A Heritage Cruise along US-12 through the Irish Hills


From the Michigan Historic Preservation Network

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Irish Hills Towers

Michigan’s First Road

Michigan’s first road, US-12, extends across southern Michigan through the Irish Hills. This day-long tour along the Michigan Heritage Route visits many of the small towns established on the route from Coldwater to Saline and showcases the efforts to breathe new life into every aspect of the region. From the spectacular Tibbits Opera House, to the concrete wonder of McCourtie Park, and the streets of Saline, US-12 is filled with architecture, interesting tourism opportunities, and stories of ingenuity. Participants are introduced to highlights of US-12, discuss efforts to revitalize the area, and are immersed in the local history. Join the Michigan Historic Preservation Network on another Great Michigan Road trip as they explore Michigan’s first road – the Old Chicago Road. Like many of Michigan’s roadways, US-12 began as a trail for Native Americans, and later was a trade route between Fort Detroit (Detroit) and Fort Dearborn (Chicago). During the 19th century, this route was known as the Sauk Trail despite the fact that the Sauk no longer lived along its route. In 1825, Father Gabriel Richard, then the Territory of Michigan’s representative to the congress, urged the Federal Government to open a highway from Detroit westward to Chicago. Shortly after this appeal, the 260 mile distance was surveyed and the road established. As a stagecoach route, numerous towns were established along its path, typically situated just far enough apart to rest horses and travelers. Towns like Saline, Clinton and Brooklyn all became stops along the route. Architecture too illustrates the history of the route styles from Greek Revival to Queen Anne and beyond are all chronicled along the tour. When automobiles became popular, the tourism industry was truly launched. The region, known as the “Irish Hills,” became a destination for many Michigan families with attractions like the Mystery Spot, McCourtie Park, the Irish Hills Towers and Stage Coach Stop. These attractions maintained their popularity until the last few decades when age had taken its toll, now community leaders are faced with the challenge of how to breathe new life into their regions. The tour discusses regional tourism trends, efforts to maintain historic features along the route, partnerships established to protect and promote the region, the role of the Michigan Department of Transportation and the designation as a Michigan Heritage Route, and end in the Michigan Main Street Community of Saline for an opportunity to see how US-12 has impacted their efforts.

Irish Hills

Irish Hills -- US 12

Saline, Michigan

Saline, Michigan

Walker Tavern

11710 US 12

Cambridge Junction, Michigan

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HISTORY This historic building, a link with the bygone pioneer era, dates back to 1832. Here, at the junction of the Chicago Road and the road from Monroe,a small inn was opened by Sylvester Walker of Cooperstown, New York. Before long the Walker Tavern was a famed stopping-place for stagecoaches and the hundreds of pioneer wagons that passed here daily. Daniel Webster and James Fenimore Cooper were among the noted guests who stayed at this storied inn, which was also a center for the community. In the early days church services were held in the barroom. In 1921, Frederic Hewitt purchased the tavern, restoring it as a museum. SIGNIFICANCE The Walker Tavern was a social and civic center for a burgeoning intersection along the primary trade and settlement routes into Michigan; the Detroit-Chicago route and the road from Monroe. The tavern was originally built as a farmhouse circa 1832 but converted to a tavern and inn by Sylvester S. and Lucy Walker in 1843. Several alterations were made to the building during a 1965 restoration and conversion into a museum at the Cambridge State Historical Park by the State of Michigan, Walker Tavern’s current owner.

 

Schuyler Mill — Ford Soybean Plant Complex

555-600 Michigan Ave.

Saline, Michigan

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HISTORY Since 1845 the Schuyler Mill has been a landmark in the City of Saline and has been associated with Henry Ford since the early 1930s. In 1845 the mill was constructed and work generated at the mill spurred the development of the nearby town of Barnegat. By 1865 business began to decline and the mill was soon closed. In 1938 Henry Ford revitalized the failing farm by establishing one of his Village Industries Program sites at Schuyler Mill. Ford re-opened the mill and established a soybean-extractor plant. In 1943 Ford moved the Hoyt-Sumner school onto the Saline property. Following Ford’s death in 1947, the property was sold by his company to private owners and the mill was subsequently changed to the Sauk Trail Inn. SIGNIFICANCE Since 1845 the Schuyler Mill has been a landmark in the City of Saline and has been associated with Henry Ford since the early 1930s. In 1845 the mill was constructed and work generated at the mill spurred the development of the nearby town of Barnegat. By 1865 business began to decline and the mill was soon closed. In 1938 Henry Ford revitalized the failing farm by establishing one of his Village Industries Program sites at Schuyler Mill. Ford re-opened the mill and established a soybean-extractor plant. In 1943 Ford moved the Hoyt-Sumner school onto the Saline property. Following Ford’s death in 1947, the property was sold by his company to private owners and the mill was subsequently changed to the Sauk Trail Inn.

Area of Significance: COMMERCE; INDUSTRY; SOCIAL HISTORY
Level of Significance: STATE
Period of Significance: 1825-1849; 1850-1874; 1875-1899; 1900-1924; 1925-1949
Significant Year: 1845; 1865; 1938
Significant Name: Ford, Henry
Source: National Register of Historic Places

 

Joseph Annin House

218 Monroe St.

Saline, Michigan

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The Joseph Annin House is a sophisticated structure and perhaps the finest example of Italianate style in Saline. The 1874 Everts and Stewert Illustrated Atlas drawing of the property reveals the remarkable architectural integrity of this building, the only exceptions being the removal of the belvedere and original porch, and a shed-roofed addition to the barn.

Area of Significance: ARCHITECTURE
Level of Significance: LOCAL
Period of Significance: 1850-1874
Significant Year: 1863
Source: National Register of Historic Places

 

East Michigan Avenue Historic District

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Significance The East Michigan Avenue Historic District derives its significance from the large, nicely detailed and well preserved Queen Anne, Colonial Revival, Bungalow, and Second Empire homes. The outstanding architecture and historical associations with key residents help make the East Michigan Avenue Historic District a significant visual reminder of Saline’s past.

Area of Significance: ARCHITECTURE; COMMERCE
Level of Significance: LOCAL
Period of Significance: 1850-1874; 1875-1899; 1900-1924
Source: National Register of Historic Places

 

Irish Hills Towers

8433 W. US 12

Cambridge Township, Michigan

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Originally built in 1924, the Towers are a landmark of the area and reminder of the past. The first Tower was built by the Michigan Observation Company, 50 feet tall and right up to the property line at the peak of the hill. The second Tower was built by Edward Kelly at a height of 60ft. Thus began a building competition that ended with the Towers remaining at 64ft. The competition for the tourist trade had only just begun.

 

Irish Hills along US-12 on a Motorbike

Story of Where - Free


Story of Where