This Michigan Park May Have Once Been A Speakeasy Hosting Al Capone
There is a park in Somerset Center, MI that is truly unique, in that it's been dubbed Cement City, because of its lavish cement bridges and sculptures. This is what originally interested me, but I then found out some back story on it which got me even more interested. This park for as beautiful as it is once allegedly hosted some nefarious figures, quite possibly including Al Capone. In 1924 William Herbert Lee “Herb” McCourtie transformed his family’s 42-acre farm into a summer home, which would then se many lavish parties with interesting guests, as legend has it.
A graduate of U of M Law School in 1894, he eventually became interested in the oil industry, but gained a fortune when he overheard that there was big money in cement. It just so happened that his farm's soil tested rich in Marl, the key ingredient in cement, which led to him amassing a great personal fortune. During the Prohibition Era however, he reportedly built a fully functioning bar in the hill, which was said to be gorgeous and host the likes of Henry Ford and Al Capone. There rumors of the building being used as a speakeasy are still unconfirmed, but many still enjoy speculating.
But as the Hillsdale Historical Society sited, he was far from a shady person.
Herb McCourtie may have enjoyed the company of gangsters, but he was far from being one himself. From reports of people who knew him, Herb was a generous man who threw lavish parties and unselfishly shared his lovely estate with the people of Somerset Center. Unfortunately he died after a long illness at the relatively young age of 61 at the Battle Creek Sanitarium. The house eventually had to be razed, but an army of volunteers cleaned the area of brush and debris and eventually restored the grounds to their former glory.
In 1991, McCourtie Park was listed in the State of Michigan Register of Historic Places and was later listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
This Lovely Home Once Belonged to a Real Life Michigan Gangster