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Deadline looms for Lenawee County landmark

Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio

The fate of the 90-year-old Irish Hills Towerscould be decided Wednesday.

Cambridge Township officials may decide the effort to save the iconic wooden towers has run its course, and it’s time to demolish them.

Kelly Flaherty is with the Irish Hills Historical Society.  The group is trying to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars to save the towers. She says they’ve struggled to translate people’s emotional connections to the towers into concrete support.

“Emotionally it would be very, very devastating for the general public to lose the towers,” says Flaherty. “But through this emotional support, we haven’t been able to motivate people to open their wallets.”

Flaherty says they have lined up money to address some of the problems with the towers, but that may not be enough to save them.     

The Irish Hills Towers opened in September 1924. Over the decades, a pleasure trip down U.S. Route 12 wouldn’t be complete without stopping to view the rolling hills of Lenawee County from the “Irish Hills Observatory."  The towers were actually separate businesses.  

Credit Irish Hills Historical Society
Irish Hills Historical Society
In their heyday, the towers were a must-see for people traveling in southern Michigan.

In the 1950s, a new owner turned the towers into a single attraction. The towers closed to the public in 2000. They were added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2007. The Irish Hills Towers were condemned in April 2013, after years of decay made the structures unsafe.

Last year, crews removed the observation platforms in hopes of stabilizing the towers. 

If the towers can be saved, Flaherty hopes to restore the iconic wooden structures and turn the site into a museum. She says that would probably take several years and may be complicated by the towers’ designation on the National Registry of Historic Places.

If township officials decide to move forward with tearing down the towers, a court will have to approve the final demolition order. 

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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