How a Hollywood star in a swimming pool helped save Mackinac Island’s Grand Hotel

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“It saved the hotel from World War II,” Bob Tagatz said of the Williams’ movie.

During those lean war years, the Grand Hotel faced the same dismal predicament shared by many resorts: A long-term lack of paying guests.

The war years saw the hotel’s business drop 90 percent. Perhaps the darkest day came when 400 employees were on staff to serve just 11 paying guests, he said. Still, the owners held on.

“We’ve never closed, through wars and the Depression,” Tagatz said, an undercurrent of pride detectable.

Yet the timing of the Hollywood movie was impeccable.

“The Esther Williams’ film put us on the map.” The years after its October 1947 release saw the Grand Hotel’s guest registers begin to swell. “The hotel filled up. We started making money.”

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Production engineer and certified swim coach. Full-time IT consultant, spare-time swimming aficionado. 2 sons, 2 daughters and a wife. President of the Faroe Islands Swimming Association. Likes to run :-)

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