Laurium Manor celebrates 30 years in community

(Jon Jaehnig/For the Gazette) The Inn has ten private rooms, each with a private bath, as well as a seasonal suite in a freestanding structure. While not all of the furniture and fixtures are original to the house, the Sprengers go through great effort and expense to source replacements from the period.

The Laurium Manor is celebrating 30 years, though the building itself is much older than that.

The 45-room, 13,000 square-foot mansion was built in 1908 for Thomas Hoatson. Hoatson was the owner of the Calumet and Arizona Mining Company. While the Arizona made him most of his money, Arizona was the frontier and Laurium was the big city, according to the building’s current owners.

Dave and Julie Sprenger purchased the building in 1989. They met as students at Michigan Technological University before relocating to Silicon Valley where they worked as engineers. There, they fell in love with purchasing, restoring, and flipping old buildings. When they saw that Hoatson’s house was on the market, they jumped at the opportunity, buying it sight unseen.

“It was abandoned for 10 years when we bought it; nothing was functioning,” said Julie. “The realtor told us it was gutted inside. We looked around and said, ‘We don’t consider this gutted.'”

Much of the interior of the house is original although a large portion of the house was renovated since its construction over 80 years prior, and a lot of the mechanical and plumbing needed to be redone. Further, most of the original furniture and fixtures of the building had been removed and sold as antiques.

(Jon Jaehnig/For the Gazette) In addition to private rooms, guests have access to many public areas of the house, including the parlor (pictured), the dining room, and a game room in what used to be the third-floor ballroom.

“We had to undo a lot of turquoise bathrooms and ungluing carpets and there were a lot of mechanical issues,” said Julie. “The house had frozen up in 1980 after the owner died. That was a big gamble over how expensive the damage was.”

Any large and old building is going to have its fair share of ghost stories, and the Laurium Manor Inn is no different. Between at least one owner dying on the site and the building having been used as a funeral parlor from 1949 to 1979, there are plenty of rumors that the building is haunted, though the Sprengers deny this.

“The scariest thing we’ve seen in 30 years is the water bill,” said Dave.

The restoration of the Laurium Manor Inn has meant replacing a lot of things, including the room furnishings. However, the Sprengers are dedicated to keeping the building as period as possible. As a result, they source furnishings from antiques dealers and auctions. Most of the furnishings in the building are from the same period that the house was built, even if they aren’t original to the house. Examples include a hand-carved mahogany four-poster bed recently purchased from a late-Victorian era mansion in Polynesia. However, many of the decorative elements of the building come in the forms of the ceilings and walls, which were originally designed to match the personalities of the original inhabitants. The result is that some of the rooms are softer rooms while others have a more masculine feel.

“We’re not like the kind of frou-frou B&B,” said Julie. “A man doesn’t feel like he’s drowning in dolls.”

The Sprengers attribute their lasting success as a bed and breakfast to the fact that they never intended on opening one.

“We’ve seen B&Bs come and go in the 39 years that we’ve been here,” said Julie. “We always approached it as, ‘This is such an amazing structure.’ It was never our dream to run a B&B and I think that’s why it works.”

The Sprengers’ philosophy is that all old buildings should be cherished but not all old buildings can be museums. Running a bed and breakfast out of the building allows it to remain a living structure.

“I love seeing [guests] use the house,” said Julie. “The house is supposed to be used and lived in.”

The 30th anniversary has been an opportunity for the Sprengers to look back but they are also using it as an opportunity to reach out to people who have never seen the house before. The Sprengers give tours of the house daily from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. An audio tour is also available on their website. To celebrate their 30th anniversary, the Sprengers have also been giving pearl bracelets to visitors. They are also planning a picnic for former employees or throwing a fundraiser event.

For more information on the Laurium Manor Inn, visit www.Laurium.info, call (906)337-2549, or visit the house in person at 320 Tamarack St. in Laurium.