The Two Towers

In the early 1900s, the Irish Hills were a local secret, but Michigan tourism was about to change that. At that time, Cambridge Junction, was about as far as you could get on a day trip, out of Detroit, and still make it back home before dark. Getting back early was important. The roads were sketchy, cars had no headlights, and the area was still a wilderness in some ways.

the two towers of the Michigan Irish Hills

Edward Kelly owned land along the road, and the Michigan Observation Company wanted to buy a bit of it, with the intention of building a viewing tower. Mr. Kelly declined, but his neighbor, Edward Brighton, agreed, and a 50-foot high tower was built on a high spot, and opened in October of 1924. Just in time for folks to travel out, pay five cents, climb to the top, and gaze out at the spectacular fall colors and brilliant blue lakes, scattered through the hills.

The new tower was just six feet from the property line, and Mr. Kelly was miffed. The observation tower obscured the view from his house. To get even, he built a nearly identical tower, just 12 feet from the original. What's more, he made his tower taller than the original, and the feud was on. The Michigan Observation Company raised their observation platform, so it was equal in height to Kelly's “Spite Tower”. Further, they let Mr. Kelly know, that if this didn't put an end to the “feud”, they would tear their tower down, and build an enormous steel structure, that would dwarf Kelly's. That did it, and for several years, the competition was in finding unusual ways to attract visitors, even to the point of bringing in alligators and monkeys.

The two towers were a very successful attraction, for more than five decades. At one time, as many as 50 buses per day were bringing tourists, to enjoy the view. The site was open 24 hours per day, and offered, in addition to the zoo, a campground, carnival rides, a dance hall, three gas stations, and a miniature golf course. Lodging was available nearby, and three restaurants served travelers. The advent of the automobile brought more visitors, but also spelled doom for the towers. People could travel further, faster and cheaper, and headed for more impressive destinations. By the mid-1960's more than 2 million people had visited the towers. As time passed, various problems plagued a series of owners, and by the mid-1980's the towers shut down.