Detroit is the last place you’d expect to find a romantic inn made up of beautifully restored Victorian houses. But, with so much unoccupied land and the former homes of oil and motor magnates just waiting to be restored, it actually makes sense.
The Inn on Ferry Street is recognized by the National Trust for Historic Preservation as a historic hotel of America. Its Victorian architecture and warm wood finishes will transport you to 1800s Detroit.
There’s a fine line dividing dilapidated Detroit and Midtown Detroit, so as you make your way to the hotel, you’ll begin to worry what you’ve gotten yourself into. Then, you find yourself in the middle of a Pleasantville-esque community, with perfectly manicured lawns, healthy trees above, and stately houses lining the streets, and you breath a sigh of relief. The humble “Inn of Ferry Street” sign distinguishing the set of houses from the rest of the block tells you that you are in the right place. To check in, you enter the red brick Scott House—which prominent architect John Scott designed in 1886 and also lived in. In typical inn-style, the reception area is subtly set next to a grand staircase. To your left, you’ll find a common room where complimentary coffee, tea, and pastries wait all day and a wood paneled fireplace in front of floral upholstered couches makes you wish for winter.
The inn is made up of four houses and two carriage houses: Pungs House, Roehm House, Owen House, Scott House, John R. Carriage House and Raymond C. Smith Carriage House. Each has several rooms and common areas. Between the non-working fireplaces framed by decorative tile, four-poster beds, and antique mirrors, each room has its own details that transport you to a time in Detroit when wealth was high, crime was low, and there was no technology to distract—the TVs hidden inside wood armoires is a reminder of that.
While the towering turrets, wrought iron gazebo, and stone carriage house stand out, what struck me most about this hotel was the peace and quiet. It isn’t often you find complete silence within a major industrial city, but The Inn on Ferry Street has accomplished just that. The brick and stone walls block out Detroit’s police sirens, Mustang engines and horns, and rowdy neighbors, creating a still atmosphere that makes the guests feel they have to keep their voices down to maintain the equilibrium. Which just makes it even quieter. Sitting in a tranquil common area, you almost forget you’re in Detroit. It feels more like you’re in your grandmother’s country house where you weren’t allowed to touch anything or make any excessive noise, and big knit doilies covered all the tabletops to prevent fingerprints. The only thing missing is the plastic-covered couches.
As mentioned, the pristine square in which the inn resides is guaranteed to confuse. With the Detroit Historical Society, the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, and the Ford Piquette Avenue Plant within walking distance, there’s no shortage of organized culture in the area. But to get a taste of true Detroit, you’ll have to step outside the box that protects the hotel. A ten-minute drive through typical Detroit traffic will take you downtown, where you can find Comerica Park, Fox Theatre and the rowdy energy the city is famous for.
Maggie Parker is the assistant travel editor at Paste Magazine.