Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Memory Lane 2

We were disappointed to see the the Towers are in really bad repair, we'll be surprised if they are still there the next time we visit. This was always a big tourist attraction when I was a child.
Here's some history taken from Wikipedia - 
"In the early 1920s, the Michigan Observation Company sought places of high elevation to erect 50-foot-high (15 m) enclosed platforms to boost tourism. In southern Michigan, a tower was placed atop Bundy Hill in Hillsdale County and officials sought a knoll in the heart of the Irish Hills in Lenawee County. A farmer who owned half of the knoll, Edward Kelly, turned down the company's offer to purchase his portion of the land. The adjoining land owner, Thomas Brighton consented to the sale of his plat, and construction of the Irish Hills Observatory commenced.
The opening of the Irish Hills Observatory was announced by The Brooklyn Exponent in September 1924. In a gala celebration on October 4 and October 5, hundreds of people ascended the hill and tower to gaze upon the rolling landscape and crystal blue lakes in all directions. Kelly seemed spited by the exploitation of the MOCs venture, and protested by erecting his own tower. By the end of November, 1924, his own observation platform was in place, just feet away from the MOCs structure, and several feet higher.
The Michigan Observation Company responded by adding a second observation enclosure to the top of its own facilities, now designated as the Original Irish Hills Tower. Kelly proceeded to add a raised platform to his "Gray" tower (named as such because of its gray painted exterior), an act which brought the two edifices to an even height. The MOC informed Kelly that if he attempted to compete with more height given to his tower, they would tear down their own and construct a metal observatory so large that Kelly's efforts would be nullified. He conceded, and turned his efforts instead to drawing more revenue to his creation.
The Irish Hills Towers operated as separate and competitive entities through the 1950s, when Frank Lamping acquired both and connected them with a gift shop at the ground floor. They briefly closed in the late 1960s, and refurbished in 1972 by Allen Good. They were given new observation platforms and as a result attained a near identical look.
The Irish Hills Towers closed to the public at the end the summer of 2000. The township deemed the towers unsafe in April 2013. The Irish Hills Historical Society began demolition of the tops of the towers on July 1, 2013 to begin the process of bringing them up to code. As of their September 2014 meeting, the township board had once again agreed to hold off demolition while the historical society continued fundraising to save the landmarks."
All along this stretch of M50 there are tourist attractions that are no longer in business, like Prehistoric Forest, Golden Nugget, Frontier City. They were all thriving in the 60s and 70s, it seems people aren't interested in that type of thing these days. However, the lakes in the area are all thriving, beautiful new homes have replaced the cottages I grew up with. At that time not many people lived at the lakes year round, they were mostly summer cottages.
I learned to snow ski on a tiny hill behind the towers, once we moved to Colorado those hills were about the size of the bunny hills there.
Manitou Beach - 
This is the closest town to our family home on the south side of Round Lake. 
Round and Devils lake sit in the middle between Toledo, Jackson, Ann Arbor and Hillsdale just about 20 miles north of the Ohio/Michigan line.
Devil's Lake (village at the north end of Devil's Lake) was a Powtawatamie  (the tribe of Michaels ancestors) village until about 1830.
The first European settlers arrived in the early 1830s and it became a resort for them by 1900. Ferries took people to the south end of the lake where Manitou Beach was established, there were hotels, bath houses, a dance pavilion, boat rentals, a water slide, picnic facilities and restaurants.
The name Manitou Beach come from the Potawatomi name of Devils Lake Michemanetue.
The Manitou Beach post office was established on March 20, 1889 and a station on the Cincinnati Jackson, and mackinaw railroad was built (later part of the Cincinnati Northern Railway. There was a viaduct in Manitou Beach that the senior class at Addison High School painted every year. I'm told when it was torn down a few years ago the paint was inches thick. I just ran across some photos my Dad took of a train crash at the north western side of the lake, it was a freight train. I remember going to see it.

Another rail line crossed the one that went through Manitou Beach, it was the Detroit, Toledo and Milwaukee Railroad (I am also a railroad buff and will take a train ride at every chance). This line still exists (but with no stop at Devils Lake, but the one that went through Manitou Beach is gone. Too bad.

The region was devastated by two F4 tornadoes on April 11, 1965.  I was in this tornado, some of my friends were killed, and there is still a big reminder - the road to the pavilion was lined with huge trees on either side creating a canopy. Now there are just a few small trees on one side of the road. More about this below.
Several books on the lake resort have been written, including "Along the Shores of Michemanetue" (2009) and "Night of the Wind" (2002) By Dan Cherry, "Lake Reflections" by Margaret Brighton and the Lakes Preservation League (1996), and "Ho! For Devils Lake" by Barbara Page Roys (1998).
The Devils Lake Drive-In-Church, a drive-in movie theater, closed its doors after 58 seasons due to the death of its operator.
The Manitou Beach Inn was destroyed by fire in 2010, the inn was rebuilt and was the start of a revitalization of the old business district along Walnut Street.
We are thrilled to see that Manitou Beach is thriving with new businesses and renovated buildings.
Some of my memories of the Beach are 
The Devils Lake Pavilion -
This is a photo of the Pavilion by Dan Cherry - we had a lot of great times there.

We went to lots of dances there and some of the bands that played there were Del Shannon, Roy Orbison, the Mindbenders, the Animals, Freddie and the Dreamers, Brenda Lee, Frankie Avalon, Joey Dee and the Starliters, Bobbie Vinton, Paul & Paula, the Four Seasons and more.

On Sept. 2, 1963, the original pavilion burned to the ground in a fire caused by faulty wiring in the band shell.  It was rebuilt as a 16,000-square-foot building called Devil's Lake Pavilion. It opened in April 1964.

Then, on April 11, 1965 – Palm Sunday – that pavilion was destroyed by an EF4 tornado that caused widespread damage throughout southern Michigan.

It was rebuiit again, this time it was a 20,000-square-foot building. Green's Pavilion opened on Labor Day 1965 to a paid attendance of 10,000.

By the summer of 1966, more than 1,000 teens a week were coming to the pavilion, which was open Wednesday through Sunday nights during the summer and weekends in the winter.

Between big-name acts, up-and-coming bands played Green's Pavilion. This included Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck, who performed with the Yardbirds on Aug. 10, 1966. Bob Seger and his first band, the Last Heard, also played there.

In 1973 the Pavilion was sold to the Tibbs family, who converted it into the Tibbs Bros. Pavilion grocery store.

In 2013, Jerry's Market bought the store, revamped it and renamed it Jerry's Pavilion Market. Sections of the original wooden dance floor still are in the store. 
When I talk about the tornado, I mean it was flattened. The strip between the lake, through Manitou Beach and down Rollin Highway. It took the roof off our church and leveled 2 others, as well as a school I went to.

That afternoon I had walked around the lake and remember the sky was an odd shade of yellow. I will never forget that, I can see it today, 50 years later. If I ever see that sky I take cover. I did see it once here in New Bern and sure enough there were tornados across the river.

No comments:

Post a Comment