An artisan hotel is taking shape in a 139-year-old former Grand Ledge church
GRAND LEDGE - At the corner of West Scott and Harrison streets is the oldest standing church building in the city.
Originally home to Grand Ledge Baptist Church, now located on Willow Highway, it dates back 139 years, to 1879, and is part of the community's historical landscape.
By next fall it will be transformed into a modern but "cozy" 12-room artisan hotel.
The building's exterior won't change much, but its owner Ann Duchene is laying the groundwork to spend an estimated $500,000 to completely transform the interior.
She bought it out of foreclosure for $130,000 after it had housed the offices for a home-schooling services company.
When finished, the hotel will offer a progressive business model, and a hospitality experience that promotes what Grand Ledge and the greater Lansing area has to offer in an intimate and comfortable guest space.
On a recent Thursday morning snowflakes fell on the steps just outside the property's front doors. Construction work on the hotel will start in January, but if you look closely you can already see subtle signs of what's to come.
Glass doors at the entrance bear the frosted outline of the future hotel's logo — a rabbit dangling a pair of mittens from its paws.
"Rabbit & Mitten" the lettering reads underneath.
A 'luxurious, but affordable experience'
The hotel's name, Rabbit & Mitten, is a nod to how many Michiganders describe the state's outline — as an Upper Peninsula shaped like a rabbit leaping over the mitten-shaped Lower Peninsula below it, Duchene, 41, said.
“It’s kind of a nod to Michigan in general, without being so obvious," Duchene said, from a seat inside the addition to the side of the brick church. The doors will eventually be replaced.
The 2,500-square-foot space was added in the early 1960s, and it was the first thing Duchene tackled after buying the property in 2016.She invested $30,000 in those renovations. Now that addition offers a mix of open and private office space. A business and a nonprofit are renting space there now while Duchene is still finishing odds and ends including trim work and painting.
Construction work inside the church itself is poised to begin in January.
Drawings detail her conceptual design for Rabbit & Mitten's 6,500-square-foot space.
The hotel’s interior will have a cozy, but modern feel, Duchene said, with some nods to the history of the building. She hopes to use exposed brick where ever possible, and at least half of the guest rooms will offer electrical fireplaces.
“I want everyone to feel like they have a luxurious, but affordable experience,” she said. “It will be a peaceful experience. Right now, it looks like the price will be around $150 a night for the average room.”
The glass doors on the front of the church will be replaced with wooden ones, and brick work on the outside of the building will be repaired. A door on the back of the building will offer access to the hotel’s courtyard garden, and outdoor seating.
The hotel’s first floor will offer a common area with a fireplace, an elevator to the top floors, a commercial kitchen for catered events and two large guest rooms. The second floor will offer five guest rooms. Four additional rooms will be on a third floor.
The rooms will vary in size from approximately 350 to 500 square feet, and five of the 12 will include small kitchens. The largest room, at 500 square feet, will be constructed in the church building’s attic.The space offers a circular window looking out on to West Scott Street.
Duchene is planning to partner with local restaurants and bakeries to offer food that can be delivered to the hotel by guest request.
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'...a rejuvenation of the space'
Duchene has spent the last year honing the hotel's design and business concept.
Last year she participated in competitions through the Michigan Women’s Foundation. She pitched the plan for Rabbit & Mitten to other women in business and benefited from mentoring and advice.
She's ready to share the space, and its progress, with the community.
Over the summer she started a blog to chronicle the hotel's progress.
And next month the church building will be a featured stop on the Grand Ledge Area Historical Society's 44th Holiday Traditions Tour, scheduled for Dec. 1-2.
Duchene is also ready to test out some of the experience packages Rabbit & Mitten will offer as an add on when guests book a room at the hotel. For a flat rate they will secure tickets to events and activities in Grand Ledge and around Lansing during guests' stay, Duchene said.
Right now, area residents can buy a package for a snack from a local Grand Ledge merchant, and tickets to the Holiday Traditions tour, and for a hands-on group class at Painted Teal, an art and pottery shop in downtown Grand Ledge.
“We’re testing it right now,” Duchene said. “I feel like I’ll be able to get feedback about how to make it better and smoother instead of trying to do it when the hotel opens.”
By next summer Duchene said some guest rooms could be ready to rent. She hopes to finish the entire project by next fall.
It’s a progressive business model, she said, but Grand Ledge is ready for what Rabbit & Mitten will offer.
“(The building's) already been entrenched in the community for 100 and some years,” she said. “I definitely wanted to create something that can continue to be part of the community, just a rejuvenation of the space.”
Contact Reporter Rachel Greco at (517) 528-2075 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @GrecoatLSJ.
Learn more about Rabbit & Mitten
Follow Ann Duchene's blog that chronicles the hotel's progress at www.rabbitandmitten.com . The blog contains details about experience packages that Duchene is offering now.
The former Grand Ledge church, located at 205 W. Scott Street, will be a featured stop on the upcoming 44th Holiday Traditions Tour, scheduled for Dec. 1-2. To learn more about the tour or to purchase tickets call (517) 204-5254.