Structures & Monuments
The Douglas MacArthur Bridge
A reinforced concrete cantilever bridge nearly ½ mile long with 5 lanes, 2 sidewalks and 19 spans; the Douglas MacArthur Bridge features 19 total arches across 2193 ft. and provides main access to Belle Isle. It was completed in 1923 for $2,635,000 and was restored in 1986 for $11.5 million.
Flower Clock & Mound
The Flower Clock and Mound were moved to Belle Isle in 1990. It was originally located at Waterworks Park and created by Elbridge Scribner in 1893. In 1934 Henry Ford restored it placing it at the entrance to Greenfield Village. The hands are 8 and 10 feet long and flowers are planted every year.
The Flynn Pavilion was built in 1949 and was designed by architect Eero Saarinen, whose works include the Gateway Arch in St. Louis and the TWA Terminal in New York. The pavilion was designed as a boat and skate rental facility. The Flynn Pavilion fronts Lake Tacoma lagoon.
Remick Music Shell
The Remick Music Shell was named after music publisher Jerome H. Remick, a Detroiter who owned the largest music publishing firm in the world. The new band shell was constructed in 1950 and included restrooms, a radio control room, dressing and assembly rooms and storage. The design of the shell could mix sound waves for an audience of more than 10,000. The stage is 40 by 80 ft. and could accommodate 80 musicians. Belle Isle concerts ended in 1980.
Nancy Brown Peace Carillon Tower
Nancy Brown was a much-loved columnist with the Detroit News. In 1934, a reader suggested and Nancy promoted a gathering for a sunrise service on Belle Isle. It drew up to 50,000 participants and became an annual event. From this, came the idea for a Peace Carillon on Belle Isle. Conceived in 1936, it was built by the nickels and dimes of readers, and dedicated in 1940. It was at this dedication that Nancy spoke and readers saw her "face-to-face" for the first time. In 2005 The Friends of Belle Isle contributed funds for the sound to be restored.
International Peace Memorial
The Monument Builders of America built this memorial in 1941 during a convention in Detroit as a tribute to the friendly relations between the United States and Canada.
Peacock Sundial (Francis X. Kolb Sundial)
The Peacock Sundial is located in the formal garden just west of the Belle Isle Conservancy on the eastside of the island. It is a bronze peacock gnomon sitting in the center of a bronze polygonal sundial marked with Roman numerals. The sundial sits atop a tapered granite base. The work was formerly a drinking fountain, and was originally located at the west entrance to the Conservatory. A large bronze plaque, now missing read: Presented by F.X. Kolb Detroit-Michigan 1927.
Levi L. Barbour Memorial Fountain
Marshall Fredericks was the sculptor, this statue was particularly important to him because it was the first major competition that he won. It was done in 1936 and dedicated 1n 1937. The gazelle is in a pose known as “wheeling.”
Japanese Tohro (Stone Lantern)
A carved white granite Japanese lantern bearing a Japanese inscription on the base that reads "friendship." The lantern can be lit to illuminate the path around the Japanese garden area. The lantern was presented to Detroit on Sep. 19-21, 1985 to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Detroit/Toyota Sister City Relationship. Lakashi Nishiyama, Toyota's mayor, and fifteen members of the Toyota City Council were present at the ceremonies.
Children's Temperance Fountain
The Loyal Temperance Legion headed by Elizabeth Stocking sponsored this monument. It cost $2,500 and was paid for by the children of Detroit who raised pennies as their plea for temperance in 1910. After being damaged and placed in storage the sculpture was used for flower shows around the city, to the dismay of Stocking’s granddaughter Victoria Van Fleet Saxton. In the early 1960s, she initiated efforts to have the sculpture restored and placed on Belle Isle.
This barn is behind the greenhouses and was part of the old R. Storrs Willis farm, the White House.
Maintenance Building - Old Horse Barn & Belle Isle Zoo
In 1894 George Mason designed this building used as horse stables for the working horses that were used on the island. In the early 1900’s it was the location of the Detroit Zoo, which was located on Belle Isle until 1928. Currently the building is being used for island maintenance and storage.
Old Ferry Dock
Ferry Service to Belle Isle ended in 1957. The only dock left is located on the south side of the island, built in 1870.
Reverend Samuel Francis Smith Flagpole
The Reverend Samuel Francis Smith was born in Boston in 1808. In the early 1830s, his friend, Lowell Mason, gave him a patriotic song to translate. This was a German tune, written in 1732, and titled, “God Bless our Native Land.” Smith was very impressed by the patriotic words, so without changing the music, he wrote the words to “America”. While its origin is German, the same music was used for the patriotic anthem of the British Royalty, “God save the King or (Queen).” Albert Kahn was the architect and designer and Samuel A. Cashwan the sculptor.
Livingstone Memorial Lighthouse
The Livingstone Memorial Lighthouse was designed by Albert Kahn and was erected as a gift from the Lake Carriers Association and Detroit citizens at a cost of $100,000. William Livingstone was a prominent and popular Detroit resident and was the president of the Lake Carriers Association from 1902-1925. The 58-foot shaft of Georgia marble is surmounted by gilt, bronze lantern room reaching 80 ft. high. It is the only light in the nation constructed entirely of marble.
Atom Gazelle Statue
Richard Bennett is the sculptor of the Atom Gazelle Statue, installed in 1991. The statue is made out of stainless steel. It depicts a stylized silhouette of a gazelle with curving horns and a suggestion of the face and neck of this giant gazelle.
Belle Isle Police Station
The Belle Isle Police Station was built in the 1860’s and was the former home for the Detroit River Harbormaster. Police work out of and patrol the island on a 24-hour basis from this building. In 1921, Detroit became the first police department in the country to successfully put a radio-equipped police car into service. The system was created by radio hobbyists: Officers Bernard Fitzgerald, Walter Vogle and Robert Batts. In 1928, the radio broadcast system was in full operation and was the first in the country.
Detroit Boat Club
The Detroit Boat Club was founded in 1839 and is the oldest continuous rowing club in the world, the oldest boat club in the United States and the oldest social club in Michigan. The club had five clubhouses at several locations in the Detroit area before it built the one on Belle Isle in 1902. The club remained there until February 23, 1996, at which time they abandoned the building. The club still operates its rowing ventures from the docks.
Partners -- Newsboy Fountain
Frederick Alexander Turner Dunbar sculpted the original Newsboy Fountain in 1892. James E. Scripps presented the fountain to the City of Detroit at cost of $3,500. On the day of the unveiling, approximately 5,000 newsboys flocked to Belle Isle from Detroit, Flint, Saginaw, Bay City, Ann Arbor and Jackson. Mayor Maybury ended his speech by granting the bronze newsboy a formal license to sell papers. The sculpture was stolen twice in 1997 the granite fountain was restored by sculptor Janice Trimpe.
Civil War Soldier Statue
The Civil War Soldier Statue was sculpted by Angelo Ziroli and was dedicated in 1948. The Women’s Relief Corp of the Grand Army of the Republic erected the monument, which honors the men who fought in the Civil War.
Spanish American War Memorial
The Spanish American War Memorial commemorates the 2,500 troops who fought on three fronts during the Spanish-American War of 1898. The County Board of Supervisors appropriated $15,000 for the monument. Allen George Newman is the sculptor and the monument was dedicated in 1932.
General O. M. Poe Memorial Marker
The marker was erected on September 27, 1923. The inscription reads: “1923. This tablet is dedicated to Gen. O. M. Poe Post No. 433, Grand Army of the Republic, by its auxiliary, Gen. Poe Woman's Relief Corps No. 8. Not for selfish gain or applause, but for honor and the glory of the cause they did that which will never be forgotten."
James J. Brady Memorial
The James J. Brady Memorial commemorates the significant work of Brady who sought to improve the welfare of Detroit’s young children. In 1914, he founded the Old Newsboys Goodfellows of Detroit Fund. Brady’s idea was to have former newsboys sell newspapers during the holiday season with the expectation that customers would pay more than the face value of the paper. The extra money went into the Goodfellows Fund that provided food, clothing and toys for needy children in Detroit. The architect was Frederick O’Dell and Samuel Adolph Cashwan the Sculptor it was dedicated on June 23, 1928.
Major General Alpheus Starkey Williams Statue
This monument depicts Williams sitting astride his horse studying a baffle map during a storm. Williams had a distinguished military record. He served as lieutenant colonel of the first Michigan Infantry in the Mexican War. During the Civil War Lincoln appointed him brigadier general of volunteers. He commanded the Twelfth Corps at the battles of South Mountain, Antietam, and Gettysburg, and he commanded the Twentieth Corps in Sherman's campaigns in I864-65. He was elected to Congress in 1874 and died in 1878 before the expiration of his second term. The monument was unveiled in 1921 and Henry Merwin Shrady is the sculptor.
West Central Bridge
West Central Avenue bridges were constructed by the King Bridge Company originally in 1893. There were two bridges built to replace rustic wood bridges. On the curved fascia girders are circular steel rosettes lightly decorating intersecting twisted lacing bars. The only surviving bridge is on Central Avenue, restored in 2009 by the Posen Construction Company retains the bridge railings, most of the fascia, the former railing supports and the former stone slab wing wall now in front of the new concrete walls holding up the railing.
Johann Frederic Von Schiller Statue
Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller (1759-1805) was a German poet, dramatist, critic, philosopher, and historian. Many of his poems were used by some of the greats including Ludwig van Beethoven (Ode to Joy), Johannes Brahms, Franz Schubert. A plaque, now missing from the back of the base, listed the names of the memorial's executive committee. The sculptor was Herman N. Matzen and it was completed in 1906. The sculpture cost approximately $12,000, which came from numerous small subscriptions from citizens of German descent.
The Belle Isle Zoo opened in 1895 with a few deer and a bear. In 1901 a Deer Shelter, Bear Dens and other exhibits were built. In 1921 a baby Buffalo arrived and in 1928 Sheba the Elephant. In 1956 all structures were demolished except the Elephant House and the Children’s Zoo formed in 1947. In 1980 the Safari Zoo, with elevated walkways, replaced the Children’s Zoo. In 2002 the City of Detroit and the Detroit Zoo permanently closed it.
Dante Alighieri Statue
Dante Alighiere was born about 1265. He was an Italian writer and poet, he is best known for his works Inferno, The Divine Comedy and The Inferno of Dante. He died in 1321. Raffaello Romanelli was the sculptor.
Ransom Eli Olds Commemorative Marker
Ransom Eli Olds was a pioneer of the American auto industry from who Oldsmobile and Reo brands were named. In 1901 Olds designed the Curved Dash Oldsmobile, which sold for $650. This was the first mass-produced low priced American motor vehicle. He was also the first person to use the assembly line in the automotive industry. His commemorative marker was placed on Belle Isle October 24, 1997.