As the Phoenix of legen, one of the great cultural treasures of Detroit has returned after an absence of seven years. And if you’re a fan of architecture, science, beauty, culture, history, life and fun like us, you’ll enjoy time on a Saturday walking with the sea creatures inhabiting the Belle Isle Aquarium.
Thanks to the hard work of volunteers and the good people at the Belle Isle Conservancy over the past seven years, plus the financial support of private and public organizations dedicated to historic preservation, the Belle Isle Aquarium re-opened to the public Saturday, Sept. 15.
The community is invited to visit the Aquarium on Saturdays between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Admission is free.
The facility was shuttered in April, 2005 in a series of cost-cutting moves by the City of Detroit. A group of about 200 active volunteers helped preserve the building and grounds.
While some fish were taken in by other institutions, volunteers personally cared for as many of the fish and marine creatures as they could. Fish, particularly the larger and more exotic specimens, require specialized habitats.
Aquariums like Belle Isle are specially designed to house many diverse examples of freshwater and marine. Some of the displays hold many hundreds of gallons of water.
It is believed that the Belle Isle Aquarium is currently the only volunteer run aquarium in the country. The Aquarium and Conservatory were designed by Albert Kahn and opened to the public on August 18, 1904.
When they opened, the Aquarium and Conservatory were declared the finest buildings of their kind in the world. It was the oldest continuously operated public fresh water aquarium in North America.
Since closure, the former Friends of Belle Isle Aquarium, one of four nonprofit organizations that merged into the Belle Isle Conservancy, won two grants to benefit the Aquarium. A grant awarded by the National Trust for Historic Preservation helped to fund the architectural plans and drawings of the Aquarium roof completed by Merz & Associates. A second grant was awarded by the Michigan State Housing Authority State Historic Preservation Office which, along with matching funds provided by the former Friends of Belle Isle Aquarium, funded roof and window repairs. Those repairs are now complete.
What to know if you go!
• Admission is free
• Parking is free
• Hours are Saturdays, 10 to 3
• The Aquarium is located on Belle Isle at the intersection of Loiter Way and Inselruhe Avenue
• Bring drinks & snacks, there are no concessions on Belle Isle
• There is a handicap accessible ramp, but no handicap accessible bathroom facilities
• Cameras are welcome
• Visit other island attractions: Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory, Dossin Great Lakes Museum, Scott Fountain, Livingstone Lighthouse and the Belle Isle Nature Zoo.
For more information visit belleisleconservancy.org.