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Williard House

Lake City – “Home for Wayward Musicans” aka “Lake City Jam Sessions”

Jazz Jam Sessions were held four times a year, from Friday afternoons thru closing time at 2 am on Monday nights, non-stop in-between.

The Williard House Closed 2002








Williard House Ghost






Home » Williard House » Williard House
The Williard House 2002 Closed 1
The Williard House 2002 Closed 1
Lake City Jam Session Start 2
Lake City Jam Session Start 2
Lake City Jam Session Start  3
Lake City Jam Session Start 3
Lake City Cop 4
Lake City Cop 4
Lake City Cop 5
Lake City Cop 5
Pete Hebert Dancing
Pete Hebert Dancing


Below are pictures how the property looks on 8-29-2012 where the Williard House once stood.

Home » Williard House » Williard House Property 8-29-12
Williard House - Lake City 8-29-12 (1)
Williard House - Lake City 8-29-12 (1)
Williard House - Lake City 8-29-12 (2)
Williard House - Lake City 8-29-12 (2)
Williard House - Lake City 8-29-12 (3)
Williard House - Lake City 8-29-12 (3)


Home » Williard House » Paula (Rains) Pelts Photos
Above the entrance to the dance floor 6-3-90
Above the entrance to the dance floor 6-3-90
Frank Matthews (Bass) Chris Kauffold (Piano) Paula Rains (Vocals) Christmas 1989
Frank Matthews (Bass) Chris Kauffold (Piano) Paula Rains (Vocals) Christmas 1989
Paula Rains (Stage Name) (Vocals) (aka Paula (Stothard) Pelts)
Paula Rains (Stage Name) (Vocals) (aka Paula (Stothard) Pelts)
Boby Jay (Sax) Paula Rains (Vocals) Note: Big Bass Drum above stage w/"The Williard House - Home for Wayward Musicians" 8-3-90
Boby Jay (Sax) Paula Rains (Vocals) Note: Big Bass Drum above stage w/"The Williard House - Home for Wayward Musicians" 8-3-90
Williard House - 4th of July Float 2000- John Burns -ex Detroit Cop (sax) Tom Renauld (Piiano)Frank Matthews (RIP) (Bass) Owen (RIP)  Prof of Arts UofM (Drums)
Williard House - 4th of July Float 2000- John Burns -ex Detroit Cop (sax) Tom Renauld (Piiano)Frank Matthews (RIP) (Bass) Owen (RIP) Prof of Arts UofM (Drums)
Pete facing w/red shirt. Paula's dad Bud Stecker w/brown jacket - 1990
Pete facing w/red shirt. Paula's dad Bud Stecker w/brown jacket - 1990
(L-R) Trudy, Betty O. (RIP), Gene
(L-R) Trudy, Betty O. (RIP), Gene
Christmas Jam 1989 - Bottom Corner, Jeanne Mason w/white sweater (last owner) Jean (blue sweater, dancer)  Frank (Drummer) Bud Stecker (Dancer) Betty Ekstorm (Dancer) 12-4-89
Christmas Jam 1989 - Bottom Corner, Jeanne Mason w/white sweater (last owner) Jean (blue sweater, dancer) Frank (Drummer) Bud Stecker (Dancer) Betty Ekstorm (Dancer) 12-4-89


Pelts and Company – Paula “Rains” Pelts YouTube (:29)

Pelts and Company – YouTube (:55) Watch these ladies kick it out. One is even in her nineties.


From the Webmaster – Doug Taylor

I’m posting names in a list of people I’ve talked to, or need to talk to, was brought up in conversation, or name came up in a story. If anybody knows any of these people, or can add to the list of people that went to the Jam Sessions, please do so, by leaving a comment with their name in it below.

  • Bob Williard (RIP) – Original Owner of “The Williard House”
  • Chris Kauffold – (Musician, piano)
  • Bob Garner – Dug Out Bar, Lake City
  • John Crawford – Musician (Guitar) Traverse City Area
  • Paula (Stothard) Pelts – (Very fine vocalist, Dinah Washington vein – Stage name Paula Rains)
  • Don (RIP) & Amy Jones – Don was a Musician (Pianist, Erroll Garner style) Frankfort
  • Emily Laura – (Greater Jazz Society of Detroit) Great lady
  • Claude (RIP) & Margaret (Marge) (RIP) Taylor – Grand Rapids (Dancers)
  • The Stewards (RIP) – Reed City (Dancers)
  • Larry Mooney (RIP) – (Musician – Clarinet)
  • Hugh (RIP) & Jean Pollock – Hugh was a soundman – Allen Park
  • Bill & Sally Bolle – (Greater Jazz Society of Detroit – editor)
  • Dick & Jeanie Mason – (3rd, last?) owner of the Williard House
  • Pete & Joe Hebert (Brothers)(Customers)
  • Glen & Gerry Olmstead – Glens a pianist and he and his wife owned The Williard House along with business partner Betty Presley
  • John Burns – Ferris State College – (Sax player)
  • Kenny Smith – (House Band Drummer)
  • Don Grundell – (House Band Clarinetist)
  • Bobby Jay – (Musician – Sax player)
  • Frank Matthews (RIP) (Musician – Bass guitar, drums)
  • “Betty O” Opdenhoff (RIP) (Dancer)
  • Bud Stecker (Paula Rains father, dancer)
  • John Burns (ex Detroit Cop) (Musician – Sax)
  • Tom Renauld (Sax, piano, vocals)
  • Owen ? (RIP) Prof of Art U of M from Traverse City (Musician – Drums)
  • Betty Ekstorm (Dancer)
  • Trudy ? (Dancer
  • Gene ?, female (Dancer
  • Bill Flanders aka “The Silver Fox” (Musician – Upright Bass)
  • Tom Jollie – Musician
  • Ginger Ewen – (Musician – Played Banjo)
  • Kate (Ewen) Booth – Ginger Ewen’s granddaughter – Dancer
  • Lilly – Singer (her mom was a server at the Williard House (Wilhelmina?)


April 17, 2002

Couple to return music to Lake City

Record-Eagle/Jim Bovin
The Williard House in Lake City was once a fixture in the city.

Record-Eagle staff writer

LAKE CITY — A downstate couple wants to resurrect the Williard House, a 114-year-old hotel that was once a Mecca for jazz musicians and fans from across the state.

Lucy and Tim Galvin, who have homes in Lake City and the Lansing area, have received the city’s blessing for a liquor license application and are currently negotiating the purchase of the building, which dates to 1888.

“I’m one of those people who likes to save things,” Lucy Galvin said. “I don’t like old buildings to disappear.”

Besides, the Williard House was the first and last place she ever danced with her father-in-law, Edsel Galvin, she said.

The hotel, which was a well-known site of jazz jam sessions in the 1970s but is now closed and neglected, also has sentimental and historical significance to the city.

“It was quite a hopping place in the late ’60s and early ’70s,” said city councilman Larry Ingleright.

The city voted to recommend the state give the Galvins a liquor license over another applicant who may have been able to open a business sooner than the spring 2003 date foreseen by the Galvins.

Ingleright voted in favor of the other business, but said he understands the importance of the Williard to the downtown’s past and future.

“It’s another business sitting there idle and it’s kind of an eyesore right now,” he said of the building, which greets visitors at the south end of the business district.

The hotel is not the first one on that site on Main Street overlooking Lake Missaukee. Originally named the Grand Central, it was built after its predecessor burned on July 4, 1887.

Like other hotels in dozens of northern Michigan downtowns before the advent of the automobile, expressways and chain motels, the Williard House had a restaurant and bar on the main floor.

Unlike most other century-old hotels in the north, though, its busiest time probably came about 80 years after it was built.

Bob Williard, a jazz musician and former owner of the Baby Grand nightclub in Detroit, bought the hotel in 1963 and gave it its current name.

Then in the late ’60s or early ’70s, he declared it the “Home for Wayward Musicians,” and offered a free room for the weekend to any musician who came by to perform for bar and restaurant patrons, according to Gerry Seger, whose late husband Glen Olmstead co-owned the hotel at one time and who wrote a history of the building.

With Williard’s musical connections and irresistible boarding offer, the hotel attracted artists by the score, including instrumentalists who had played with the likes of Tommy Dorsey, Lionel Hampton and Jimmy Durante.

The response from the public was also overwhelming at times, with people lined up halfway down the block waiting for the doors to open at noon, Seger said.

The sessions became legendary and in 1981, Gov. William Milliken recognized the hotel’s cultural contribution, resulting in it being dubbed the “Jazz Preservation Hall of the North.”

The Galvins now want to return its original name — the Grand Central — and some of its Williard House glory. They hope to have theme nights featuring blues, jazz, rock and country music.

They hope to open the bar first and then prepare the 32 hotel rooms for occupancy. They also hope to get it listed on the National Registry of Historic Places.

The Galvins have declined to reveal the purchase price. The venture is new ground for Lucy, a former bartender, and Tim, a factory worker.

With the city behind them, however, Lucy said they will restore it to what it looked like in the 1880s and what it sounded like in the 1970s.

“We really just want to have live music in Lake City again,” she said.



16 Responses to Williard House

  1. Tom Renaud says:

    Wow… I found an old tape of me(tom Renaud),on Sax, Rich Drilling,playing great organ , Jerry Turner on trombone and I am not sure but I think Cappi on drums from the 80’s. So I was telling my wife about this and she found this site. i have some great memories from there. Been doing it in Florida since 88 but pretty much out now.
    I hope they make the Willard great again…. Tom Renaud

  2. Melinda Rafe says:

    My 91 year old mom (Jean Howerton/Williard/Mannes) passed away a few years ago. She used to talk about the Williard House when I was little. I was shocked to find adoption papers for me that say Robert J Willard was listed as my birth father on my birth certificate. I know she was married to Robert J Williard for a short time. I was raised believing someone else was my birth father. So interesting reading about the Williard House here.

  3. Richard Miller says:

    Worked there and lived on sey floor

  4. Rickey miller says:

    Worked there as bartender and lived on 2 floor for years

  5. Daryl ODell says:

    Shame to the city Leaders who allowed it to close .
    Jazz , true American music , a piece of history .
    Demolished & forgot , Shame .

    • Daryl, Your not telling me anything, I was so pissed when they were going to tear it down for condos is what I was told. Well, where’s the condos, it surely seems the city father’s of that town don’t give a rats ass about history, because there surely was a lot there and unique as it was. Doug Taylor – Admin. P.S. I’m compiling information about the Williard House as I’m writing a story about her, so if you have something, a story, or something you want mentioned, send it to me soon, as I’m just about ready to start the story. Send everything to: wmmusichystericalsociety@yahoo.com

  6. Chris says:

    My father Tom Jollie played at the Williard House and worked at Olmstead music in the ’70s many fond memories of those times.

  7. Justin Presley says:

    Betty Presley was my aunt she passed away in 2010 and was running the willard house until her box truck was struck paralyzing half of her body. She spent the rest of her life down the street in her home unable to play music.

  8. Kate (Ewen) Booth says:

    My beautiful grandma (Ginger Ewen) used to play banjo at The Willard House. So many happy memories of my childhood, watching her play! She was an incredible woman. I remember her to be close friends with Betsy Presley… I also heard that she passed away in recent years. I miss my grandma so much. If anyone remembers her, please comment I would love to hear stories. Thank you.

  9. Pam Gorton says:

    Hi, this website really brings back GREAT memories! My parents and I started going to the Williard house in about 1972. And Bob Williard, Glen Olmstead, and Betsy Presley, a long with many others, became like family to us, Duane Jacobs, Glens drummer even took me to my prom. My aunt and uncle Ernie and Irene Smith from Flint, who are now deceased, got to know Glen at the Ritz lounge in Flint and Glen told them and they told us about the Williard house. I remember the FANTASTIC music, wonderful atmosphere, and all the friendly people. We were at every one of the jam sessions, and I even have a photo album full of pictures from that beautiful place. So sad when Dick bought it and changed the music so no one wanted to go there any more. I almost cried when they torn it down!

  10. Art says:

    I remember a Lilly that sang there in the later 70’s, daughter of a server there, Wilhelmina I think. My grandparents lived there across from the Catholic church on Union. Sorry the place is gone, had some great evenings and food there, changing times.

    • Art, I was there a couple of times. My mom and dad went there religiously. Sad to see the place gone, I had fond memories of the place. I’m going to do a small story on the place shortly! These were “Gems” from back in the days. Admin, Doug Taylor

  11. I was one of the regular jam session musicians at the old Williard House–from summer of ’81 to the closing, although during its last few years, I rarely got back up there since the jam tradition was in decline. Since I was the youngest musician, my nickname was “baby,” which I hated. I have so many memories of the great people, and of course, of the great musicians, about 95% of whom have passed away, I’m sure. That fact makes me sad. We were capable of generating so much joy in the music, from Friday afternoons thru closing time at 2 am on Monday nights, non-stop in-between, 4 times a year at the jams. The hotel had an “adopt a room” program where we could claim a room upstairs, fix it up, and stay for free when we wanted, but it would be rented out otherwise. I have fond memories of stripping my room (3rd floor), putting up Victorian era stuff and all…it looked pretty good. I worked in the pit orchestra at the Cherry County Playhouse in Traverse City one summer, and just stayed in my room at the Williard…for free. What freedom as a young man! It’s all gone now, and I find myself getting quite melancholy when I reminisce about it. Such strong memories, and yet it seems like another time period, another life.

    • admin says:

      Chris, My mother and dad were regulars at the Jam Session. They loved to dance. They invited my girlfriend and I once back in the late 80’s and we had the opportunity to dance to the music there. I wish that there was more people that went to the Jam Session there that could find this site. When I go by there it just feels so empty with the Williard House gone. Doug Taylor

  12. Doug Taylor says:

    My mom and dad went to the Jam Session religiously, they would stay in there motor-home right behind the Williard House. They lived to dance. I’m sure most of the old cats that use to come there and play are all gone now. They tore the Old Williard House down about 6-7 years ago. Sad, it was a nice building. If anybody out there knows somebody that use to go there, leave a comment below.

    The story that goes with the “Cop” Characture picture above. Lake City hired a preacher to be their police officer and he was disliked by the majority of the people, because after this incident they fired him. It seems some youths seen him fueling his cruiser at the gas station and they proceeded to do a burn out, knowing he couldn’t go after them immediately. Well, he jumped into his cruiser and tore out after the youths, tearing the pump off the island. My father drew this picture of the incident and passed them around town, were everybody made copies and posted them all over town.

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