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The Bacons' careful renovation has preserved the home's historic integrity. The original floor plan has been kept intact. Downstairs, La Framboise's parlor is the inn's parlor, and upstairs the home's original four bedrooms are now guest rooms. And when the island weather cools, guests warm themselves in front of eight fireplaces that were once the home's only source of heat.
To the back and sides of the original home, the Bacons have added a discreet 20-room addition. Nine of the rooms, including the original four, have views of the water. The rest have verandas that look out on a garden and hot tub. Next to the garden, a new building called the Carriage House contains four more suites and 10 rooms. All are decorated in shades of teal and pink and with a Victorian floral carpet imported from England. "I wanted the home to have an elegant island-home feel," says Jane Bacon, who decorated the inn with input from several interior designers. "But I also wanted it to feel comfortable." Antiques, many of them dating to the homes earliest years, are scattered around the inn. In the parlor, a mahogany settee is believed to have been La Framboise's.
The tranquil setting allows guests to slip into another era. Relaxing in the wicker and chintz rockers on the front porch, you can look out across Huron Street where carriages still clippety-clop by as they did when La Framboise lived here. A second-story porch looks out on Haldimand Bay and the 19th-century Round Island Lighthouse. Visitors take quiet moments, too, to wander across the yard to the coffins of Magdelaine La Framboise, her daughter and her grandson. On their stone coffins, the ornate French-script carvings give away little more than the dates of their births and deaths. Now, with the help of Mike Bacon and the Harbour View Inn, the rest of La Framboise's story is much more easily read.
Elizabeth Edwards is Managing Editor for Traverse, Northern Michigan's Magazine.
Madame La Framboise Harbour View Inn opens for the season May 3 and closes October 26. Call 906-847-0101.
On Mackinac Island, reminders of the life and times of Madame La Framboise are everywhere. For a trip back in time, a fitting way to start is on a ride with Mackinac Island Carriage Tours, which dates to 1820, the year Magdelaine La Framboise built her home. Each driver is schooled in the history of the island and shares it with passengers. Tours are $12.
At Fort Mackinac, the scenery is much the same as when La Framboise's son-in-law, Benjamin Pierce, was commandant in the early 1800s. Historians believe he lived in the Officers Stone Quarters, which by most accounts is the oldest building in Michigan, dating to 1780. Its limestone walls are eight feet thick in places. Admission is $6.75 for adults, $4 for children. The fort opens May 8 and closes October 13.
From June 15 through Labor Day weekend, a fort pass gets you into other historic sites from the fur trade era. The old Indian Dormitory on Huron Street is restored to reflect the 1830s, when Indians from around the Great Lakes came here to pick up their government annuity checks. Today visitors can see costumed interpreters spinning wool and tour the offices of Henry Schoolcraft, the Indian agent of the times. On Market Street, the Biddle Home looks as it did when La Framboise's close friend, Agatha Biddle, the husband of merchant Edward Biddle, lived there. Displays document the domestic area of the early 1800s. Also on Market Street is the Beaumont Memorial Building, formerly the American Fur Company store, which was renamed after Alex St. Martin. When St. Martin was shot here in 1822, his stomach wound became the basis for Dr. William Beaumont's famous digestive-system experiments. Inside, there are displays of Beaumont's work and other period exhibits.
No trip back into the time of La Framboise would be complete without a visit to St. Anne's. The church was rebuilt in 1880 but still resembles the building of La Framboise's era.
For more information, call the Mackinac Island Chamber of Commerce at 800-4-LILACS.