There’s a colorful history behind the Ivory Mansion Bed & Breakfast in L’Anse, overlooking Keweenaw Bay in the Upper Peninsula. And a colorful welcome behind the double doors between the impressive twin pillars of the white, two-story home.
Innkeeper Lynn Ketola’s family has owned the property since 1836 when her Great-grandfather Pierre Crebassa journeyed to the area from Montreal and fell in love with a local Ojibwe woman named Nancy. The couple operated a fur trading post and eventually Pierre became the first postmaster at L’Anse.
It was Pierre who encouraged Father Frederic Baraga to establish a mission in the remote region, which the priest did in 1843. He would be revered as “The Snowshoe Priest,” and is memorialized at the Bishop Baraga Shrine overlooking the Bay.
Lynn’s Great Uncle Jean was the keeper at the nearby Sand Point Lighthouse, and it was her Grandfather Alex who built the home around which she constructed the Ivory Mansion. Lynn’s great uncle and other characters and incidents true to the area are featured in the novel, “Lady Unafraid,” written by Joeph Raleigh Nelson in 1965.
She left a copy of it in my room with an evening pot of tea and Swedish cookies, but it was late and I was only able to skip through the book, catching snatches of the history of the area.
While Lynn’s family’s roots include Ojibwe, French, Swedish and Finnish lines, her affection for Chinese design is all hers and apparent from the minute you step into the foyer, painted red and framed by an ornately carved gold and red screen that may have come from a restaurant.
“We like the Oriental,” says Lynn as she points out new and antique furnishings, accessories, an elaborate black lacquer and Mother of Pearl wall piece, and other treasures she and her husband Steve collected on travels throughout the U.S.
Each of the B&B’s 5 guest rooms is decorated in a different theme, and are showcases for Lynn’s decorating flair. “I like to collect (things) and I thought, why not share (by opening the B&B). It all kind of goes hand-in-hand,” says Lynn as she points out glass-doored hutches and sideboards loaded with antique dishes, tea sets, and serving utensils.
I stayed in the spacious and very red, black, gold, and white Paris Room. It’s filled with fun and frilly accents plus a cafe table and chairs, and has a private bath plus a balcony overlooking the sideyard and woods.
Despite Lynn’s laughing comment, “I’m not a morning person!” she set an elaborate breakfast table with a beautiful dish of fresh fruit, granola and yogurt parfait.
The slices of fresh nisu, a Finnish cardamom yeast bread, were perfect with the strong black coffee.
But wait, there was more!
My first ever breakfast pasty. I’d only had the traditional meat-potatoes-veggies version of the self-contained pie; the scrambled egg pasty was tasty and stick-to-the-ribs filling.
I would like to have chatted more with Lynn about her family and local history, and I wished I’d had time to sit on the balcony and read “Lady Unafraid.”
But I had to hit the road for more exploring in nearby Chassell.
If you’re heading to the UP on a fall color tour, stay at the Ivory Mansion B&B for a taste of local color with your leaf peeping.
Visitor Info Clicks: Baraga County
Travel Michigan: Pure Michigan