Somerset, Michigan: WHL McCourtie Estate: Concrete Wood Art

A Michigan cement tycoon hired Mexican artists to build bridges on his estate out of concrete that looked like wood.

McCourtie Park

Address:
Jackson Rd, Somerset, MI
Directions:
McCourtie Park. Two miles west of US Hwy 127, on the north side of US Hwy 12 at Jackson Rd. Turn north (right) onto Jackson Rd. After a few hundred feet you will see the drive that leads to the estate.
Phone:
517-688-9223
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Visitor Tips and News About WHL McCourtie Estate: Concrete Wood Art

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Concrete wood bridge. McCourtie Park - Fake Wood

This is a wonderful park to have a picnic. The park contains 17 folk art cement bridges. It also has two cement tree smoke stacks that protrude from the hideaway under the hill which is no longer open to the public. The likes of Henry Ford and Al Capone have been to this incredible spot. It is definitely worth the visit. Just 20 minutes south of Jackson on old Michigan Ave/US 12.

[Charity, 03/17/2014]

W.H.L. McCourtie owned a concrete company and a large estate in Michigan. He hired artists Dionicio Rodriguez (who we know from his fake concrete wood work in Tennessee and Arkansas) and Ralph Corona to create the fake wood decorations and functional structures.

Concrete wood art bridge. WHL McCourtie Estate - Concrete Wood Art

I lived across the road from this estate 1955-1959 and mowed lawn on the estate for the owner at that time, Zelda Riddler. Zelda's husband worked the farm land attached to the property as a "city" farmer. There are actually 15 bridges and two dams.The main house, a wood frame structure, has since been destroyed. A picnic pavilion now stands in its place. Zelda gave me a tour of that house. There was a large bank vault in the basement and four large bedrooms on the second floor. Displayed on one wall of the main floor, there were family portraits done by weaving various colored hair cut from family members.

As a well-behaved teen-aged boy, I was given permission to roam the property. I spent many a day wandering through the woods and thicket on the back side of the estate, which had not yet been cleared.

I visited in 2006 and found most of the estate cleared of thicket and many of the bridges restored. Unfortunately, the subterranean house was not open. The main entrance to that house was into the tap room with tiled floor, a beautiful stone fireplace, an oak bar with two beer taps, lovely real leaded-glass mosaic windows, and a sort of bay window with bench seating around a small table where Zelda served me hot chocolate on cold winter days.

[Jim Haas, 12/02/2008]
Concrete wood art bridge. Somerset Center - Concrete Wood Art

For a park as tiny as this one is, it's sure worth the trip. If you ever feel that you really need to get an example of el trabeio rustico (and, hey, who doesn't?), then this is the place. On a sunny day, the park is nice enough (and strangely, deserted enough) to warrant a picnic after tromping over the 10 or so bridges constructed over a tiny little nothing of a creek.

[Cari, 01/28/2005]

Photo added Dec. 2008.

W.H.L. McCourtie Estate - Concrete Wood Art

Around 1930, cement tycoon W. H. L. McCourtie hired Mexican artisans George Cardoso and Ralph Corona to construct seventeen bridges on his property. The bridges and other constructions are in the style of el trabeio rustico, the Mexican folk tradition of sculpting concrete into faux wood. The artisans built the bridges with steel rod frameworks and then sculpted concrete to "resemble planed lumber, rough logs, thatch and rope." Two concrete trees that stand on the property are still used as chimneys.

[Donald L. Wakelin, 06/24/2003]

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