There is no cost for the tour, which lasts approximately 15 minutes. Experienced docents will guide small groups through the first floor of the home. Reservations are not taken. Simply arrive at the residence, located on the corner of Fort Street and Huron Road, for the tour.
By 1900, the five-year-old Mackinac Island State Park Commission was experiencing financial difficulty maintaining Michigan's first state park. The State of Michigan did not provide tax appropriations to maintain the park, and income from the residential leases initiated by the U.S. Army when Mackinac Island was a National Park was insufficient to meet the needs. To increase income, the commission rented out former fort pasture land, awarded concessions, and platted additional lots around the island as potential lease sites.
The west lot at the top of the Fort Hill was leased to Lawrence A. Young on July 2, 1901 for $150 per year. The lease required that Young erect a residence on the lot within one year at a cost of not less than $10,000. The house was built during the winter of 1901-1902 at a cost of $15,000. The interior of the cottage was constructed of Georgia yellow pine and the exterior made of Michigan white pine. The exterior shingles were originally stained dark green, with deep red trim. Cedar shingles were used for the roof. The interior design of the Young cottage was a classic example of turn-of-the-century shingle style resort cottage architecture, mixed with other styles.
The architecture of the house reflected the lifestyle of the times. Large open porches served as outdoor living spaces for meals and family entertainment, open to the fresh air but sheltered from the sun. The dark stained wood interiors were sanitary, easy to clean, and enhanced the feeling of coolness in an era of heavy clothing and no air conditioning. The living and dining rooms opened to the porches through large French doors, bringing the outdoors in and expanding the space for guests.
Mr. Young proceeded his first wife in death in 1924, just days short of his fifty-fourth birthday. His first wife, Mrs. Mabel Young, died in the Mackinac Island home in July 1915.
Clara Schmidt Scherer of Grosse Pointe Farms, who assumed the presidency of H. Scherer & Company and of The Hugo Scherer Estates, Inc. after her husband's death in 1923, purchased the cottage in 1926.
During the late 1930s and into the years of World War II many Mackinac homes were victims of poor economic conditions and wartime disruption of family life and travel. Many island cottages fell into disuse and lack of repair. In 1944, the concern for the condition of the Scherer cottage – a prominent island landmark located close to Fort Mackinac – and the long-time interest in an official governor’s residence came together, with the support of the Michigan legislature. In 1944, at the age of 77, Clara Scherer sold the house to the Mackinac Island State Park Commission.
The Mackinac Island State Park Commission was authorized by the state legislature to purchase the Young-Scherer cottage. At the time of the purchase, this was the only state-owned residence for Michigan governors. Prisoners were brought to the island to renovate the home in time for the 37th Annual Governors' Conference in July 1945, under the supervision of First Lady Anne Kelly.
The residence is maintained by the Mackinac Island State Park Commission.
The residence was listed in the Michigan Register of Historic Places in October 1975. In November 1997, the house was named to the National Register of Historic Places, the official list of America's most historic buildings and sites. The list is maintained by the United Sates Secretary of the Interior.
A colorful 16-page vignette, The Michigan Governor's Summer Residence by Carl R. Nold, is available for purchase in Mackinac Island State Park museum stores, at the Governor's Summer Residence during Wednesday tours, or by ordering over the phone at (231) 436-4100. The cost is $2.83 (plus shipping and handling if ordering over the phone). This vignette traces the history of one of Mackinac Island's grandest cottages, and contains many historic photographs.