The 27-room Dilworth Hotel has been closed for nearly five years and struggled for years prior to that. Signs of its physical deterioration were evident with parts of the cornice falling off, the front porch in need of repair and the grounds unkempt. Looking at the deterioration of the building led Bob Grove, a Boyne City resident and president of Tall Pines Investment, to inquire about the historic hotel.
“I would drive by and I would see it getting worse and worse,” Grove said. “Everyone could see that if something wasn’t done to preserve it, this beautiful historic building that has meant so much to Boyne City would be lost to the community forever. I didn’t want that to happen. I love historic buildings. I know how important they are to a community. The Dilworth was, and will be again, a historic asset for the community to enjoy.”
Tall Pines Investment’s immediate goal is to secure the property so no further deterioration occurs. That will include roof, window and porch repairs. There will also be improvements to the landscaping. While that work is in progress the company will be working over the next several months to explore how best to return life to the property in a long-term sustainable manner.
Tall Pines Investment worked closely with the Boyne City Main Street Program to learn more about the Dilworth opportunity and facilitate due diligence. Kirk Jabara of Fulcrum Partners, a Boyne City business advisory firm, provided significant technical guidance over many months to help make this transaction the reality it now is.
“The goal of this project is to return the Dilworth to its historic use as a hotel and restaurant,” said Hugh Conklin, manager of the Boyne City Main Street Program, “but much work has to be done before a final decision is made.
“The immediate goal at this time is to secure the building so there is no further deterioration and begin to make visible, if small, initial improvements to this historic structure. While that is underway, Mr. Grove will work to build the best team with the right skills to help make this property successful. He is committed to completing the renovation in the best possible way.”
Boyne City City Manager Michael Cain expressed his pleasure with this new beginning. “This is a huge step forward for not only the Dilworth but for all of Boyne City. The potential the Dilworth has in again becoming an important economic engine for our community can not be understated. I have been very impressed in what I have seen in Mr. Grove so far. It appears that he has the resources, skills and heart to do what is needed for the long term success of the Dilworth. I look forward to working with him in the months ahead as plans are developed to bring the Dilworth back to life.”
The Dilworth opened in 1912 and has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since the mid 1980s. In recent years renovating the property has been identified as one of the top community goals. A feasibility study funded through a Michigan Economic Development Corporation planning grant and the Main Street Program, was completed on the property in 2011 and provided valuable information for this transaction. No grant money or public investment is being used for the purchase of the Dilworth although the Main Street Program will help to secure all local and state incentives available to the renovating the Dilworth, Conklin said.
“This is great news for our community,” said Boyne City Mayor Ron Grunch. “Mr. Grove’s commitment to Boyne City and his investment in our community are very much appreciated. We are excited to work with Mr. Grove and we will do everything we can as a city to help make the project successful.”
The Dilworth Hotel is one of the few buildings still standing that is constructed from bricks manufactured by the Boyne City Brick Company, according to documentation from the city’s National Historic Register application, which was approved last December. The building received renovations and updating over the decades, most often associated with changes in ownership, during the 1940s, the 1960s and the 1980s.
“The restoration of the Dilworth will be a tremendous economic boost for Boyne City. It will serve as a catalyst for our downtown, increase pedestrian traffic, vastly improve the entry into downtown, and will provide needed hotel accommodations,” Conklin said.
The Wolverine Dilworth Hotel resulted from the vision of city fathers who desired first-class accommodations for visitors to the city, according to information published in “Settlers to Sidewalks in Boyne City,” a history of Boyne City by Robert Morgridge. The Boyne City Hotel Co. was composed of 46 shareholders, and its directors read like a who’s who of Boyne City’s commercial elite: W.H. White was president and majority shareholder, and other directors included his business associates, William Martin and Ervan A. Ruegsegger. The grand hotel was constructed with locally-produced bricks from Boyne City Clay Products Co., and $40,000 had been expended by the time of the grand opening, attended by 240 patrons, on February 1, 1912. It is the only surviving large hotel from Boyne City’s lumber era.
In 1935 it was renamed the Dilworth Hotel after it was purchased by Wesley Dilworth. During the 1930s and 1940s it was the site of the Smeltania Ball and fish dinner that culminated the three-month long fishing event held annually during the heyday of lake and river smelt runs. Dilworth sold the hotel by the mid-1940s, but it retained its reputation for serving the area's best food and remained a favorite dining spot. The Wolverine-Dilworth was the place to stay when visiting the area through the mid-twentieth century, and among other guests, Ernest Hemingway is reputed to have stayed here.
Mr. Grove is asking that all inquires for comment or additional information at this time regarding the Dilworth be directed to Hugh Conklin, Program Manager of the Boyne City Main Street office, at 231.582.9009 or email Mainstreet@boynecity.com. Additional information of this matter will be forthcoming through this office.