I took another way home from Hidden Lake Gardens in Tipton Michigan because I wanted to swing by Meckleys Flavor Fruit Farm which is packed with cider donuts and cider and everything else you can imagine. I think of it as a cider mill, but there is a petting zoo, gift shop and other things to see and do besides roasting hot dogs on sticks over fire pits.
Upon leaving I noticed the cutest bridge to my right as I drove back down S Jackson Rd to US12 from the farm. I have been in this area before and had never noticed Bridge Park, or McCourtie Park it’s actual name. It was created from what was left of “Aiden Lair,” the nickname of the estate owned by wealthy oil and cement tycoon William H L McCourtie. The home itself no longer stands but the bridgework was renovated and turned into a park located on the NW corner of US12 just after S Jackson Rd in Somerset Center Michigan.
I am only now working with my fall pictures because I was not impressed by them earlier. I had walked through the park quickly taking a few pictures of the rustic looking bridges all over, and evidently did not even see all of it. I decided to use the internet to research these types of bridges in that area of the state for more information and found more than I was looking for regarding McCourtie park.
Two mexican artisans were commissioned to create 17 bridges as well as some other features such as 2 rather large artificial tree trunks coming from the ground that actually hid chimneys coming from a subterranean rathskeller where local big shots and elite would come and party and gamble the night away back in the 1930s. Henry Ford was supposedly among the regulars. This was during prohibition and there were rumors that the chimneys were deliberately designed this way as to blend in with nature and the surrounding trees so as to hide this supposed speakeasy. It is said there were underground tunnels from here that allowed for bootlegging and that it could have been part of the underground railroad.
Supposedly George Cardozo and Ralph Corona came from Texas to create the bridges sculpted of concrete to look like logs and other things such as rope or boards and braced with steel rods for support. They were designed in the El Trabijo Rustico design in the Mexican Folk Tradition. I think that I only saw about 7 or 8 of the bridges so I plan on going back later this fall to really explore and get more pictures of the bridges and the rathskeller. All the Michigan ghost sites claim that this park is also haunted by the lady in blue but it did not feel haunted to me. I think someone was drinking some of that leftover moonshine!