Who Knew? Michigan B&B Innkeepers Share Secrets You’ll Want to Discover!

Welcome to the third in a series of secrets our Michigan Bed and Breakfast members want to share with you…. and only you…. and only if you don’t tell. Mum’s the word. These secrets are like little gardens of delight to get you through the winter.

Photo by Darlene Yager

Who knew the land of the Hobbits was here all along…. long before JRR Tolkien wrote the books and before Hollywood made the movies? Who knew it was right here in south central Michigan? Alongside US-12, in the wee hamlet of Somerset Center just east of Lenawee County’s Irish Hills, discover McCourtie Park — a magical, fantastical fairty-tale garden run amok and made of — cement!

Wander among and over 17 cement folk art-style bridges spanning a stream that meanders over 42 acres. The cement sculptures look like wood and rope — a style the French call faux bois or fake wood. Built in the 1930s by two Mexican artisans from Texas, the style is also referred to as El Trabejo Rustico or rustic work. It is actually enjoying a resurgence of interest today.

Here is how a local website describes McCourtie Park:

W.H.L. McCourtie, owner of the now-defunct Trinity Portland Cement Co., had a fondness for concrete and whimsy. His estate, known as Aiden Lair, was the perfect place to create a fantastical garden. Cement chimneys created to look like tree trunks rise out of an underground rathskeller built into the side of a hill where McCourtie played poker with such Detroit bigwigs as auto baron Henry Ford. Local lore says tunnels ran underground here, perfect for bootleggers to smuggle liquor for those all-night poker games.

If that’s not enough to tempt your adventurous spirit to come visit, perhaps knowing it’s officially haunted will do the trick. McCoutrie Park made the Spirit Society’s Haunting Report. And as neighboring innkeepers Joe and Barb Phillips will tell you,  it’s just plain fact that a lone woman has been seen wandering over the bridges and along the wooded paths at dusk. The only issue in question isn’t whether she’s a ghost, but whether her gown is  black or deep midnight blue.

The Phillips own Dewey Lake Manor, a bed and breakfast inn on Dewey Lake in Brooklyn, in the heart of the Irish Hills not far from McCoutrie Park. They want to share another secret with you  — because two secrets are always better than one. When you come visit, be sure to stop by The British Pantry — a tea garden and rooftop cafe in downtown Tecumseh where everything is about tea and features an authentic British menu. “Mushy peas” or “Heinz baked beans on toast,” anyone?

The British Tea Garden offers a loose tea selection second to none. Whether you prefer black, green or herbal, the variety of teas is sure to satisfy your taste buds.

The gift shop features all the proper tea accoutrements as well as fine china tea service, table toppers, kitchen linens, children’s tea sets and books on tea.

Once you’re in that neck of the woods, you won’t want to miss a visit to Toasted Mud, a pottery painting studio in Hillsdale. That little secret is shared by Lori and Mike Venturini who own the Munro House B&B and Spa in neighboring Jonesville. It’s a great spot for kids and couples and friends to try their hands at creative play. And it’s a great way to top off your visit to  the south central part of the state.

Click here to discover more Lake to Lake-member B&Bs in the area. Why B&Bs? They’re the better way to stay. Why Lake to Lake-member B&Bs? They are the best way to stay. At a member inn, you are assured of the highest standards of cleanliness, safety, professionalism and comfort. You can count on it.