Belle Isle, Detroit

As I drove onto Belle Isle, connected to the City of Detroit by the MacArthur Bridge, I blew by a small booth. Thinking I should stop after all, I backed up and talked to the woman and realized I had to pay $11 for the honor of driving my car around the park for around a half hour. I wish in hindsight I would have kept going. But anyway, there’s an easy explanation: when Detroit declared bankruptcy in 2013, the State of Michigan took over the park, and now operates it as a state park while the city maintains ownership. You can walk and bike out there for free. In fairness, Michigan has invested tens of millions of dollars in repairing long-neglected buildings.

The highlight is the giant fountain, based off models from Versailles’s gardens and designed by Cass Gilbert, who designed the Saint Louis Art Museum and Central Library. Much like at Versailles, it was not running the day I visited due to a mechanical failure. The giant basin is clearly inspired by the huge Granitschale bowl in the Lustgarten in Berlin.

There are also a plethora of other monuments to other people and events, such as the News Boys, below.

Here’s one for the Civil War.

This commemorates the Spanish-American War below, and the Rough Riders.

This statue below is General Alpheus S. Williams, from Detroit by Henry Shrady.

Here are the horse stables. There were once fallow deer that roamed the island, but due to disease, they now are in the zoo.

Below is James Brady.

Below is a portrait bust of Florentine poet Dante Alighieri.

The highlight of the park for me was a “nature area,” for lack of a better term, where the island has been left to return to its original form, which was a swampy, low-lying preserve in the middle of the Detroit River.

6 Comments Add yours

  1. W. White says:

    It may look like Grant to you, but this statue is actually of prominent Detroit resident Gen. Alpheus S. Williams. Spalling (or vandalism) on the base has obscured his name on one side, but other sides are still legible. The sculptor, Henry Shrady, specialized in statues of great men on horseback and created ones for Williams, George Washington, Robert E. Lee, and yes, Ulysses S. Grant, the one at the Capitol in Washington.

    Of course, the Robert E. Lee Memorial has been removed and the social justice warriors plan to melt it down in our ongoing Cultural Revolution. Who knows when Grant, Washington, and Williams will meet the same fate?

    1. cnaffziger says:

      There was a Robert E. Lee monument on Belle Isle???

      1. W. White says:

        No, the Charlottesville one.

        Also, the Washington sculptures are in Brooklyn (the original) and Kansas City (a slightly later copy).

  2. W. White says:

    Also, the unlabeled statue above Dante’s bust is of James Brady, founder of the Old Newsboys’ Goodfellow Fund of Detroit.

    1. cnaffziger says:

      Thanks for the correct IDs!

  3. Beverly Snider says:

    Sorry u experienced the fee episode. Each year residents renew the sticker via Secretary of State, if they plan on attending any functions/Outings at Belle Isle.. Our Condo building is here on the water front with view of Belle Isle Bridge, Boat club and Yacht Club from majority of our picture windows…

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