City Park Grill, one of Petoskey’s oldest buildings, was originally constructed in 1875. McCarty Hall, as it was then known, was a males-only billiard parlor that offered cigars and “intoxicating beverages.”
The storied history includes tales of prohibition and underground tunnels, of young Ernest Hemingway, and ghost sightings. Enjoy the timeline below, and visit City Park Grill in Petoskey to make a little history of your own.
Photo Credit: Little Traverse Historical Society
Originally called McCarty Hall, the building was constructed by Alanso McCarty in 1875. It was a billiard hall that served “intoxicating beverages.” As a male-only establishment, the Sampling Room offered enticing items such as cigars, wines, and liquor to customers.
In 1888, the building was purchased by Frank J. Gruclich who changed the name to The Annex. At this time, food was incorporated into the business. It provided dining and entertainment to guests of the adjacent Cushman Hotel. A garden patio was added to the east side of the building and referred to as the Palm Garden. On the interior, a 32 foot solid mahogany bar was installed. At the time, there were no windows, so gas lighting was used to brighten the dark interior.
In 1897, then owner Frank J. Gruclich passed away, and Frank Fochtman took over the business. He decided to expand and bought the land just east of the Palm Garden. He built the Grill Café which opened in July 1910 with a bowling alley in the basement.
From the 1910s – 1920s, Ernest Hemingway made northern Michigan his summer home. The Annex was one of his favorite places where he would sit in the second seat from the end of the bar and write his ideas for short stories and books. The short story “Gentleman of the World” makes mention of the Annex.
Prohibition was established in Michigan in 1917. However, Fochtman did not abide by it and illegally served alcohol. He went as far as to build secret underground tunnels to the Cushman Hotel and the Grill Café to export alcohol. These tunnels are no longer in existence because of sewers and other city infrastructure, but the doors and openings are still visible.
Between 1918 and 1919, the establishment was raided by the sheriff, and the owner, Frank Fochtman, was fined and sentenced to jail for violating the liquor law.
In 1932, Frank Fochtman died and his nephew Ralph Fochtman took over the business. The name was changed to The Park Garden Café, derived from Pennsylvania Park just west of the restaurant and the Palm Garden to the east.
Robert and Lodema Shier purchased the business in 1954. An addition extended the building to the east, now referred to as the Peacock Room. It served as an additional dining room to accommodate more restaurant guests. The current kitchen was added to the rear of the dining room.
The façade was changed to reflect an English Tudor style. The door was relocated to the side and a bay window was added to the first floor. Bricks were installed and gas lights were attached to the front.
In 1974, a custom stained glass piece with the Park Garden Café name was installed in the front window.
In 1986, the building was sold to Larry Rellinger, a real estate broker. His office is now on the second floor. The Victorian façade and interior were restored to the original character.
In 1997, Bob and Mary Keedy, Dick and Laura Dinon, Chef John Norman, and Patrick Faylor purchased the Park Garden Café, changing the name to City Park Grill. The menu was changed as well to reflect the scratch kitchen focus with daily and seasonal specials. Since, the restaurant has been restored to the glory days of the past, serving and entertaining a wide array of guests from around the world.