Belle Isle Park

Belle Isle Park

Infobox park
park=Belle Isle Park

image size=275px
caption=James Scott Fountain and Belle Isle Casino
type=Municipal (City of Detroit)
size= convert|982|acre|km2
annual visitors=
status=Open all year

Belle Isle is a 982 acre (3.9 km²; 2.42 sq mi) island park in the Detroit River managed by the Detroit Recreation Department. It is connected to the rest of the city by the MacArthur Bridge. It is the largest island park in the United States.

It is home to the Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory (1904), the Detroit Yacht Club, the Detroit Boat Club, the Dossin Great Lakes Museum, a Coast Guard post, and a municipal golf course. The city maintains a Nature Center where visitors are able to traverse wooded trails and view wildlife natural habitats. The island includes a half-mile (800 m) swimming beach.


The island was settled by French colonists in the 18th century, who named it "Île aux Cochons" (Hog Island). The Island was once the estate of General Alexander Macomb, Jr. whose monument stands in the Washington Boulevard Historic District. In 1845 it was given its present name. The island was landscaped in the 1880s by Frederick Law Olmsted, a prominent urban park designer. The 1908 Belle Isle Casino building is not an actual gambling facility but rather, is used for occasional public events. A highlight of Belle Isle is a beautiful botanical garden and the Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory (1904), the nation's oldest conservatory. Both the casino and the conservatory were built by Detroit architect Albert Kahn, who designed city landmarks such as Cadillac Place and the Ford Rouge Factory. The island park has served a as a staging grounds by the U.S. military during World War II. It was a reenactment of a Pacific island invasion by the Navy and Marine Corps. The island was temporarily renamed Bella Jima and Detroiters were treated to the sight of an island invasion without the bloodshed. It was conducted after the invasion of Iwo Jima. Architect Cass Gilbert designed Belle Isle's "James Scott Memorial Fountain". Gilbert's other works include the U. S. Supreme Court building in Washington, DC.Lochbiler, Don (November 7, 1997). [ Detroit's fountain of mirth] Michigan History, "Detroit News". Retrieved on January, 6 2008.] The William Livingstone Memorial Light on Belle Isle is the only light tower in the nation constructed of marble. [ Lighthouses of the Great Lakes] . Retrieved on November 23, 2007.]

The island was home to a large herd of European fallow deer for more than 50 years. However, this isolated population fell prey to disease at the close of the 20th century. The children's zoo on the island and the aquarium closed due to budget constraints. In 2004, the last of the 300 animals were captured and moved to the zoo property where some will remain as exhibits when it reopens as a nature center.


At 982 acre (3.9 km²; 2.42 sq mi), Belle Isle Park is the largest city island park and is larger than Central Park in New York City, also designed by Olmsted. Although Belle Isle is the largest island park, it is not the largest island near a major city. Key Biscayne Island adjoining Miami, Florida is convert|1200|acre|km2 and includes a residential area with a smaller park than Belle Isle. Detroit's River Rouge Park is convert|1172|acre|km2. The City's Parks and Recreation Department manages convert|6000|acre|km2 of parks. The Huron-Clinton Metroparks authority manages an additional convert|24000|acre|km2 of parks.

Additional recreational options include a nature center, wheelchair accessible nature trail, playground, picnic shelters, and tennis and basketball courts and baseball fields. In the 1940s there was a canoe concession and a band shell, and canoe riders often stopped nearby to enjoy the concert.

William Livingstone Memorial Light, the only marble lighthouse in the United States, is on the east end of the island, and had surprisingly sumptuous materials and architecture. [ [ William Livingstone Memorial Light] ]

Auto racing

In 1992, a temporary street race circuit was constructed on the isle for CART races. The island hosted ten events at Belle Isle from 1992-2001, and racing resumed in 2007 as part of the IndyCar Series and ALMS.

Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory

The Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory (1904) is a greenhouse and botanical garden in Detroit, Michigan, United States. It covers 13 acres located three miles (4.8 km) east of the city's downtown on Belle Isle. It is open to the public free of charge every day of the year.

It is the nation's oldest conservatory, built in 1904, designed by noted architect Albert Kahn, and rebuilt 1952-1954 with aluminum replacing its original wooden beams. In 1953 it was named in honor of Anna Scripps Whitcomb, who left her 600-plant orchid collection to the city. Thanks to her gift and subsequent donations, the conservatory is now home to one of the largest municipally-owned orchid collections in the United States. Rare orchids were saved from Great Britain during the World War II bombing and transported to the Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory.

The conservatory site contains formal perennial gardens, annual flower beds, a rose garden, and lily pond garden. The conservatory itself covers more than an acre, features an imposing central dome 85 feet (26 m) high (with a total volume of 100,600 cubic feet), and is organized as a palm house in the dome, the north and south wings, and a show house. The south wing contains tropical plants of economic importance such as bananas, oranges, coffee, sugar cane, and orchids. The north wing hosts the extensive collections of ferns, cacti and succulents. The show house, remodeled 1980-1981, features a continuous display of blooming plants.

Dossin Great Lakes Museum



Originally founded in 1949 as the City Maritime Museum, aboard the J.T. Wing wooden schooner, which was the last commercial sailing ship on the Great Lakes, the museum was shuttered by 1956, because of the deteriorating condition of the schooner.

With $125,000 worth donations from Detroit's Dossin family, and a matching subsidation by the city's historical commission, the Dossin Great Lakes Museum broke ground on May 21, 1959, and was opened on July 24, 1961, at the former Belle Isle location of the J.T. Wing. [ [ The Detroit News Archives - Review Mirror Section, Accessed April 16, 2007] ]

The Dossin Museum, after a 10-week renovation, re-opened to the public on March 24th, 2007 after over $100,000 in refurbishments. The renovation added four new exhibits, and the museum will rotate exhibits more often than in previous years. [Dossin Great Lakes Museum on Belle Isle reopens - Detroit News, March 24, 2007]

Permanent Exhibits

*The Miss Pepsi, one of the fastest hydroplane racing boats of all time
*The massive bow anchor of the legendary SS Edmund Fitzgerald
*The SS William Clay Ford Pilot House, where visitors can “be the captain” of one of the city’s most noted freighters
*The restored smoking lounge of the S.S. City of Detroit III, which transports visitors back to the golden age of steamers
*One of the largest known collection of scale model ships in the world [ [ About Dossin Great Lakes Museum] ]

Photo gallery

ee also

*Architecture of metropolitan Detroit
*Belle Isle Aquarium
*Detroit Boat Club
*Detroit International Riverfront
*Detroit River
*Detroit Yacht Club
*List of botanical gardens in the United States
*List of maritime museums in the United States


References and further reading

*Cite book|author=Fisher, Dale|title=Detroit: Visions of the Eagle|year=1994|publisher=Grass Lake, MI: Eyry of the Eagle Publishing|id=ISBN 0-9615623-3-1
*Cite book | author=Hill, Eric J. and John Gallagher | title= AIA Detroit: The American Institute of Architects Guide to Detroit Architecture| year=2002 | publisher= Wayne State University Press | id=ISBN 0-8143-3120-3
*Cite book | author= Rodriguez, Michael and Thomas Featherstone| title=Detroit's Belle Isle Island Park Gem (Images of America)| publisher=Arcadia Publishing| year=2003| id=ISBN 0-7385-2315-1
*Cite book | author= Sharoff, Robert | title=American City: Detroit Architecture| publisher=Wayne State University Press| year=2005| id=ISBN 0-8143-3270-6

External links

* [ Belle Isle Park, Detroit]
* [ Detroit Yacht Club]
* [ Dossin Great Lakes Museum]
* [ About Dossin Great Lakes Museum]
* [ Remote-controllable webcam on the island]
* [ Belle Island Coast Guard Post]
* [ Public Aquarium]
* [ Belle Island Botanical Society]

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