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The Mansion & Its Setting














After a three-year search for the perfect home to convert into a storybook Bed and Breakfast Inn, in 2012 Emmy-nominated Hollywood Set Designer/Decorator James Colburn discovered this French Neo-Renaissance Victorian Mansion which takes pride of place in the Historic Homes district of the Victorian Port City of Manistee in Northwestern Michigan.


James is not the first James in the California film industry to enjoy this fine home. In 1993 Oscar, Emmy, Golden Globe and Tony winning actor, James Earl Jones, returned to the historic Ramsdell Theater here in Manistee (where he began his acting career in 1955) to campaign for the playhouse's restoration and provide a book-signing event. During that stay he and his family chose The Dempsey Manor as their pied-a-terre, and occupied all three floors of this stately Mansion. The Dempsey Manor Bed and Breakfast Inn has been, and is, the preferred fine lodging choice for dignitaries and notable persons visiting Michigan's Northwest.


The man who built the Mansion was another James: the modest but very successful Lumber Baron, the Honorable James Dempsey

(a philanthropist who also served a term as Mayor of Manistee). The Mansion was designed and constructed by the

prestigious Chicago firm of Holabird and Roche, who completed it in 1894. Your Host, James Colburn, now retired

from the film and television industry, has devoted a year and a half restoring and furnishing this architectural

treasure in Victorian Period style


                                            In the days of James Dempsey, Manistee was home to many well-to-do residents. In one

                                            period of its 19th century boom days, Manistee had more millionaires per-capita than any

                                            other city in the nation. And much larger and grander homes as well. Alas, all of the other

                                            opulent estates are gone, their homes demolished or destroyed by fire. Today,

                                            The Dempsey Manor is the largest residence in town that remains from Manistee's

                                            extravagant and unique industrial period.

















                                          Let us know about your travel plans to our charming vacation area. We'll talk about Guest Accommodations here at the Manor, and Guest Room availability -- and clue you in on events and attractions you should not miss. We can arrange a superb stay for you, providing memories you will love to share for a long time to come. 

Interesting to know...


  • The Mansion was erected in 1894.

  • It was built by Irish immigrant and Manistee Lumber Baron, James Dempsey -  for himself, his wife, and twelve children.

  • It was constructed by the leading Chicago architects Holabird & Roche

  • Mr. Dempsey also built the lovely Victorian home two doors South for one of his daughters.

  • Mr. Dempsey used a large room on the Mansion's third floor as a billiard hall.

  • In the 1990s the Mansion was used as an Assisted Living home at which time the elevator was added.

  • The Mansion has 8000 square feet of living space in 33 rooms, most with room ceilings over ten feet tall, The interior contains: twenty-nine patterns of wallpaper, and original oak and parquet flooring thoughout, two  dining rooms, two butler's pantries, two parlors (a ladies' parlor and a gentlemen's parlor),  a formal library, a first floor living suite with private entrance, a three-story atrium, ten bedrooms, a former billiards parlor (now a suite), an attached glass conservatory, six and one-half baths, ten original fireplaces, two formal entries and three service entries, a large finished basement with servant quarters, and sixty-one windows.



James Colburn, Your co-Host


James, a graduate in music from the University of California at Santa Barbara, also holds a Master's degree in Religious Studies with a Theology Emphasis from Mount St. Mary's in Los Angeles, CA. He began his training in design in Los Angeles in 1974, and in 1980 he formed the firm Natural Selectiona large L. A. art, antiques and import showroom catering to celebrities, entertainers, architects, contract specifiers and interior designers. He began his profession as a film and television Set Decorator at Universal Studios in 1978. During his decades in the industry, he has worked at Columbia Studios, Warner Bros., Lorimar, Paramount, Sony, Castle Rock, Amblin, Spelling, 20th Century Fox and others; earning an Emmy nomination for Good Time Harry in 1981. His many credits include Full House, Perfect Strangers, The Hogan Family, Fathers and Sons, Hart to Hart, House Calls, Half-Nelson, The Pursuit of Happiness, Baryshnikov in Hollywood, the Love Boat Special, Anything But Love, the sci-fi series "V," Amazing Stories, Glitter, Beggarman Thief, Walter, Valerie and many pilots and commercials. He has recently taken to the stage as actor and singer for the Manistee Civic Players at Manistee's historic Ramsdell Theater, performing the roles of Henry Potter in the musical It's a Wonderful Life, and Manolo in the female version of The Odd Couple, and Sam Katz in the comedy, The Cemetery Club. He purchased the James Dempsey Mansion in 2013, and after extensive refurbishing, opened it as The Dempsey Manor Bed and Breakfast Inn in the Summer of 2014.


Jan Peterson, Your co-Host


Jan Peterson was one of James’ first guests at Dempsey Manor, arriving on June 20, 2014. She was immediately captivated by the amazing old mansion and James’ vision of creating a premiere bed and breakfast inn, house museum and retreat center. Subsequent visits found her assisting in the kitchen, offering administrative and marketing suggestions and doing her best to become indispensable. In September, she accepted the position of assistant innkeeper; and a few months later, she became a partner in the business.  Jan is a native Michigander, spending much of her life in Grand Rapids, where she still maintains a home. Jan did her undergraduate studies at Grand Rapids Junior College (now Grand Rapids Community College) and Aquinas College.  In addition, she earned numerous professional certifications and awards during her decades as a travel industry executive; among them the Travel Institute’s prestigious Certified Travel Counselor designation. Jan has traveled extensively in Europe and has also visited Africa, China, Mexico, Tahiti, Australia, New Zealand and many parts of the U.S. and Canada. Jan’s greatest joy in life comes from using her gifts and talents to create extraordinary experiences for others. For 46 years, she had the privilege of arranging distinctive one-of-a-kind tours for groups pursuing a variety of special interests in destinations around the world.  Now, with equal satisfaction, she shares Dempsey Manor and Manistee with guests who come from near and far.  A convert to Catholicism, Jan is also an ardent supporter of Twelve Steps programs and a devoted yoga practitioner.  She is an avid reader – favorites include historical narrative, health, and spiritual enquiry – and a walker. 

ABOUT US: on TV   MiNews Channel 26

The first installment of news features telling the story of The Dempsey Manor B and B aired 6-17-2015, the second a week later. These interview clips showing the Mansion and its Hosts help to fill out the human dimension "about us" as the Hosts tell their own stories in their own words set against a videographed background of the architecture and its interiors.



Let us know about your travel plans to our charming vacation area.


We'll talk about Guest Accommodations here at the Manor, and Guest Room availability -- and clue you in on events and attractions you should not miss.


We can arrange a superb stay for you, providing memories you will love to share for a long time to come. 

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