The Life of Ludington's Cartier Mansion

The apple, it seems, didn’t fall far from the tree. During Antoine’s mayoral reign, Warren graduated high school, and like his father before him, left home to make his own way in the world. At age 16, he moved to Montreal for business school, then, before enrolling at Notre Dame University, worked two years as a bookkeeper to defray his college expenses. Tall and strong—again, like his father—Warren led Notre Dame’s first football team, rowed with the school crew and graduated with a degree in Civil Engineering.

When he returned to Ludington, Warren joined his father’s lumber businesses and within the year embarked on what he later called his life’s most important achievement: his marriage to Kate Dempsey, a petite and vivacious gal from Wisconsin.

The city greeted the newlyweds in style, flooding them with wedding gifts—pearl-handled fruit knives, oyster forks, table linens, poetry books, vases, silver spoons, pickle castors, teapots, and more—which the newspaper dutifully recounted. But likely the greatest gift of all came from Antoine himself. He gave the newlyweds a vast Victorian home—fully furnished and outfitted with the requisite porch, peaks and turret—one door east of his own.If Warren followed closely in his father’s footsteps, he certainly didn’t stay in Antoine’s shadow. He and Kate started a family of their own—three sons in three years—and Warren kicked off his own business ventures. While still working with his father, he partnered up with William Rath to create Rath & Cartier, a full-scale lumber firm. He organized the Ludington Gas Company to fuel the city. Fed up with the patchy service of the Bell Telephone Company, he launched the United Home Telephone Company, which went on to serve dozens of Michigan cities. He founded Ludington State Bank, headed up nine banks in other communities and became exceptionally wealthy in his own right.

And like Antoine, Warren gave back. When his old alma mater couldn’t get a dollar from its alumni to build an enclosed athletic field in 1899, Warren not only promised aid but provided all the lumber for the proposed project, then offered to construct a fence and a grandstand, too. Notre Dame honored him by naming it Cartier Field; the football team honored him by going 23 straight years, undefeated, on its turf. A devoted Catholic like his father, Warren also helped found the Catholic Extension Society, which aided poor parishes and missions around the nation and later earned him a layman’s highest honor: a knighting by the pope.

So perhaps it does not come as a surprise that in 1899 and again in 1903, Warren, like his dad, was elected mayor of Ludington. Very much unlike his Democrat father, however, Warren ran on the Republican ticket. And shortly after his second term, Warren broke ground of another sort. He moved his family from the house Antoine had gifted him and into a home of his own design, the finest the city of Ludington had ever seen. It sat directly opposite his father’s.

Was Warren’s mansion a son’s attempt to outshine his father? A pointed effort to showcase his independent successes? Or simply the natural consequence of an accomplished man’s desire to build a home of his own? Whatever Warren’s motive, his home was a masterpiece. Built of Roman pressed brick and trimmed with Bedford limestone, the three-story mansion boasted the latest and greatest in modern conveniences: a progressive steam heating system, which allowed the occupants to adjust the temperature of any room to an exact setting; a pulley-operated draft system to provide cooling; transition chandeliers lit by both gas and electricity.

Article Comments

  • Anonymous

    You seem way too obsessed with Kate Dempsey-Cartier’s small stature and miniature acolytes.

  • Lynda Twardowski

    I see your point. So I send you a BIG thank you for reading and writing in!

  • Anonymous

    Started reading this at the doctor’s office today in Florida…got called in too quickly and couldn’t finish it…was so pleased to find it online! We live in Southwest Michigan most of the year and have a daughter living in Ludington, so I was drawn to the Traverse magazine in the waiting room…very interesting article.

  • Anonymous

    Having owned a cottage on Hamlin Lake for 55 years, it is with delight that I read the tales of the Cartier family and Ludington. What a pleasure!

  • Anonymous

    This is a beautiful website of a beautiful city which we have visited several years ago. We had a wonderful self-guided tour through your murals society booklet. Why don’t you mention them more in your web site. We found them to be fascinating ! When I just found the mural booklet again, I could not remember where Ludington was – at a quick glance I didn’t see Michigan on the booklet. Then I found your nice website and enjoyed all of your photos of the town. It brought back nice memories of the wonderful day we spent in Ludington MI. We pray all is well there, and Thank You for all of these memories !!! We lived in Cape Girardeau MO for 9 years, and we had murals there too.

    Jeannette Kralemann – Carlyle Illinois

  • Anonymous

    I was surprised to have been treated so rudely after hearing such great reviews about the Cartier Mansion. My husband & I stopped by the house while in Ludington to get more info for our next trip in the area. We were met at the door (then open) by Sue Ann who was VERY brusque, handed us a price sheet, and then closed the door behind us like unwelcome intruders. Maybe she was having a bad day but I certainly will never stay there based on that one experience – Her attitude said it all.