Many memories from my childhood come from or involve the Irish Hills. The Irish Hills was a tourist trap if there ever was one, but everyone still seemed to love it. I remember my dad being all secretive and telling me and my brother to get in the car we were going for a ride. He would never tell us where we were going “It’s a surprise you will find out when we get there!” he would tell us.
1. The Dairy Bar
I grew up in Ypsilanti so the drive out to the hills was very long in a child’s eyes. In actuality, it was only about 45 minutes to arrive. Back then the early 80’s Irish hills were still doing pretty well and stayed fairly busy. The one thing I remember very well was getting a green dipped ice cream cone from the Dairy Bar. It actually is still in business, but I miss the little leprechauns that use to be painted on the sides of the building.
2. Mystery Hill
Dad would sometimes take us through Mystery Hill. This is one of the few places still open in the Irish hills area. This place is a spoof on gravity; water appears to run uphill, short people appear taller than the tall ones. They even have a spot where you are setting in a chair on the wall by one small nail. It really is quite a unique place to visit.
3. Bears Lair Fun Center
This place was like an all in one fun park, so sad it has closed. There used to be go-cart tracks and I loved racing my husband on them. They also had a pretty cool arcade as this was the early stages of gaming and you had to go somewhere to play.
4. Port to Port Adventure Golf
This place lasted a little longer than most of the other attractions in the Irish hills. Actually, as I was going by today I saw that there were people working on it and it had a new sign. Port to Port was a putt putt course with batting cages in the back. There was a small playground for the smaller children.
5. Fantasy Land
Has been gone a long time, I never actually went there. My husband remembers it and actually worked there during high school. This attraction centered around fairytales, like mother goose and the old lady that lived in a shoe. My husband tells me that they had roller coasters and Ferris wheels.
6. Stage Coach Stop
western themed amusement park that had it all. There were gun fights in the streets and bad guys all over. They had a roller coaster that was like a mine ride. Today it is a western themed hotel; the fences have been removed so that you can see all the quant buildings. Ever one of those buildings use to be full of antiques now most of them serve as rooms to rent.
7. Irish Hills Trading Post
Once was really that a trading post for those who were taking stage coaches from Detroit to Chicago. While I was growing up it was called 800 guns and still sold pretty much a little bit of everything. The original building caught fire and burned to the ground. This picture is of the rebuilt structure that they used the original stones to complete.
8. The Golden Nugget
Once one of the most popular dinner spots in Lenawee county is now an event rental. The western theme was real big for a long time but it has died out and with it a lot of our culture. You could get a great steak here as well as spend your time waiting for your meal checking out all the antiques on the walls.
9. Brick Walker Tavern
In its 160 year life span it has seem many transformations. Recently it has been restored into an event center. Before that it was an antique museum, dance hall, a hotel on the route between Detroit and Chicago.
10. Bauer Manor
This structure started out as the Davenport house built in 1839. It was a popular stagecoach stop right into the 1900’s. Today it is a realtor office, but I remember it as the Bauer Manor. This was the first place my husband (boyfriend then) took be for a nice dinner. He had worked there as prep cook throughout high school and knew the owner real well. This is still a beautiful building and I wish I had the money to buy it!
Opened in 1959 and closed in 1974, it was built to capitalize on the western theme which was big at the time. You could find bad guys robbing the bank 6 times a day, but they always got foiled by the sheriff. This one was also before my time but it was a huge part of the Irish Hills and a fun way to spend the day; which reminds me I recently wrote a post about 4 Easy Spectacular Day Trips to Make From London Anyway, the 440 acres were purchased by Cedar point for an amusement park. However that idea was canned a year later and finally sold the property in 2012.
12. Prehistoric Forest
Just about one of the coolest attractions that Irish Hills had during its hey days. I remember as a child riding the trolley out into the forest. Each child was given a cap gun to shot the dinosaurs, in today’s culture that would be frowned up on. Still, we enjoyed every minute on that trolley as the guide told us all about the different dinosaurs.
13. The Towers
For travelers of the Old Chicago Road, the Irish Hills Towers are a true landmark of the Irish Hills, standing tall and proud atop Brighton Hill since 1924. They have stood for 76 years and two years ago were almost demolished. They have recently been restored and the tops removed for safety purposes. They closed officially at the end of the summer in 2000. However I remember going in them as a haunted house in 1998, even then there were questions of their stability. Talk about Finding the Unexpected!
The original Irish hills started in as a stagecoach stop between Detroit and Chicago in the early 19th century.
During the 1940’s – 1980’s this 5 miles stretch of US-12 was a bustling tourist center. People would come from all over the US to see the Irish Hills and participate in its many attractions many staying at W.J. Hayes state park.
The Irish Hills as I use to know it might be gone, but it lives on in my heart and the hearts of many others. There are groups of current residents myself included that are working to bring back at least part of that wonder that use to bring people to our area. My sons got to experience Mystery hill but they never got a chance to do any of the other things that I did. I am hoping by the time I have grandchildren the Irish Hills will be back up and kicking once again.
Tammy is the mom of two wonderful young men ages 23 and 18. She loves travel whether near or far. On her blog Mid-Life Milestones, you will notice she is an advocate of the ketogenic lifestyle. In her free time, Tammy splits her interests across a broad spectrum. A really good book, scrapbooking about current trips, writing for her blog, Securing great photos for her blog and exploring the world. Blogging provides her an outlet to share many of her talents and travels with others. Catch up with Tammy on Facebook here.