It’s no coincidence that the time-traveling love story “Somewhere in Time” was filmed on Mackinac Island. After all, what better place to experience a romantic trip to the past!
In a sense, visiting Mackinac Island is like going back in time. Maybe that’s why “Somewhere in Time” has become such a cult classic over the years, even though the 1980 movie starring Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour wasn’t a big box office hit. Each year, people from all over the world make pilgrimages to Mackinac Island to see the historic Grand Hotel and other sights that appear in the movie.
One of those sights is the Somewhere in Time Gazebo. It’s where Reeve’s character, Richard Collier, and Seymour’s character, stage actor Elise McKenna, share a romantic moment during a frolicking afternoon together on Mackinac Island. Decades later, the Somewhere in Time Gazebo has become a popular place for fans of the movie to visit. Grand Hotel even hosts a Somewhere in Time Weekend each fall when visitors dress up in vintage clothing, meet people who were involved in the production and re-live the movie’s highlights, including the scene in the gazebo.
The gazebo was built as a prop for “Somewhere in Time” by Michigan State Historic Parks staff, on behalf of Universal Studios. It’s not only the setting where Richard and Elise share a touching conclusion to their afternoon date, but it’s also where Elise’s manager, played by Christopher Plummer, later confronts Richard and has him kidnapped and beaten.
After filming, the gazebo was used as a float in the Lilac Festival Grand Parade and then placed on the property of the Governor’s Summer Residence on Mackinac Island. In 2005, the gazebo was moved to its current location along the Anne’s Tablet Trail near Fort Mackinac. Since then, the gazebo has been the venue for hundreds of beautiful Mackinac Island weddings.
In addition to the Somewhere in Time Gazebo, several other Mackinac Island landmarks appear in the movie. Grand Hotel is featured prominently as the place where Richard, a playwright suffering from writer’s block, goes to clear his head. While at the hotel, Richard sees a captivating photo of Elise, who acted in a play at the hotel in 1912.
While trying to learn everything he can about Elise, Richard realizes that she is the same woman who approached him several years earlier, following the premiere of one of his plays. Elderly by that time, Elise handed Richard a pocket watch and begged that
he “come back to me.” Inspired by a book on time travel written by one of his college professors, Richard then wills himself back 68 years into the past in pursuit of Elise.
While chronicling Richard and Elise’s timeless romance on Mackinac Island in 1912, “Somewhere in Time” includes scenes featuring Round Island Lighthouse, downtown fudge shops, horse-drawn carriages, bicycles, ferries, and lilacs.
The funny thing is, Mackinac Island today – just like in 1980 – looks and feels a lot like it did back in 1912! That’s what made Mackinac Island such a great setting for “Somewhere in Time.”