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Mason County Memories

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Stearns Hotel History Column #190 Dave Petersen We are approaching the anniversary of the opening of the Stearns Hotel in 1903, this was a long awaited event and one of a string of improvements that helped Ludington to survive the end of the lumbering era. The Ludington Chronicle had this to say in their August 12th 1903 edition. ´The Beautiful new Hotel "The Stearns" which Ludington people have been looking forward to seeing completed with the greatest interest, has finally been completed and formally opened last week. The first meal served was supper Wednesday. "The handsome building, furnished with the richest furnishings purchaseable, and presided over by Captain and Mrs. H.S. Read as host and hostess makes a hotel which for comfort and popularity cannot be excelled in Michigan. The cost of the Hotel building was 40,000.00, the furnishings 15,000.00, and the other things bring the cost to over $60,000.00. "There are 90 rooms and all guests rooms are supplied with a private bath and long distance telephone. Miss Lottie Spencer has charge of the Hotel's private exchange, which is located in the rear of the office." The January 1st 1905 edition of the Ludington Daily Sun had this to say about the Stearns Hotel. " This splendid Hostelry built by the Stearns Hotel Company has done more to infuse a spirit of energy and pride in our city then any one thing in recent years. Cities are largely judged by strangers according to the hotels and public improvements. In this regard Ludington will compare favorably with any city of its size in the United States, and the Stearns Hotel will compare with any hotel in the large cities. "It is pointed at with pride by our citizens to strangers as a example of the many improvements brought about by Mr. Stearns and his associates. The building is a massive structure built of solid cement and in its interior arrangements beautiful effects have been accomplished while comfort has not been sacrificed. On first entering the usual glance of a stranger is a look of astonishment as if he were entering the rotunda of a leading hotel in a large metropolitan city and a thought of increased expense often occurs to him but upon inquiry he is assured on that point. "As a strictly commercial Hotel the Stearns stands pre-eminent outstripping anything in the state in a city the size of Ludington. All the modern innovations of telephone, service, steam heat, electric lights have been introduced in every room while 25 rooms have private baths. A Perfect system of ventilation is maintained throughout the whole house, and order and method are plainly visible in all quarters. The beautiful dining room on the first floor has the capacity for over 100 guests and it is often taxed to its fullest extent. " The hotel is noted for having the choicest and best in the market on the table and plenty of it while a competent chef and assistants are employed. The Hotel is under the direct management of Mr. Fred Read who has achieved marked success. He is capable, energetic and courteous, and guests having once stopped at the Stearns are sure to return while visiting Ludington." Captain H.S. Read who was known to Ludington residents as a sailor and the proprietor of the Read House Hotel in Ludington signed a five-year lease to operate the new Stearns Hotel. This was a smart move by Justus Stearns in that he was able to secure a qualified, competent manager for the new hotel and also to remove his chief competition in the city as the Reads were to close their business at the time of the opening of the Stearns Hotel. Captain Read had an excellent reputation of service during his 13 years of operating the read House in Ludington and he was well known around the State of Michigan from his 28 years of sailing on the Great Lakes. You have to remember that Captains of Lake Vessels were held in high regard, and often were treated as local celebrities in these times prior to the introduction of silent movies. They were well known and opening a hotel for the Reads would have been similar to Jimmy Dean selling sausage as example, Paul Newman salad dressing or Madonna perfume. The Stearns was and is still an important landmark in the City of Ludington. Unfortunately in my search for photographs I could not locate any of the construction, or interior of the Stearns, or the Ossawald Crumb Ball room. If you have local stories and photographs of the Stearns Hotel and wish to share those with our readers please feel free to contact me at 757-3240, davep@blackcreekpress.com or mail in care of the Ludington Daily News PO Box 340 Ludington Mi 49431. Pic 1 This illustration accompanied the article on the Stearns Hotel in the August 12th edition of the Ludington Chronicle. Pic 2 circa 1902 view of the New Stearns Hotel and the newly completed bath house. Pic 3 The Bath House which featured six salt baths, a steam room, a cooling room, a hot room, and toilet rooms. There was also a 20 x 40 foot gymnasium on the second floor. Pic 4 An early view from a lithographic postcard of the Stearns Hotel Pic 5 A circa 1930 view of the Stearns Hotel covered with Ivy

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