Etching of the first European settlement of Detroit, Fort Pontchartrain.
Chief PontiacPontiac's Rebellion was a war that was launched in 1763 by a loose confederation of elements of Native American tribes primarily from the Great Lakes region, the Illinois Country, and Ohio Country who were dissatisfied with British postwar policies in the Great Lakes region after the British victory in the French and Indian War. Warriors from numerous tribes joined the uprising in an effort to drive British soldiers and settlers out of the region. The war is named after the Ottawa leader Pontiac, the most prominent of many native leaders in the conflict.
Hotel & Saloon – Thomas Todd Lorimer HouseAn 1882 survey found Belle Isle to contain a hotel on the lower end, fisherman’s cabin, a summerhouse, three fisheries, an abandoned hut, three ferry docks and the Willis home.
Digging the CanalsIn 1883 construction of the Loop Canal at the upper end of the island began. It was 5 ft. deep and 50 ft. wide. It cost $11,000 to build.
Original Casino The first Casino was built in 1884 and was designed by Donaldson & Meier. It was an 8,000 sq. ft. gabled wooden Victorian-style structure. Snacks and refreshments were available on the first floor and formal dining on the third floor.
CanoeCanoeing developed into a very popular pastime on the canals and lagoons of Belle Isle.
First Police Station on Belle Isle 1890
2nd Boat ClubThe first Boat Club was built in 1891 and was destroyed by a fire in 1893. The second Boat Club was opened in 1894 designed by Donaldson and Meier and burned down in 1901.
3rd Boat ClubThe third Boat Club was opened in 1902 and was a concrete, fireproof structure by architect Alpheus W. Chittenden. This was the first concrete structure to be built in the country. The club remained there until 1996 when the building was abandoned.
1904 Detroit Boat Club Rowing TeamThe Friends of the Detroit Rowing still operate their rowing ventures from the Boat Club docks. The abandoned building has fallen into severe disrepair.
Detroit Yacht Club 1920’s
Detroit Yacht Club 1930’s
Belle Isle Skating PavilionIn 1893 a beautiful wooden skating pavilion chateau was built on the banks on Lake Tacoma and stood there until 1950.
1st BathhouseThe first bathhouse was built in 1894 between the ferry dock and the bridge. It burned in 1901.
2nd BathhouseThis bathhouse opened in 1909. It had 800 dressing rooms and could accommodate 1000 bathers.
Belle Isle Stable BarnsIn 1894 George mason designed a Tudor style building that was used for a main barn and horse stable for the island’s workhorse. It was used as part of the Belle Isle Zoo and housed curator, Jack Timmons and his family from 1919 until 1930.
Zoo/Horse Stables Sheba the elephant in 1936.
Deer ParkThis photo from the 1890’s captures people looking at the deer park and bear den at the Zoo.
Belle Isle Zoo 1910The polar bear exhibit
Band Pavilion on the BridgeShortly after the turn of the century, a pagoda-like structure was built over a canal. This band shell was the setting for regular performances by symphony and concert bands.
Belle Isle Concert Bride 1935
Conservatory Construction 1902
Electric ParkIn 1906 the Electric Park also know as Riverside Park opened with amusement rides. It was located on both sides of the Belle Isle Bridge.
Electric Park 1928It was condemned in 1927.
Electric ParkThis carousel horse was sent to Disney World.
Old Belle Isle BridgeIn1915 watchmen kept water buckets on the bridge to douse small blazes set by cigars and cigarettes discarded on the creosote block pavement. There were as many as six fires a day. On April 27, 1915 a steamroller lumbered by with hot coals to heat irons used for asphalt work on the island. The watchmen tried to stop it but the trail of fire spread too fast. The bridge collapsed and burned to the waterline as thousands watched on the shore.
Belle Isle Temporary BridgeIn 1916 a temporary bridge was completed west of the old structure. It cost $100,000 and remained in use until September 1, 1923 when the new bridge was opened.
Belle Isle Golf CourseIn 1922 a 9 – hole golf course was completed. It was the first public course on Belle Isle.
George Washington ParadeThe MacArthur Bridge was first called the George Washington. This photo is of thousands of Detroit Police Officers leading the parade to celebrate the completion of the new bridge.
West End of Belle IsleThis is the west end of Belle Isle in the early 1900’s before the Scott Fountain was built.
Scott Fountain Under Construction
Scott Fountain CompletedOn May 30, 1925 the James Scott Fountain was completed and an unveiling ceremony was held.
Garland StoveThe Michigan Stove Company, replicated a “Garland” model kitchen range built by the firm for the 1883 World’s Columbian Expo in Chicago. It was carved in oak and painted to look like metal measuring 25 ft. high, 30 ft. long and 20 ft. wide. After the Expo it was placed west of the Belle Isle Bridge.
Garland StoveIn 1956 the “World’s Largest Stove” was moved to the Michigan State Fairgrounds. It stood there until 1974, when it was disassembled and put into storage. In 1998 it was restored and was displayed.
TashmooOn December 8, 1927 the steamer Tashmoo was moored at her winter dock when a 60 mph gale snapped the 14 steel cables securing her and sent her up the river crashing into the steamer Promise at Woodward. She then hit the bridge gashing her sides but not damaging the bridge.
USS YanticThe USS Yantic was a three-mastered barque built in 1864. She was put into services as a gunboat and used briefly in the Civil War traveling to Greenland, South America and the West Indies before coming to the Great Lakes as a training vessel.
Nancy BrownThe Nancy Brown Peace Carillon groundbreaking was on October 30, 1939. The tower honors Nancy Brown, a much-loved Detroit news columnist who wrote the Experience Column.
Belle Isle Race RiotThe Detroit Race Riot broke out in Detroit, Michigan in June 1943 and lasted for three days before Federal troops restored order. The rioting between blacks and whites began on Belle Isle on June 20, 1943 and continued until June 22, 1943 killing 34, wounding 433, and destroying property valued at $2 million.
The National GuardDuring the Belle Isle Race Riots National Guard troops were bivouacked on the island.
Troops trainingAt the end of WWII, the Detroit River and Belle Isle were important training grounds for Broadhead Naval Armory and Ford Naval Training Station.
SailorsSailors practiced maneuvers for landing at Iwo Jima on Belle Isle Beach.
USS TamborThe USS Tambor was a submarine that was decommissioned in December 1945. In April of 1947 it was assigned to the Naval Reserve Training Center in Detroit and located at the foot of the Belle Isle Bridge. She was used for training but was also open for tours until 1959 when the Board of Inspection and Survey found her unfit for further naval services.
Remick Music ShellIn 1950 the $150,000 Remick Music Shell replaced the old rounded one. The stage was 40 by 80 ft. and could accommodate 80 musicians. Concerts ended in 1980.
Love in 1967 On April 30, 1967 the band shell was the scene of the Love-In Detroit concert featuring the MC5, Billy C. and the Sunshine and the Seventh Seal. The Outlaws, a motorcycle gang, showed up where mayhem ensued.
Nike Air Defense BaseFrom 1955 to 1958 the Nike Air Defense Base was located near the Lighthouse.
CasinoThe Casino had a lot of the early soda fountain-type counters.