Article by Jeremy Benson
Photos by Jeremy Benson & David Defoe
On the surface, Perry's Schuch Hotel Restaurant and Bar is an eccentric yet typical bar and home-style restaurant. Each day of the week (excepting Monday) offers dinner and drink specials, and more often than not a DJ is on hand to get "the largest dance floor in Saginaw" bumping. "Wild Wednesday," the weekly college night, features a guest DJ, cheap draft beers and well drinks, and professional female cage dancers. Non-dancers, on any night of the week, can play a game of pool or electronic poker, or snuggle up with new and old flames alike on the antique couch by the fire.
However, ask just about any visitor to the Schuch—especially if they've spent the night on the upper floors, where rooms and suites are available for rent—and they'll tell you it's haunted. "It's scary," admits Mike Perry, owner and operator of the establishment, who lives on the premises and scoffs at the presence of the paranormal. "There are always noises; always something happening. But it's an old building."
Certainly, rumors that the building is a former brothel and the site of several deaths don't calm the public imagination—but at 142 years old, the building is allowed its creaks and moans, if not a full-blown apparition or two. The Schuch Hotel is the longest running hotel and restaurant in Michigan.
According to historian James Cooke Mills in his 1918 book, History of Saginaw County, Michigan, the building, known originally as the Brockway House and later as the Benson House, was built as a private residence by lumber barons in 1868. In 1879 its name changed again, when David Crowley constructed two additions and opened a 40-room public hotel known as the Crowley House.
The Schuch family made the most lasting impressions on the building when John P. Schuch and his father Henry L. Schuch purchased the hotel in 1912 and added a café to the ground floor. During its 50-year operation, the café became a favored hangout of many Saginaw residents, including Theodore Roethke and cast members of the Pit and Balcony Theater, solidifying the hotel's place in Saginaw lore.
John P. Schuch, a Saginaw County sheriff, state senator, and founder of the Saginaw Valley Historical Society, used some of the hotel’s rooms and lobby space to display his collection of Saginaw artifacts. When Mike Perry purchased and restored the building in 2004, a portion of the collection remained; in homage to the former owners, Perry continues to add pieces that attract his attention, including a fleet of bar stools that encourage a laid-back feeling around the original bar top. An extensive collection of beer steins, tea cups and mugs still hangs from the dining room walls and ceiling, just as it had under Schuch’s ownership. All told, an estimated $800,000 worth of antiques and memorabilia hang on the walls of the restaurant.
Ghost stories aside, the history in and on the walls of the Schuch combines with a hearty meal and modern hip hop to produce a novel experience that cannot be found anywhere but within Saginaw’s city limits. Perry’s Schuch Hotel Restaurant and Bar makes the perfect place to meet with old friends over dinner or to dance to forget into the early morning, all the while interacting, in spirit, with Saginaw history.
The Schuch Hotel is open Tuesday through Sunday from 3p.m. to 2a.m.; closed Mondays.
© Jeremy Benson, 2010