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Michigan Marvels: Irish Hills Towers


Andy Morrison   | The Detroit News
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This history of the Irish Hills Towers is as rich as the rolling hills they overlook.

The area straddling southeastern Jackson County and northwest Lenawee County, named for the Irish immigrants that settled there between 1830 and 1850, was quickly becoming a vacation destination by the early 1920's. 

The Michigan Observation Company built a tower overlooking the hills and many lakes that paint the landscape. A big celebration was held on October 4th and 5th, 1924, and plenty of people came, much to the annoyance of Edward Kelly, who owned the other half of the hill upon which the MCO tower was built.

Wanting a share of that tourism money — and irritated that his view from the hill was ruined by the MCO tower — Kelly quickly built his own and had it opened by the end of November, 1924. 

But that wasn't enough: Kelly built his tower several feet higher.

The MCO quickly raised the ante, and went several feet higher than Kelly's tower. Kelly responded by adding a higher tower to even the two. The MCO threatened Kelly with legal action if he went higher, and promised to build a metal tower so high he wouldn't be able to match it.

They came to a truce concerning the height of the towers but continued to try and outdo each other with ground-level money-making ventures. 

In 1944, Frank Lamping bought the original MCO tower, and in 1955, purchased the Kelly tower. New observations towers were built in 1972 and the tops connected by new owner Allen Good. At 1,400 feet above sea level, the towers were the highest point in Southeast Michigan. It is claimed visitors could see 10 lakes and 7 miles.

But a steady decline in visitors over the years led the the towers closing in 2000. The observation decks were removed in 2013 and the towers slated for demolition.  

The Irish Hills Historical Society intervened and put a halt to the demolition, with hopes to one day reopen these impressive towers.