Harrington Inn relaunch embraces history while mixing in modern features

The new Harrington Inn is going to be a gem in the community, leaders say.

A future president, an iconic Hollywood actor and many other social and political dignitaries slept at the Harrington Inn offThis photo depicts the Harrington Inn in downtown Port Huron in 1915./Courtesy Port Huron Museum Military Street in downtown Port Huron in its heyday.  

Now as the 123-year-old building is brought back to life, developers and city leaders envision a return of the excitement and grandeur that once breathed in the historic hotel.

"I was at the hotel a long time ago, as a matter-of-fact my workplace had a Christmas Party in the ballroom and it was a very nice place, very classy," Port Huron Councilman Ken Harris says. "And that ballroom was like something from an old movie and I hope they keep it that way."

It's certainly part of the plan, according to Jeff Katofsky, the managing partner in Hip Hip Huron! LLC, a company based in California that purchased the 70,000 square-foot property in August.

They plan to spend over $10 million to renovate the hotel to include 82 rooms, a restaurant on the first floor, Speak Easy Bar in the basement and in the summer of 2020, a rooftop bar.

This photo of actor Mickey Rooney and was taken on the train (at the Depot) in 1940 reenacting the "News Butcher" scene from the movie, "Young Tom Edison" which premiered in Port Huron./Courtesy Port Huron Museum"We are excited and absolutely want to bring the Harrington back to its historic past, but include the convenience and technology of today," Katofsky says. "It'll have a new look along with the old."

The firm also bought the St. Clair Inn and that 100,000 square foot facility on three floors is being redeveloped to include 106 rooms, seven restaurants and six bars with a target opening date of this June.

Katofsky says the hotel was originally named the Harrington Inn and its most recent use was as an assisted living facility.

"The last time it was a hotel was more than a decade ago and it needs to be a hotel again," Katofsky says. "And the county is actually four to five hundred rooms short so there's a big need for a hotel in that area."

The city is in the midst of a juggernaut of business and social developments and moving forward having something like the Harrington should fit in perfectly, Katofsky says.

"It's a beautiful and incredible location and I think it's going to be the nicest hotel in Port Huron," he adds.

There aren't any local investors or ties to the project but Katofsky says he and his partner are spending a lot of time in the citySeeing the Harrington brought back to life is really going to be a huge asset, says City Planner David Haynes. during the relaunch of the Harrington.

"One of us is there every week now so I kind of feel like we're from there now," Katofsky smiles.

The new business should create 50 jobs and Hip Hip Huron! LLC has secured additional parking off Fourth Street, behind the hotel. The street has been rezoned as a one-way opening up an area that will provide 50 or 60 parking spaces. In addition, they also have an agreement with the city for offsite parking for its employees, Katofsky says.

The Harrington, located along Military and Fourth Street, is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places.

A rich and impressive history

The Harrington Hotel was built in 1896 by Edward Petit and named for the owner, Charles Harrington's father, Daniel B. Harrington. Among many of the famous people that stayed at the hotel, Harry Patrons will appreciate the attention to detail throughout the hotel.Truman and his new wife, Bess, spent their honeymoon at the Harrington Hotel in 1919. 

A special preview of the film "Young Tom Edison" starring Mickey Rooney took place in Port Huron in 1940 and Rooney, along with MGM Studios owner Louis B Mayer, stayed at the Harrington Inn.

"The world premiere was a whole town effort in appealing to Hollywood to have it held here," says Virginia Campbell, interim director of the Port Huron Museum.

She says today, the façade on the Harrington belongs to the museum and their goal is to keep it looking as historic as possible. The brick housing around the windows on the front along with the white pillars of the balcony and the front wrap around porch are the museum's responsibility.Detailed work on the stairs will be a focal point.

"The facade was accepted as part of the collection in 1986 and the purpose was to protect the historical exterior from ever being modified without the permission of the museum and the Historic District," Campbell says.

The hotel remains a remarkable and notable treasure in downtown Port Huron and is a great monument to the appreciation of rich local history, Campbell says.

"The Harrington is a special gem in this area with all its history and being from the turn of the 19th century it is good to see it being celebrated and given life," she adds.

Re-opening of Harrington boost to city

Bright colors and big windows create a lovely atmosphere. City Planning Director David Haynes says the renovation at the Harrington, which is within walking distance to shops and
restaurants will add a real vibrancy to the city.

As the population of the city continues to grow, it's over 29,000 now, there's been plenty of new developments in the last couple of years.

"We've seen a lot of new investments downtown like Sperry's Moviehouse and there are 150 new lofts downtown and 19 more lofts planned so we are building a nice little downtown residential community here," Haynes says.

The opening of the Harrington later this year will help service patrons attending activities at local venues, including the Blue Water Convention Center.

Beyond business, the heart of the city's downtown remains rooted in the past and the value of the Harrington remains intangible.

"Our mainstay is our historic buildings downtown and seeing them come back, seeing the Harrington brought back to life is really going to be a huge asset," Haynes says.

The view from atop the hotel will be astounding.
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