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.