The Wolverine-Dilworth Hotel has sat empty for about 6 years now. But it means a lot to Boyne City. Ray and Karen Guzniczak own two gift shops kitty-corner from the old hotel.
Karen says, "Ray and I actually had a dinner there for our wedding back 45 years ago, almost 46 years ago. It's just been a staple here for town and we desperately need it back, yes."
A few broken bricks lie on the Wolverine-Dilworth's rambling front porch. And the elevator needs to be brought back up to code. But the hotel's early 20th-century elegance is still evident. The big, airy lobby still has the original, intricately-tiled floor. And it still has a long oak front desk with cubby holes for mail behind it.
Shall We Gather
Hugh Conklin is the Program Manager of Boyne City's Main Street Program. He says having someone buy and renovate this centrally-located structure is one of the city's top priorities.
Conklin says, "It's where the community celebrated. It's where it came together when it was saddened by some event. You know, there's just a fabric here to this building."
The Wolverine-Dilworth was built one hundred years ago - in 1912. Conklin says Hundreds of turn-of-the-century, small-town hotels have been restored successfully in the U.S. But he says word-of-mouth can be a piece of real estate's biggest enemy.
Hugh says, "You know, there's just kind of been one after another (story) of failure and sometimes a place just, you know, gets known as not being a place that can be successful."
When the hotel was first built, Boyne City was a booming lumber town. The city needed a good hotel, but it also needed entertainment. So, the Bellamy Opera House opened in the early years of the 20th-century. In the early 30s, movies shoved live performances aside and the Bellamy became the Boyne Theater. It closed in the late 90s. Tony Williams worked as a projectionist there in the 70s.
Williams says, "It was, like, 15-cents to get in. We used to go there after our little league baseball games. My first time I ever kissed a girl was in that theater."
Williams says in those years, two types of movies would draw the biggest audiences. Disney and porn.
Tony says, "One weekend we've have 'Pinocchio' and 'Snow White' and the next weekend it'd be 'Behind the Green Door' and 'Deep Throat.'"
Tony runs Freshwater Studio with his wife Robin Lee Berry. It's on South Lake Street, right across from the theater. Berry says up until last fall a restaurant next door to the theater used the marquee to advertise.
Robin says, "When they took all those little lights and letters off of that marquee and turned the light off it was chilling for all of us that work and live on this side of town."
Robin Lee Barry is also a musician and a singer. She is so fond of the Boyne Theatre marquee she used it on the cover of her last album. The grainy photo shows a vintage car parked in front of the theater and on the marquee is the CD's title, "A Man Like My Guitar." Robin says she's heard word that the theater might re-open soon. And that the idea of the marquee lighting up again reminds her of the movie "E.T."
Robin says, "It's a lot like when E.T. was laying in that can and his heart glows and the little boy looks inside the window and gets very excited. That's how I feel about this theater right now."
The Main Street Program's Hugh Conklin says that a sale of the theater is pending. But no sale is currently in the works for the Wolverine-Dilworth Hotel.