Visit The Cartier Mansion in Ludington MI
The Cartier Mansion in Ludington is truly one of northern Michigan’s historic gems.
An elegant bed and breakfast with a storied past wrapped up in Michigan’s rich lumbering history, I was eager to stay here and discover what makes this place so special.
It didn’t take long for me to discover the magic of the neoclassical mansion just blocks from the beautiful Lake Michigan shoreline. From a room with a rare, Beekman-designed needle shower to a blue-silk-covered bedroom, the attention to detail in comfort is amazing.
Read on for my wonderful weekend exploring the life of Ludington’s Cartier Mansion both inside and out. With details about these amazing accommodations to fun things to do in Ludington, I’m sharing some of the highlights of my Michigan getaway.
History of the Mansion
The Cartier Mansion was built for Warren Antoine Cartier and his wife, Kate, and completed in 1905. Warren was a prominent lumber baron with lumber businesses from Manistee, Michigan to Traverse City and beyond. This entrepreneur had many visions that would definitely have been considered “out of the box” for his time period, he was a founding father of Ludington.
Present-day Cartier Mansion
Fast forward to 2020, when Chris and Jenna Simpler, experts in hospitality and boutique hotels, purchased the Cartier Mansion Bed and Breakfast. They are only the fourth owners of the 117-year-old mansion. The Simplers have a passion for preserving the beautiful residence and continuing to carry on the features and charm of the Cartier family’s original vision.
Inside the Cartier Mansion
Not all media trips are ever the same, but visiting the Cartier Mansion was like stepping back in time to the royal Edwardian Age with the grandeur of custom woodwork, authentic light fixtures, and original photographs of Warren with his family and notable friends like Thomas Edison.
As a special sneak peek, you will see that Warren used the upper level as a gymnasium for his three sons, containing some of the original weight and boxing equipment that’s still perfectly intact.
Furthermore, Warren had a grand passion for photography, so he had a personal darkroom, where he would develop his many photos. Warren also had an impressive collection of cameras, leaving a few on display in the main house. Hundreds of the family photos are reverently showcased throughout the Cartier Mansion, many generously donated from the family of the Cartiers.
Cartier Mansion Accomodations
At the Cartier Mansion, the Carriage House was a newly renovated project with the new owners, Jenna and Chris Simpler. Thomas Edison spent much time with Warren Cartier, so much so that in honor to him, there is a room named after him, known as the Edison Suite, situated in the Carriage House.
This beautiful suite is ADA-approved and is where Kate Cartier would park her 1917 Detroit Electric car. In addition to the Edison Suite, there’s the charming Stable Suite, which originally housed the stall for the horses and the cow. There’s also the spacious Hayloft 1 Suite, which was where the hay was hauled into the upper loft for storage. Lastly in the Carriage House, you’ll find the Hayloft II Suite, which was also used as hay storage and later became a dance studio with the original ballet barre still a fixture in this lovely, remodeled room.
Carriage House Suites
All suites in the Carriage House are complemented with luxurious amenities-including Compfy brand bedding, private bathrooms with Beekman 1802 bath amenities, and individual climate control and a private bathroom. Heated bathroom floors, fireplaces, air conditioning, mini-fridges, flat-screen Smart TVs, and Keurig’s are all standard amenities.
Cartier Mansion: Community Experiences
The most unique aspect of the Cartier Mansion is the motto that the new owners have established. “Stay on Purpose; Make Your Mark.” The owners, Jenna and Chris Simpler are following in the footsteps of the original owner, Warren Cartier, by thinking “out of the box”.
Their motto is all about staying but sharing within the community. Jenna and Chris have a passion for building on a guest’s experience by giving back to the community.
Guests have a choice to stay at the Cartier Mansion and choose a planned experience. One option is an opportunity to work with SPLKA (Sable Points Lighthouse Keepers Association) and the lighthouse association, which may entail cleaning or painting the lighthouse or other odd jobs to help maintain the property.
Lakeshore Food Club
A second planned experience is volunteering time at the Lakeshore Food Club, an incredible organization that creates a respectful atmosphere to provide a dignified shopping experience for low-income families. Volunteer opportunities might involve stocking shelves, bagging groceries, or assisting customers. Habitat For Humanity RESTORE is an additional venue for partnering with the Cartier Mansion experience. Time for this planned purpose could be sorting donations or assisting with outdoor building projects.
Mason County Mutts: Dog-Friendly Ludington
Lastly, another shared stay is working with Mason County Mutts, where guests can give back to support their dog program called Wagaway. Guests are encouraged to bring their cute canines during their stay for an extra $50.00 cost. The special guest pup receives a doggie blanket, a most-loved chewy toy, and their own personal food and water dish. The extra room fee of $50.00 is fully donated back to the Mason County Mutts Organization to assist in further caring for the dogs of Mason County.
Where to Eat and Drink in Ludington MI
With so much to see and soak in at the Cartier Mansion B and B in Ludington, it’s hard to ponder leaving the Inn. However, Ludington, MI has so many amazing sites, shops, and restaurants to discover. After a refreshing cocktail hour at the mansion with Jenn, the owner, and a few inn guests, I took a short stroll to downtown James St. where many dining options were in abundance.
There’s the Blu Moon which offers outdoor dining and an upper deck patio, where you capture a great view of the harbor. Walk a block up and there’s Jamesport Brewery, a beautiful historic building with incredible beers, such as the Peach Belgian or the Michigan Hazy IPA. Jamesport Brewery also offers a huge dining patio where you can see the arrival of the Ludington Badger Ferry returning from her voyage to Manitowoc, Wisconsin.
After receiving several recommendations from locals on craft breweries, I decided on Ludington Bay Brewery. The restaurant staff was most welcoming with brewery and menu suggestions. I started with a frosty pint of a brew called Tangelo Dream, an American Pale Ale with natural tangelo flavors.
Where to Eat in Ludington MI
As much as I love pizza, I was planning on branching out until it was actually proposed by the friendly manager, Mandy. Ludington Bay Brewing Co. is known for their pizzas, specifically one called Kind of a Big Dill, which is garlic oil, grilled chicken breast, pizza cheese, finished with dill pickles, and ranch dressing. The pizza was not disappointing.
In fact, it was probably the best pizza ever. It was snap-crispy thin with gooey cheese and tanginess from the dill pickles. I also enjoyed the Pulled Pork Tacos, which were braised in their own James St. Brown Ale Beer, with added cilantro, pickled onions, fresh guacamole, and queso fresco.
After a very satisfying dinner, I took a stroll along the Ludington Marina when I heard the boat horn signaling the safe return of the S.S. Badger returning to Ludington Harbor from their daily voyage to Manitowoc, Wisconsin. It’s always a sensational site to see with its massive smokestacks and magnitude against the blue waters of Lake Michigan. Snapping a few pics of the massive vessel was a much-desired photo opportunity.
Ludington’s House of Flavors
A trip to Ludington wouldn’t be complete without a tasty treat from the one and only House of Flavors. This has been a long-time family tradition to experience since I was a little girl visiting my grandparents, who lived in Scottville, MI.
House of Flavors has been in operation since 1948 and is Michigan’s largest ice cream manufacturer and offers 40 different flavors of ice cream daily. The ice cream is actually made on premise with an attached ice cream factory. The delightful restaurant of House of Flavors has a fun themed 1950s vibe and serves family meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
However, they are most known for their freshly made waffle cones, Carmelot Sundae, and the Super Pig’s Dinner, which is seven scoops of ice cream, a banana, toppings, plus an official “Pig Pin”, if you’re able to finish it.
Things to Do in Ludington MI
One of my favorite things to do in Ludington is to take a two-mile hike out to Big Sable Lighthouse. This lighthouse was built in 1867 and is open for public tours in the summer. Big Sable is situated on the shores of Lake Michigan and is a part of Ludington State Park, which is full of hiking, biking, and beautiful nature trails.
On these hiking trails, you can expect to see a fair amount of wildlife, rivers, and views of Hamlin Lake. If you’re looking for a picture-perfect sunset spot, look no further than at the Ludington North Breakwater Lighthouse located in Stearns Park Beach. A bonus is having two lighthouses to see in Ludington, MI.
PRO-TIP: You can find more to do in our Guide to the Best Things to Do in Ludington.
At the Cartier Mansion in Ludington MI
While heading back to the Cartier Mansion, I found a warm backyard campfire lit up, which was accommodating for all inn guests. So, I poured a warm glass of Pinot Noir and joined a friendly “neighbor” at the blazing fire.
The warmth of the fire and the wine made me feel ready to snuggle up in my cozy Stable Room with a hot shower, comfy bathrobe, and relaxing fireplace.
Delicious Breakfast at the Cartier Mansion
Waking up in the morning was like waking up in the early 1900s, with a contemporary flare for the modern era. A homemade breakfast is an extra bonus amenity at the Cartier. Owners Jenna and her husband, Chris were kind enough to allow me a sneak peek into their kitchen to view their firsthand elaborate cooking skills in action.
All of the food is prepared by Chris with the help of his very talented assistant, Liz. They make a perfect team, along with Jenna, who prepares for the guests by precisely setting the tables with fine dishes, arranging fresh flowers, printing the daily menu, perking coffee, and pouring an assortment of juices.
For breakfast this morning, Chef Chris was preparing a sweet lemon crepe with fresh whipped vanilla cream, while Liz created savory crepes. While the other guests gathered in the dining room, they all enjoyed coffee, juice, and a personalized menu with fun facts about the Cartier Mansion and Ludington. The breakfast menu for this day started with a short sipper of coconut carrot karma. Next, a spectacular dish of baked oatmeal bananas foster was presented, which was more of a dessert than breakfast.
After the decadent oatmeal, came savory crepes with melted brie and wilted spinach along with a specialty homemade sausage patty containing 22 different spices. The breakfast was perfectly paired with fresh, hot coffee poured in their signature Cartier Mansion coffee mugs.
Perfect Stay at the Cartier Mansion
A stay at the Cartier Mansion Bed and Breakfast is a formidable experience. It’s stepping back into the early 1900s, while also enjoying all the luxurious comforts of a contemporary boutique hotel. Owners Jenna and Chris Simpler are successfully fulfilling the legacy of the Cartier family name with their innovative motto of Stay On Purpose; Make Your Mark.
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About the Author-
Lisa Baird is a high school teacher for Grand Rapids Public Schools, with a Master’s Degree from GVSU in Reading/ Language Arts; as well as a travel writer/ photographer. She enjoys reading books (teacher nerd) and considers herself an amateur wine connoisseur. Lisa is the owner of Memories Captured by Lisa Baird, a photography business focusing on family sessions, newborns, senior pics, family portraits, weddings and more. She also owns and operates Capturing Michigan. Lisa’s work is featured in Michigan Blue magazine, Leelanau Enterprise, Glen Arbor Sun, and the Traverse City Record-Eagle among other places