The Life of Ludington's Cartier Mansion

Each of the boys’ second-floor bedrooms had a sink and closet. Kate’s silk-walled bedroom was outfitted with a full bath and petite-sized sink and flush toilet to match her diminutive size. In the expansive bathroom of 6’4? Warren’s bedroom suite, mirrors were hung high to meet his gaze, and at his disposal was a generous-sized tub, footbath and—the cutting-edge must for any men of athleticism—an L. Wolff Manufacturing Co. multi-jet needle shower.

On the main floor, a tiled anteroom led to a vaulted reception hall bearing a broad, sweeping staircase. Behind it hid an extravagant leather-walled library, modern kitchen and butler’s pantry; on either side sat a tranquil green music room and luxurious living room lined in velvet-cushioned window seats.

Warren spared no expense, missed no detail. A countless variety of woods—mahogany, cherry, walnut, white maple, oak, hickory and more—were laid throughout the home. Because Kate loved parties, Warren paid special attention to the dining room, installing an ornate radiator that boasted a concealed warming oven next to the built-in sycamore buffet, and a hidden button in the floor for a discreet summons of servants. Even wee Kate’s chair, though at first glance proportional to all the others encircling the banquet table, was special: it boasted an elevated seat.

For the boys, a photography dark room and gymnasium occupied the third floor; for Warren and his pals, a lavish club-style billiards room, accessible via a back staircase, was secreted in the basement. But what most set the tongues of Ludington wagging was the pillared balcony. Accessible directly from Warren’s bedroom suite and overlooking the town, the balcony, folks tittered, was built for one purpose: the stage where Warren would one day give his acceptance speech as governor of Michigan, a position his father had sought—and lost—years before.

Despite the talk and the hopes—of the people of Ludington and perhaps even Warren himself—Warren never ran for governor. Some theorize it was out of respect for his father. Others say governorship was never Warren’s intention at all. No one knows for sure. Five years after Warren built his grand home on the corner opposite his father’s, Antoine fell down the stairs inside his own home and died.

No doubt Antoine died a man proud of all his children, Warren’s successes perhaps most of all. But one wonders if his son’s achievements were ever a threat, if the father felt the sun—or the shadow—cast by a child who followed so close in his footsteps then rose beyond.

Lynda Twardowski is travel editor of Traverse.

Interested in living history? Overnight in one of the Cartier Mansion Bed and Breakfast’s five guest rooms—winter rates start at $125 nightly. 877-843-0101. The inn sits within walking distance of Lake Michigan restaurants, shops and the car ferry.

Article Comments

  • Anonymous

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

  • 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.