While whipping up an applesauce bread found in an old Country Inn Cookbook that includes a recipe from the Botsford Inn, I wondered what was happening at the former stagecoach stop perched on Grand River at Eight Mile Road in Farmington Hills. The historic structure is now the property of Botsford Hospital, which is located to the rear of the long-closed hotel and dining room.
The original inn was built as a home in 1836 (although some records date it to 1835). In 1841 it was converted to a tavern named 16 Mile House, and became a stop for travelers on the Grand River plank road. Henry Ford purchased it in 1924; he and his wife Clara attended square dances in the upstairs ballroom, and the sentimental Henry wanted to maintain the site of their good times.
In 1951 the Anhut family, which owned other hotels in the area and had briefly manufactured an automobile in 1909, purchased the inn from the Ford estate and later sold some of the property for the hospital development.
My special interest in Botsford Inn dates to my college years, when I landed a summer job at the front desk.
John W. Anhut hired me to take reservations, answer the phone calls at the antique switchboard, and greet guests from behind the wooden registration desk—a waist-height counter that Henry Ford imported from Illinois, where it had been leaned upon by a young lawyer named Abraham Lincoln.
My duties included typing (on a manual typewriter with carbon paper!) copies of the daily specials for the dining room, planting rose bushes, stoking the wood burning fireplaces and—on a few memorable occasions when the maid didn’t show up—cleaning guest rooms (please tip your hotel maids, people!).
After graduating college, while collecting rejection slips as I hunted for a job in communications, I continued to work at Botsford Inn. It felt like family: George the Hungarian chef, Pearl the gossipy maid, Mrs. (“Dahling”) Terova the banquet planner, Mrs. Ruud the night auditor, and Ms. Kamen, the bookkeeper from central casting. Then there was the fun crew of veteran waiters and waitresses, aided by young people (including my siblings) at the famous Sunday Brunch buffet.
It was a learning experience. Mr. Anhut, who was always impeccably suited up and seemed to know everyone in the Detroit metro area, taught me a lot about what it takes to operate a business, something about judging character, the importance of knowing who’s who, and the value of the vanishing copper paper clip (he never did succeed in interesting me in the ways of Wall Street).
In 2007 the Anhuts sold the inn and remaining property to Botsford Hospital. The carriage house where TJ and I had our wedding reception was moved, and the “modern” wings to the hotel were demolished to make way for a new Botsford cancer center; click to check out the video of the demolition and brief interview with Mr. Anhut.
The exterior of the inn is as it appeared in 1925, and I understand that eventually the interior will be restored and open to the public as—-well, that’s under discussion. The restoration is a work in progress.
A couple of years ago when Paige and I browsed an antiques store in Detroit I found a plate-sized ashtray with an image of Botsford Inn, and plunked down $3.50 for the relic.
I’m not certain, but I think that was my hourly wage way back when at Botsford Inn.