Thursday, June 6, 2013

History of Juniper Lodge

We are so excited to have recently listed the "Juniper Lodge," the grand summer home of Bliss Stebbins, successful Lansing milliner (hat maker) and first owner of the Grand Lake Hotel.

Bliss Stebbins was born on April 4, 1865 in Lansing, the son of Courtland Bliss Stebbins, editor of the Lansing Republican and later a deputy superintendent of public instruction.  The family was very wealthy and well known in the social circles of the day. In fact, Courtland had been appointed a "special agent" of the Post Office Department by President Millard Fillmore in 1849 after being the first newspaper editor in the country to recommend him for President.

The Stebbins family lived in a grand home in the shadow of the Capitol building and Bliss' brother Arthur C. Stebbins went on to be one of the original stockholders of the Olds Motor Vehicle Company, himself making the motion at a stockholder meeting that "the manager be authorized to build one (horseless) carriage in as nearly perfect manner as possible and complete it at the earliest possible moment." Thus, the very first Oldsmobile, which is now housed at the Smithsonian, came into being.

One of the first five Oldsmobiles, produced before 1897

With the Stebbins family well known among other wealthy Lansing residents, Bliss found a niche for himself as a milliner, custom making the lavish, ostentatious hats of the day for the Lansing elite. You can visit the "A Stroll Downtown" exhibit at the Michigan Historical Museum in Lansing to view some of Bliss' intricate creations as you walk past the "shop windows" of Lansing's downtown as they would have appeared in 1897.

In 1881, Bliss' family built their first cottage on Grand Lake, probably on Birch Hill.  Years later, in 1912, Bliss and his first wife Harriet "Hattie" Card Stebbins, whom he married in 1892, built the Grand Lake Hotel.  In 1914 the 5 bed 2 bath Juniper Lodge was constructed across the street from the hotel for Bliss and his family to spend their summers in.  

Bliss and Hattie Stebbins (above the sign) and family members in front of the Grand Lake Hotel
Photo from the collection of Malcolm Stebbins

Juniper Lodge was constructed with many unique features such as fieldstone fireplaces in both the living room and the three seasons porch, tiny little cabinets and cubbies in the walls of most of the rooms for keeping trinkets, a guest bedroom above the porch with three walls of beautiful thick wavy glass windows, and a large bath house in the rear of the home.  

Bliss' Miami beach home via idx.kevintomlinson.com
Bliss and Harriet were very successful in the operation of the Grand Lake Hotel, and Bliss was referred to as "One of Michigan's widely known hotel men." in 1929, as many industrious midwesterners did at the time, Bliss had a palatial Mediterranean style estate built in Miami Beach, Florida, one of the first prestigious homes built on North Bay Drive. The home sold in 2011 for nearly $1.5m and is being considered for addition to the National Register of Historic Places due to its architectural significance. You can see more photos of this exquisite home here

Image of pool via idx.kevintomlinson.com

Image of library via idx.kevintomlinson.com

 the  Sadly, Bliss' wife Harriet died in June of 1933.  Although the couple never had children, they traveled the world together, ran the hotel together, and spent 41 happy years together.
Harriet "Hattie" Card Stebbins
from the collection of Malcolm Stebbins
Actress Kim Hunter

A few year later, Bliss married Grace Cole, mother of Janet Cole aka Kim Hunter (an actress known for her performances opposite Marlon Brando in A Streetcar named Desire and as Zira in Planet of the Apes.) Kim later wrote an autobiographical cookbook called "Loose in the Kitchen," which includes photographs of the Grand Lake Hotel, a place where she had spent a few summers, and was very fond of.

Grace Cole Stebbins and Bliss Stebbins
Photo from the collection of Malcolm Stebbins

After a short illness, Bliss Stebbins died in March of 1936.  Some time later the Grand Lake Hotel and Juniper Lodge changed hands.  The home has been taken care of well by its subsequent owners, with many improvements made by its current owner, who was careful to preserve the home's character and integrity.  Juniper Lodge is well known and admired by local residents and is a true treasure of the community.  If you'd like to be the next owner of this beautiful home, call Katie at (989)595-2970 to arrange a showing.  You can view a slideshow with all pictures here or find more information on our website. Thanks for reading! 

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