Belle Isle , located only a couple of miles away from downtown Detroit is the largest island park in the US covering 982-acre (1.534 sq mi). It’s larger than Central Park in NYC and the third largest island in the Detroit River after Grosse Ile and Fighting Island .
Belle Isle features Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory (1904), the Detroit Yacht Club, the Detroit Boat Club, James Scott Memorial Fountain, the Dossin Great Lakes Museum, a Coast Guard station, and a municipal golf course. Belle Isle also contains a 0.5 mile swimming beach.
Belle Isle was settled by French colonists in the 18th century, who named it Hog Island and received its current name when the city of Detroit finally acquired the island in 1879 . Known as Swan Island to the Chippewa and Ottawa Native American tribes, the island reflects the late 19th century movement to create metropolitan parks.
A design for the island was created in the 1880s by Frederick Law Olmsted, a prominent urban park designer . Between 1903 and 1930, the Casino, the Whitcomb Conservatory, and Livingstone Lighthouse were designed by Albert Kahn. A highlight of Belle Isle is a beautiful botanical garden and the Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory built in 1904 . The island park also served as a staging ground by the U.S. military during World War II .The island was home to a large herd of European fallow deer for more than 50 years. In 2004, the last of the 300 animals were captured and moved to the zoo and nature center properties.
- The Dossin Great Lakes Museum features world’s largest collection of scale-model Great Lakes ships, maritime memorabilia ,special hands-on exhibits and the bow anchor of the legendary SS Edmund Fitzgerald.
- The Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory built in1904 is a greenhouse and botanical garden that covers 13 acres (5.3 ha) on Belle Isle. It is open to the public free of charge every day of the year. The conservatory is now home to one of the largest municipally-owned orchid collections in the United States. Also includes a fernery and tropical plants sections, and is surrounded by three acres of formal gardens, lily ponds and greenhouses.
- The most famous structure on Belle Isle is undoubtedly the Aquarium and Horticulture Building.
- Belle Isle Casino, designed by Albert Kahn in 1908 was once said to be the finest casino in the United States.
- Nancy Brown Peace Tower is a85-foot carillon tower, dedicated to the newspaper columnist who raised most of the building fund.
- Scott Memorial Fountain is huge, carved white marble fountain.
- Belle Isle Zoo is also located on the largest island park , in the middle of the Detroit River
Belle Isle Park is featuring memorials, fountains, athletic fields, manmade lagoons, and dramatic buildings, is a green oasis near the city’s center.
By daytime, this is the perfect family and friends to gather . Whether your interests are nature, physical fitness, history, architecture, botany or athletics, you’ll make fascinating new discoveries on Belle Isle. There’s definitely something for everyone and visitors should also know that most of the park’s attractions are free of charge .