People who believe entrepreneurs are motivated solely by money would have trouble explaining Mackinac Island’s Grand Hotel, an internationally renowned tourist resort that stayed open while struggling for decades just to make ends meet.
The Grand Hotel opened its doors in 1887 with hopes of accommodating visitors to beautiful Mackinac Island. But those hopes were soon dashed as three successive managers failed to earn any profit from the hotel, which suffered from northern Michigan’s short summer tourist season.
One frustrated manager in 1910 even proposed to tear down the near-bankrupt hotel and sell the land. But the hotel continued to muddle along until 1923, when a young clerk named William Woodfill took over as manager.
Woodfill immediately began enhancing the Grand Hotel’s elegance and charm, but the hard times continued through the unprofitable years of the Great Depression and World War II. But Woodfill persevered and by the time he sold it in 1979, the hotel had finally emerged as a world-class resort.
Woodfill died in 1984, but for 56 years the freedom to pursue his love for the Grand Hotel ensured that one of Michigan’s most treasured landmarks would continue to enrich us all.
For the Mackinac Center, this is Catherine Martin.