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Otis Harbor Springs brings first-of-ots-kind luxury to the storied Northern Michigan resort town it calls home

OTIS Harbor Springs

OTIS Harbor Springs is the inaugural σhotel project for Israel Hernandez and Ty Humpert, with Daniel Caudill, former Creative Director of Shinola, tapped to lead brand design.

HARBOR SPRINGS, MI. – In Michigan, going “Up North,” where idyllic small towns are surrounded by the natural beauty and pristine shores of Lake Michigan, is a summer ritual. Those who find themselves on the M-119 scenic route, also known as the famous Tunnel of Trees, emerge in Harbor Springs to find a hidden gem on the bluffs: Otis Harbor Springs, a meticulously restored and reimagined mid-century hotel with history stretching back nearly 100 years. Opening to reservations on May 31, the resort will come to life throughout the month of June, with outdoor-driven programming and cocktail service.

Originally settled by Chicago banker-turned-farmer Joseph E. Otis in the 20th century as the Birchwood Farm Estate, the farm land was transformed by new owners into an executive retreat in 1958, which eventually became the Birchwood Inn. The historic property has received a top-to-bottom renovation led by Israel Hernandez and Ty Humpert, honoring the rustic charm and pride of place, and ushering in a new era of service and design for this mid-century lodge. The team brings a brand-new vision to every inch of the property – from lush, layered interior spaces to the smallest of details, like custom designed furniture and a restoration to a native meadow landscape – creating a high-level hospitality experience not yet seen in the region.

“The original Birchwood Inn once served as the location of my family’s annual Fall road trip up the Tunnel of Trees some 25 years ago,” said Humpert. “We wanted to restore this legacy property and offer future generations of travelers the opportunity to explore this beautiful region, while creating their own lifelong memories.”

Drawing inspiration from the existing mid-century building and the surrounding natural beauty, the design was led by Humpert and Daniel Caudill who, as Creative Director of Shinola, also led the design of Downtown Detroit’s Shinola Hotel. Kenneth Blasingame, whose talents have reached the White House and Camp David, was of counsel in the design of the lobby and the lounge.”

“We wanted to create a space that honors the past and future of this historic land,” said Caudill. “The spirit and visual identity of Otis is grounded in a collection of experiences beginning in the 1950s and spanning to those of our present team, who are all local to the region.”

OTIS Harbor Springs

As guests drive up to the property, they are greeted by the facade of the building – one of the few works of mid-century architecture in Northern Michigan – with original stonework outside and beautiful interior beamwork. Once inside guests are welcomed by calming gray-blue hues reminiscent of the waters of Lake Michigan and collected vintage objects from years past. Humpert scoured flea markets and antique stores, where he found vintage art, furniture and pieces found throughout the rooms.

The on-site shop, Birchwood General, offers a selection of locally made goods, including ceramics, art, curated books, and vintage-ware sourced by Humpert. Guests can also find readymade charcuterie, small bites and a wine selection –ideal for packing for an adventure to the lake, a bike ride through the meadows or trek through the Tunnel of Trees. La Colombe coffee is served either from the café or from the service window overlooking the newly installed deck, where guests can enjoy their picks in the midmorning sun. Grab-and-go café offerings will include small bites like Otis maple granola with kefir yogurt, sour cherries and clover honey, as well as daily local French pastries.

At the center of the main lodge is the Fireplace Lounge, an inviting cocktail lounge designed to bring guests and locals together around its namesake hearth. Transporting guests back to the living rooms of the 60s, the space features a collection of custom designs and vintage furniture, primarily sourced in-state by Humpert. Varied seating vignettes center around oversized Parsons tables, including a restored tuxedo sofa original to the Birchwood Inn. At the heart of the space is the marble-topped bar, treated to feel like leather and look like petrified wood–with a hand-painted mural by Detroit artist  Jennifer Haver. Every detail in this lounge has been thoughtfully considered, from the gallery wall of art to the custom wood credenza featuring a circular motif – a nod to the sunrise-inspired Otis logo – and brass hardware that will naturally patina.

The Fireplace Lounge cocktail menu will feature creations inspired by the region and history of the property, including sips like the Tapawingo, featuring London gin, Dolin Vermouth Blanc, Salers Gentian Aperitif and lemon bitters, and the Otis Fashioned, made with all local ingredients– from the Rye Bourbon to Michigan-sourced cherries and maple. Inspired by the original tagline of the Birchwood Inn, the lounge’s happy hour will feature the Surprisingly Affordable, a simple, tongue-in-cheek classic local beer and bourbon shot combination.

Otis builds on the inspiration from the beautiful outdoors with 31 comfortably furnished guest rooms, each marked with a hand painted gold leaf room number. Ranging from studios to spacious family suites, with patio spaces overlooking the central meadowlike courtyard, the rooms wind throughout the series of three connected buildings. Mid-century inspiration remains at the forefront of the room design, with custom beds designed by Caudill and Humpert, luxurious Frette linens and Italian Artemide Tolomeo bedside lamps, and a selection of  original art from the 50s, 60s and 70s. Glass waterfall desks paired with a vintage Knoll leather desk chair bring an added layer of sophistication to the space, and vintage butterfly chairs retain a playfulness. In addition to curated sundries available for purchase, colorful bar niches in present handmade ceramic lamps and bar trays by NYC-based ceramist Shane Gabier.

The guest rooms feature a calming palette that plays off the mid-century colors of the original bathroom tile: pinks, yellows and blues are offset with creamy off-whites and a deep, earthy ochre. The bathrooms feature found and restored vanities with updated lighting and offer nourishing products by Flamingo Estate displayed on trays by Anastasia Home, repurposed from architectural marble alongside custom created Parachute robes, which are also available for purchase at Birchwood General.

Restored to an organic state with lush native plant life and early-stage meadow grasses, the winding pathways of the property give way to both communal lounge spaces for socializing and intimate natural niches, encouraging guests to spend time outdoors. In the courtyard, guests will find outdoor seating, bocce ball, and stone fire pits to enjoy in the twilight hours. Set under a canopy of old growth trees and overlooking the neighboring farms, The Grove offers another beautiful outdoor seating area where guests can enjoy the wide open space and future programming. Planned for July, a yoga platform will be placed in the back edges of the property by ancient white pines, Michigan’s state tree, for yoga and meditation sessions, soundtracked by the surrounding nature and tranquil waves of Lake Michigan beneath the bluffs.

“We’ve created this experience just as much for locals as for our out-of-town guests,” said Hernandez. “This is a very special place that has been part of the community for many decades, and we are honored to bring back this Northern Michigan mainstay for future generations.”

Otis Harbor Springs is located at 7291 S Lake Shore Drive, Harbor Springs, MI, just minutes away from Downtown Harbor Springs.

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Theodore is the Co-Founder and Managing Editor of TravelDailyNews Media Network; his responsibilities include business development and planning for TravelDailyNews long-term opportunities.

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