Owner renovates historic Clare ranch with 1920s gangland past

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CLARE, Mich. (AP) — Brides and grooms now have the opportunity to host their weddings at a central Michigan ranch with a historic bootlegging past.

Owner Jim Paetschow is renovating the Tobacco Ranch in Clare into a venue for weddings and business retreats, the Morning Sun of Mount Pleasant reported. The ranch was once owned by lawyer Isaiah Leebove, who worked for one of Detroit’s most prominent gangs in the 1920s, the Purple Gang. The allies of Al Capone made a business in bootlegging, or the illegal transfer of alcohol during the Prohibition.

Paetschow said the ranch was ransacked in the 1970s and 1980s for buried money or treasure left by the mob. Metal detectors pinpointed bullets and brass lipstick cases.

Paetschow wants to preserve the ranch’s history in his renovations. He plans to keep a cupboard in the kitchen that leads to the attic, a hiding spot gangsters used to evade the police.

The 76-acre (31-hectare) ranch has two barns which will be used for wedding ceremonies, and Paetschow intends to add more. The garage will hold a bunkhouse where up to 16 people can stay. The upper level will house the bridal suite.

“It’ll be like a hotel when we’re done,” he said.

There are also several nature paths and lakes on the property. Paetschow plans to decorate the areas with bridges and grass.

“I don’t want to see anyone buy this place and build condos or something like that,” he said. “I don’t want to lose the history and the coolness of it because it’s priceless.”

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