There are more than a dozen bed-and-breakfasts on Mackinac Island, and each one has its own history, its own architectural style, and its own personality. For example, one of the unique things about the Victorian home at 7504 Market Street is that it flies an Irish flag from the front porch.
The Cloghaun B&B occupies one of the oldest houses on Mackinac Island, built way back in 1884 by Thomas and Bridget Donnelly. The couple came to Mackinac Island from Ireland in the middle of the 19th century. They were part of a large influx of Irish immigrants who came to the United States during Ireland’s Great Potato Famine, and many of them ended up on Mackinac Island.
Today, the Cloghaun (pronounced CLAH-HAN) is still in the family, operated by fourth-generation owner James Bond. The walls of the home are decorated with family photographs that date back more than 150 years!
“All of the rooms were named after the ancestors,” said Bond, who started spending summers on Mackinac Island as a child. “There’s still a lot of old things in the house. You’ll see old pictures of the streets and what the downtown area looked like back in the 1800s.
“Most of the house is entirely antiques. Many of the beds are original to the house and some of the mirrored-back dressers have been there for 100 years. There’s certainly a good karma when you walk in the house, and there’s antiques all over the place.”
Cloghaun is the name of the Irish town where Thomas Donnelly grew up, although it wasn’t until Bond’s great-aunt Nellie ran the place that the B&B took on that name. It was previously known as the Donnelly Cottage.
Bond never knew his great-grandparents, but he has learned a little of their history:
It was Bridget Donnelly’s uncle, Charles O’Malley, who helped pay for their emigration to America. O’Malley had come to Mackinac Island several years earlier and gained success in the fur trade. He ended up building the Island House, which today remains a popular place to stay on Mackinac Island.
In the midst of the potato famine, Thomas and Bridget Donnelly left Ireland in 1848. Just before they boarded the boat to America, they were married alongside 15 other couples using the same claddagh ring!
Shortly after arriving in America, Thomas Donnelly found work building the Soo Locks in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. It was the money he earned from that work that the couple used to buy the land on Mackinac Island, where the Cloghaun still stands.
Like many other Irishmen, Thomas Donnelly also worked as a fisherman as the fur trade faded and the economy of Mackinac Island evolved. He would sell the fresh fish he caught during the summer months, then spend the winters packing salt fish into barrels that were made on Mackinac Island. The development of steamships made it possible to quickly transport fish from Mackinac Island to markets in Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, and ever farther away.
After the Civil War, tourism really started booming on Mackinac Island. In the 1880s, the Donnellys built the Cloghaun with $700 of wood from Cheboygan.
Bond renovated the B&B in 1990, and today it remains one of the most peaceful and historic places to spend a few nights on Mackinac Island. Many visitors enjoy sitting on the front porch right under the Irish flag and watching the horse-drawn carriages and bicyclists go by.
“It’s a unique place, a real Victorian home, and it feels like a home,” Bond said. “It was home to me.”