The Nickerson Inn, which was built more than 90 years ago atop a sand dune overlooking Lake Michigan and became known for its Victorian charm and elegance, was gutted by fire Monday morning.
No one was injured, and fire officials say the historic structure in Pentwater is a total loss.
The fire ravaged the inn at a time when the village water tower was empty because of repainting, forcing firefighters to rely on a backup system and draw water from Pentwater Lake.
Village manager Tim Taylor said no one was staying at the inn when the fire was reported at about 6:30 a.m.
Village president Juanita Pierman was among those watching the fire burn.
"There isn't anyone in Pentwater who hasn't had some relation to the Nickerson Inn," she told The Muskegon Chronicle. "Everybody knows the Nickerson Inn."
The cause of the fire was not immediately known. A state fire marshal was expected to begin an investigation later in the day.
In its early years, the inn, which was built by Charles Nickerson, was a destination point for train travelers from as far away as St. Louis, Chicago, Indianapolis and Kansas City.
Former Nickerson Inn owner Myrna Carlin stood under an umbrella Monday and watched the fire.
Shortly after the sign on top of the inn fell into the building, Carlin fought back tears as she recounted repainting it with her children.
The sign had come down during a storm in the 1970s, and they repainted it together on the front lawn, she told the Ludington Daily News.