The Historic Holly Hotel

OriginalLineDrawingThe Holly Hotel (originally named the Hirst Hotel) was built in 1891 as a railroad inn on the Flint & Holly Railroad Line – founded by Henry Crapo – on what was then called Martha Street (now Battle Alley). The first proprietor of the hotel was John Hirst. With more than 25 trains passing through Holly daily, there were many passengers and freighters brought into the village. The hotel is a Queen Anne style structure, with three-stories of scaled, red brick, and a hip-roof. In 1913, after a small fire which damaged the original porch, the present Tuscan-style column porch was added to the north side. The octagonal corner tower is perhaps the most architecturally distinct part of the hotel. The inside was redecorated to a Victorian style after the first fire. In the early 1900s, “the Holly Hotel was the hub of social activity”. Travelers, salesmen, and social groups alike used the public meeting rooms while stopped in Holly. On Sundays, there was a formal dinner at the hotel typically preceded by a show at the opera house one block south the the Holly Hotel.

Carry Nation paid the historic hotel a visit in 1908, invading the hotel and clubbing the patrons, very upset about Holly not upholding the law as Oakland County was “dry” at the time.  In the 1980s, the Holly Hotel began to celebrate Ms. Nation’s visit in an annual celebration of food, reenactment, and specials on alcoholic beverages. Many events led to the decline of the use of the hotel in the mid-1900s, such as the Great Depression, World Wars I and II, and the elimination of train travel through the town for passenger trains.  The Holly Hotel survived, though, unlike many of the businesses around it, like the opera house down the block.

firephotoIn January 1978, there was another fire in the hotel, this time almost making it impossible for any of the original structure to remain standing; there was talk of demolishing the hotel. But through the half a million dollars in damages and two years of renovations, the Holly Hotel was restored. All parts of the hotel that could be saved were saved: the original staircase railing can now be seen behind the bar. Then, in 1980, the Holly Hotel was admitted into the National Register of Historic Places of the United States, making it among an elite group that has served food continuously over a span of three different centuries.

Dining at Holly Hotel

Dessert at the Holly Hotel

The dining at the hotel is some of the best around. The food has been compared to that of 4-star restaurant in New York. The menu, aside from a couple of signature items, is printed and changed daily and food used is always fresh. The chefs will even create a special and unique eight-course meal specifically for one table, upon request. The dining area offers many events throughout the year, such as the Victorian Feast held in December. It also offers afternoon tea Monday through Saturday promptly at 2:00 pm, which has been voted one of the best teas in Michigan by the Detroit News. The Holly Hotel has shared its host of celebrity visitors, including every state governor since 1979, the Detroit Red Wings – with the Stanley Cup – and in fall 1992, President and Mrs. George Bush made it their only dinner location while on a quick campaign through Michigan.

For those loyal, everyday customers, the Holly Hotel offers the “Holly Hotel Dining Club”, which awards discounts, Comedy Club passes, invites to private parties, and more. Most of these loyal customers have been a part of the dining club for over a decade.

The Comedy Club

The Comedy Club in the lower level of the Holly Hotel was established in 1983. At the time of establishment, there were only two professional comedy clubs in Michigan. Since then, there have been hundreds of weekly acts and some bigger names too, such as Tim Allen and Bill Mahar.

comedy club stage HH
The Comedy Club Stage at the Holly Hotel

Is that a ghost???

Spirit during a renovation

The Holly Hotel is said to be one of the most haunted places in the United States and the most haunted historic building in Michigan. Many people and employees have said they have seen and heard the presence of ghosts and spirits multiple times in the hotel. In 1989, a professor parapsychologist and ghost hunter named Norman Gauthier visited the Holly Hotel and deemed it “loaded with spirits”. As of the 1990s, the Ghost Hunters of Southern Michigan have been making annual trips to “ghost hunt”. Examples of “sightings” are the materialization of Hirst, music drifting through the hotel with no one playing, moving objects, and a mysterious Indian spirit hovering in the dining room.