Bay View’s 108-year-old Terrace Inn lets you live like a Victorian at leisure whenever you like.
By Ross Boissoneau | May 25, 2019
Turn of the century ambience, elegant dining, Victorian quaintness, maybe even a ghost or two — the Terrace Inn seems to have everything contemporary hotels lack. Owners and proprietors Mo Rave and Patty Rasmussen try to ensure that’s the case.
“This place is all about the feeling,” said Rasmussen.“It’s not modern looking or feeling. It’s got an old-time ambience.”
The landmark hotel and restaurant was built in 1910 and opened June 25, 1911. The post hotel amenities back then included indoor plumbing, “hot food served hot and cold food served cold,” electricity, and call bells. Early documents stated electricity was turned off at sundown and “late stay-uppers” took kerosene lamps to their room.
Today it’s a bit more modern. The Inn has a sprinkler system throughout for fire safety; and for guest comfort, televisions, Wi-Fi, and air conditioning.
But it still boasts the elegance and Victorian touches common throughout Bay View, the historic summer enclave founded by Michigan Methodists in 1875. One difference: Unlike the cottages surrounding it, the Terrace Inn is open year-round. In the winter, most of the roads are not plowed, lending the Inn and its surroundings a fairy-tale ambience.
That means those that do venture to the Terrace Inn will have an even more magical experience. “Winter is really fun. There’s not as many people,” Rasmussen said. It lends itself to camaraderie among the guests. As an example, she said a couple from Sault Ste. Marie, Canada, discovered the Inn and subsequently returned twice more over the winter, bringing five other couples with them.
Rave and Rasmussen bought the inn from previous owners Tom and Denise Erhart in 2004. Erhart said running the inn was a dream come true for them as well — until family considerations took precedence.
“My wife and I independently had a lifelong dream to own a historic inn and looked around the country. We stayed at the Terrace Inn several times and wanted to buy it long before it was for sale,” Tom Erhart said. They told the owners if they ever decided to sell to contact them. “One day we got a call out of the blue. We gave up our house, our jobs, our family, and moved up from southeast Michigan.”
Like Rave and Rasmussen, they said running the inn was more than a full-time job. “We lived the dream, but it was all-consuming. We had a one-year-old when we bought it, and as he got older, we couldn’t participate … in school and other events. We sold it because we made family time a priority.”
The current and previous owners agree — one of the greatest challenges is maintaining a 100-year-old building. “It takes everything we have,” said Rasmussen. “You’ll see me walking around here with a cordless screwdriver in my hand and Mo with a plunger. It’s an old building — there are always little quirky things.”
Speaking of quirky things … the first time the current owners stayed there was during November, and they were the only guests. Or so they were told. “I heard footsteps in the hallway above us,” Rasmussen said. When they asked if others had arrived after them, they were told there weren’t any other guests. “They said, ‘Nobody else is here.’”
So yes, there are intimations the Terrace Inn is haunted. Rumor has it that, during the construction of the hotel, two workers were killed when a beam fell on them, but whether they are the spirits is unknown. Erhart said he and his wife left behind a written account of ghost stories from their guests and themselves, and the documented records written by those people who chose to share their experience can be signed out at the front desk on request. Many paranormal investigations have taken place at the Terrace Inn, and there’s even a Paranormal Festival each year in the fall.
Haunting is one thing, but finding enough warm bodies to take care of all the tasks is quite another. Like so many other businesses, Rasmussen said finding enough quality help is difficult. “That’s our biggest challenge,” she said.
There are 38 rooms, ranging from cozy “cottage” rooms to king whirlpool suites with kitchenettes and jetted tubs. The Erharts converted the Inn’s ice cream parlor to an apartment so they could live there, but Rave and Rasmussen converted it back to an ice cream parlor and tea room before renovating it into the pet-friendly Garden Apartment. It has a private entrance with French doors.
Rave and Rasmussen came to the Terrace Inn much like their predecessors: They stayed and were charmed. But unlike the Erharts, they were experienced hoteliers, owning the 17-room Khardoma Lodge in Grand Haven. In fact, they were looking at retiring and moving to Rave’s home state of Texas when they chanced upon the Terrace Inn. “We bought a cute house in Kerrville, but decided we were too young to retire. We came back here, and [Terrace Inn] was for sale. We love historic buildings, they’re so cool.”
She said they had no delusions about the work in front of them. “It’s not like a B&B. This is a hotel, 38 rooms, and a restaurant,” said Rasmussen. “You’ve got to have a lot of energy and be multi-skilled — or just crazy.”
SHALL WE DINE?
For Mo Rave, one of the draws to the Terrace Inn was the fact it had a restaurant. The chandelier-lit 1911 Room is overseen by Executive Chef Zak Ryan. He received his culinary schooling in Philadelphia before returning to his native northern Michigan.
The menu is a collaborative effort among Ryan, Rasmussen, and Rave, who does enjoy being in the kitchen. He can be found doing everything from making pasta from scratch or crafting homemade ice cream. “It’s bourbon-soaked cherries and chocolate chunks in vanilla custard,” he said of the ice cream.
As for the pasta, it can take the form of ravioli, linguini, or the current menu staple, angel-hair, with roasted red pepper, pine nuts, spinach and lemon zest. The so-called Heavenly Pasta can then be paired with shrimp, chicken, or clams.
Other menu favorites are Marrakesh vegetable curry, bone-in pork chops (“center-cut with polenta and a blueberry glaze,” according to Rave), or Rasmussen’s favorite, the potato-crusted walleye. Whitefish, a couple chicken dishes, and a bacon-wrapped bistro filet round out the entrees, while salads include heirloom beet, spinach and roasted edamame among others.
Besides the ice cream, other desserts at the 1911 Room include crème brûlée, salted caramel panna cotta, and lemon berry Napoleon, which Rave says offers beautiful color in addition to great taste.