There was a moment in time in the 1990s when the 171-year-old home next to St. Anne's Church on Mackinac Island hit the market, its future appearing up for grabs. That worried Father James Williams. And his efforts on behalf of the house and it's famous 19th century owner, Magdelaine La Framboise, led to a careful restoration and new life as the Madame La Framboise Harbour View Inn.
Like a long line of St. Anne's priests, Williams was versed in the story of the home's first owner, Magdelaine La Framboise, a remarkable 19th-century French and Indian woman who, when widowed at a young age, parlayed her husband's fur businesses into one of the most successful enterprises of her day. In later years she spread her wealth to fellow islanders and to her beloved St. Anne's church. Mindful of La Frambroise's legacy, Father Williams couldn't bear the thought of losing the home's connection to the church. To find a buyer who would respect its integrity, Williams scouted his congregation.
He connected with Dr. Michael Bacon, a Cheboygan-based doctor who runs the Mackinac Island Medical Clinic. Bacon"Doc" to islandersis well-known for his soft-spoken style and dedication to the island. And as a co-owner of the Metevier Inn, a renovated Victorian on Market Street, he had a track record of preserving the island's historic homes. But to Father Williams, Bacon's most important qualification was his standing as a loyal St. Anne's parishioner.
At Father Williams' prodding, Bacon began working the numbers. In 1994, convinced the home could be transformed into an upscale inn, Bacon and his wife, Jane, went for it. Last year, in its very first season, the Madame La Framboise Harbour View Inn secured a spot among the island's grand establishments.
But Bacon's relationship with the home goes well beyond a business venture. When renovating, the island's doctor was captivated by the life and times of La Framboise. Along the way, Bacon looked inward. "If you read her history," Bacon says, "it can't help but make you assess your own life and values and weigh them against hers."