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.