if inappropriate changes are made to structures. Inappropriate changes, she said, would be anything that compromises the historic character of the building so that it no longer meets the criteria for a marker.

"In the case of the Lake View Hotel, changes were made, such as a large addition, that compromised the historic character of the building," said Mrs. Ashlee. "The hotel underwent major renovation and it just no longer has the historic character it once had. They added details when they put on the addition that just were not appropriate. It no longer really was representative of an historic hotel."

Losing the state marker was no surprise, said Mr. Green, who shipped it back to the state office last fall and replaced it with a blue and white marker with a Lake View Hotel logo that outlines a brief history of the building. The expense of specially produced materials needed to meet state preservation standards was prohibitive, he said, and the stone facing added to the front of the hotel at the ground level was not in keeping with historic standards.

"We knew we were going to lose it," said Mr. Green of the marker. "There were just things we couldn't meet that the state was requiring."

Last summer, the future of the Island's National Historic Landmark status was discussed with city officials meeting with state and national historic preservation specialists who visited the Island. The experts suggested the city begin plans to protect the Island's historic buildings or it could face losing its national historic status. In December 2008, Mayor Margaret Doud established two committees to create guidelines for the city in preserving historic structures.

The Hubbard's Annex committee, which has met several times, is finishing a preliminary report containing a survey of all Annex historic and non-historic structures, notable residents, roads, trails, and gardens as they work toward creating a historic district.

The city committee assigned to study the formation of a Historic District Commission has yet to meet.

The purpose of the markers, said Mrs. Ashlee, is to teach people about state or local history.

"Individually, when people read them, they learn about a specific place, a specific event, but, collectively, they really tell us about what a diverse history Michigan has," she said.

Markers are the state's way of indicating a place is important and worthy of being preserved, she noted. The marker program also is important to tourism in Michigan, she said. The book, "Traveling Through Time, A Guide to Michigan's Historical Markers," which was edited by Mrs. Ashlee, details all of the state's more than 1,500 markers. Proceeds from the book help support the marker program.

"There are people that go around and hunt for every marker they can find," she said. "They really add to the landscape. They teach people about our history. And the fact that the State of Michigan puts them up gives them credibility."

Twenty markers remain on Mackinac Island, although some have been taken down because they had outdated or inappropriate language. They will not be replaced unless an application is made for a new marker and the site is deemed to meet current criteria. The metal markers have a green background with gold lettering and a wolverine in a circle at the top.

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