Michigan is home to many beautiful parks, but none offer quite as much charm or history as the stunning McCourtie Park in Somerset Township. The story behind this park is like something out of The Great Gatsby, and visitors can still peruse the stunning grounds where lively parties were once thrown. Here’s a brief preview of what you’ll experience on your visit to this lovely property.
McCourtie Park is tucked away off of US-12 in Hillsdale County. The park was originally built as the estate for William H.L. “Herb” McCourtie, a Michigan cement tycoon.
McCourtie was a Michigan native who earned his riches after a move to Texas in the late 1800s. In the 1920s, he returned to Michigan and purchased the 42-acre property that now houses McCourtie Park (known at that time as Aiden Lair).
Over the years, Aiden Lair became a Gatsby-esque hotspot for lavish celebrations and massive parties, many of which featured stunts by flyers, live music, poker competitions, and dancing late into the night. Famous faces like Henry Ford are said to have attended some of these gatherings.
The lair was rumored to house a speakeasy where gangsters, including Al Capone, stopped for a few drinks on their bootlegging travels from Chicago to Detroit. Another rumor states that the land held secret tunnels that served as part of the Underground Railroad. Some have even reported seeing ghosts on the property — particularly a “lady in blue” who wanders about aimlessly.
McCourtie’s property features a series of beautiful bridges: 17, to be exact. These bridges were built over the course of ten years by talented Mexican artists and cement-workers. Intricate details and designs are carved into the bridges, which are created to appear as if they’re made of wood.
Following McCourtie’s death in 1933, the property was purchased by the Kiessling family of Jackson, who maintained the area privately for years. It was officially purchased by Somerset Township in 1987 and McCourtie Park opened to the public in 1989.
Today, visitors can peruse McCourtie’s majestic bridges, enjoy a picnic in the shade, or simply marvel at the natural beauty of the land. It remains on the National Register of Historic Places, and with good reason — McCourtie Park is a one-of-a-kind Michigan gem for nature-lovers and history buffs alike.
Have you made a stop at McCourtie Park? Tell us about your favorite bridge on the property and share your photos in the comments below!