One of the events on the island this weekend was the 110th anniversary of the Belle Isle Aquarium. Another Albert Kahn building, it is one of the oldest aquariums in the country. It’s a small aquarium with a few dozens tanks of various sizes and not all of them are currently occupied. In 2005 the City of Detroit closed the aquarium for financial reasons but with public support it reopened in 2012 under the operation of the Belle Isle Conservancy. I expect all the tanks will be used in the future and in the meantime it’s a nice place to visit. The gift shop alone is super cute and filled with wonderful Detroit souvenirs and everyday items.
Another Belle Isle site that recently received upgrades is the Dossin Great Lakes Museum. This maritime museum literally allows you to walk into history. The stained glass windows are part of the restructured gentleman’s lounge of the City of Detroit III, a steam ship that operated for the first half of the 20th century. A pleasant surprise we discovered was the new interactive exhibits for kids. From canoes to jet boats the museum now has modern education and entertaining space for kids. In addition to other exhibits, you can also step aboard a Great Lakes freighter, S.S. William Clay Ford, and look out on to the Detroit River.
Tomorrow I’ll post about my favorite location on Belle Isle but for now I’ll end things with a fun historical note. The James A. Scott Memorial Fountain was built to honor James Scott who was apparently a notoriously horrible person (specifically a ‘vindictive, scurrilous, misanthrope’ who liked to intimidate business competitors). He died in 1910 and left his fortune to the city with the understanding that it erect a monument in his honor. Many city leaders and residents objected the plan and felt that it was a cruel joke that he would be immortalized on the city’s crown jewel. In a timeless tale of money talks, the fountain was completed in 1925 and included the stipulated life-size statue of Scott which reads: