I've written about Belle Isle a few times...once about the island's abandoned golf course, the 1967 “Love-In”, the Snake Goddess of Belle Isle, and the old abandoned zoo.

But now it's time to take a further look back and see what all the hubbub was about in the late 1800s-early 1900s, when Belle Isle was one of the top amusement parks (if not THE top) in Michigan.

According to detroithistorical.org, when the French settled on that island in the 1700s they called it “Hog Island”, allowing people to come to the island to take care of their animals. Detroit bought the island in 1879 and opened it up to everyone in 1880.

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1840: Ferry service to the island until 1957
1845: The island is named 'Belle Isle' after governor Lewis Cass' daughter, Belle
1902-1996: Detroit Boat Club
1904: Conservatory
1904: Belle Isle Aquarium
1908: Casino
1922: Belle Isle Golf Course
1923: Detroit Yacht Club
1923: MacArthur Bridge built, connecting the island to Detroit
1925: James Scott Memorial Fountain (Who was James Scott? Find out here)
1943: The infamous Detroit Race Riot begins on Belle Isle
1950: Concerts were held at the Remick Band Shell until 1980

Belle Isle is larger than Central Park in New York City – 982 acres.
The Detroit Grand Prix's first race on Belle Isle took place in 1982, and different incarnations of the race continue to this day.

Unfortunately, those wonderful amusement park rides are gone, but so much still exists...so much so, that Belle Isle is usually Michigan's most-visited park every year.

The gallery below shows you what Belle Isle was like, wayyy back in the early 1900s...

Vintage Belle Isle Photos, Early 1900s


The Actors Colony, 1908-1938

Vintage Hamburger Diners and Michigan's First Drive-in Restaurant

Vintage General Stores Part 3

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