2012-06-09 / Top News

Inside the Governor’s Residence

First Lady Shares Glimpse of Summer House Renovations
By Matt Mikus


First Lady Sue Snyder outside the governor’s summer residence. The residence received renovations to the roof, sun porch, and windows over the winter, to repair and prevent damage caused by harsh winter weather. First Lady Sue Snyder outside the governor’s summer residence. The residence received renovations to the roof, sun porch, and windows over the winter, to repair and prevent damage caused by harsh winter weather. Michigan’s First Lady Sue Snyder has been involved with renovations at the governor’s summer residence since Governor Rick Snyder took office in 2011.

On one of the governor’s first trips to Mackinac Island in 2011, Mrs. Snyder wanted to inspect the condition of the home before it was closed for the winter. She recalls that furniture seemed well used, heavy drapes blocked the sunlight, and, the windows would rattle inside their frames on windy days.

“It just needed an uplift to restore it back to its original condition,” Mrs. Snyder said. “We wanted the whole thing to be done right, so it can stay this way for years to come. This is a state treasure, and we love having people come to see it.”


The porch of the governor’s summer residence has been sanded down to remove the paint, a chocolate color that First Lady Sue Snyder was not fond of. Mrs. Snyder enjoys the view overlooking the Straits of Mackinac. The porch of the governor’s summer residence has been sanded down to remove the paint, a chocolate color that First Lady Sue Snyder was not fond of. Mrs. Snyder enjoys the view overlooking the Straits of Mackinac. The residence was built in 1902 for Lawrence A. Young. It has 7,100 square feet, 11 bedrooms, eight full bathrooms, and two half-baths. The exterior was made from Michigan white pine, while the interior features Georgia yellow pine. It cost $15,000 to build, and, in 1944, the Mackinac Island State Park Commission paid that same amount to purchase the home from the Hugo and Clara Scherer family.

The property was placed on the Michigan Register of Historic Places in October 1975, and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1997.

That year was the last year that the residence received any structural renovations, after Governor John Engler’s office conducted an engineering study that found damage to the foundation, porch, roof, and windows. The porch and foundation were repaired at that time.


First Lady Sue Snyder sits by the fire in the governor’s summer residence Wednesday, May 30. A part of the Mackinac Island State Parks, the residence was sold to the parks in 1944. First Lady Sue Snyder sits by the fire in the governor’s summer residence Wednesday, May 30. A part of the Mackinac Island State Parks, the residence was sold to the parks in 1944. Mrs. Snyder had new drapes installed, and a lighter fabric was chosen to allow more light to come into the main rooms. Since a majority of the walls, floor, and ceiling of the first floor uses wood, the natural light from the windows helps lighten the room, Mrs. Snyder said.

Everson’s Home Furnishings in St. Ignace reupholstered furniture from the first floor, and new mattresses, made in Michigan, were purchased through the furniture store. New lighting fixtures were installed. All of the updates were paid through the Foundation to Reinvent Michigan.


First Lady Sue Snyder next to a new Michigan-made cherry wood dining table purchased from Amish woodworkers in Omer. First Lady Sue Snyder next to a new Michigan-made cherry wood dining table purchased from Amish woodworkers in Omer. The foundation also covered the cost of sanding the paint off the front porch, revealing the natural wood.

“I thought we should bring it back to its original wood,” Mrs. Snyder added.

All of the rooms in the home are kept to their original size, to preserve the historical integrity. New kitchen appliances were installed, donated by Whirlpool and Masco Corporation. Masco’s CEO and chairman is Richard Manoogian, a resident of Mackinac Island.

“After spending a summer here,” Mrs. Snyder said, “we found out the windows weren’t in the best of shape, either, which was also noted in the Engler study.”

This year, staring in January and finishing May 24, the old windows were repaired, or replaced with historically accurate materials. 75% of the windows were refurbished, while the rest were replaced.


At right: This piece of the wood beam was removed from the base of one of the sun porches of the governor’s summer residence. Pooling water after rainstorms caused rot in the beam. When the beams were repaired this winter, a slight tilt was added to the porch to allow water to run off the porch. At right: This piece of the wood beam was removed from the base of one of the sun porches of the governor’s summer residence. Pooling water after rainstorms caused rot in the beam. When the beams were repaired this winter, a slight tilt was added to the porch to allow water to run off the porch. As they replaced the windows, however, workers noticed that the new, heavier windows were sinking into the frame of the walls. The pillars supporting the first floor sun porch were rotting away.

“So we had to replace the bottom half of the sun porch,” Mrs. Snyder said.

“The sun porch, they said, would have collapsed in a short amount of time,” said Kelly Brennan, the residence and events director, “if they wouldn’t have recognized the rot.”

The damaged bases were cut out, and new wood was installed to support the sun porch. The porch was also slanted slightly to allow rain to flow off the porch, instead of pooling up and causing damage. Repairs to the sun porch and windows were also covered by the foundation.

The roof of the mansion was also repaired and new cedar shingles were installed. The shingles were thicker than older shingles, allowing them to withstand the winter weather. A moisture barrier was also installed to prevent rot and mildew from building under the shingles. Missing stonework on the chimney and dampers was replaced.

During the construction last winter, Mrs. Snyder would head to Mackinac Island about every six weeks from Ann Arbor to check on the progress. She wanted to be involved in the building’s renovations. The team hired, lead by Gene Hopkins, a preservation architect of HopkinsBurns Design Studio, handled the project, Mrs. Snyder said.

There are still other projects under consideration, the First Lady said. Next on the to-do list is the bathrooms, which she hopes can have old plumbing replaced with more energy efficient fixtures and toilets.

Even with all the work spent on renovations, and her busy schedule as First Lady, Mrs. Snyder enjoys relaxing on the front porch, looking out over the view of the Straits of Mackinac.

“It’s amazing,” she said, “being able to see the [Mackinac] bridge, and all the beauty of Michigan. It’s just gorgeous.”

She invites visitors to Mackinac Island to take advantage of the scheduled tours every Wednesday between 9:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m.

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