There’s more to Detroit than just cars and Motown. If you’re the kind of person that’s more interested in the arts and culture scene, the Motor City has plenty to offer. Take a peek at the city’s utterly breathtaking Belle Isle Aquarium. The elaborate exterior makes you feel like stepping inside will take you back in time… and the green-tiled interior almost makes you feel like you’re underwater with the fish!
When the aquarium opened in 1904, it was the third-largest in the world, holding 32,000 gallons of water. It remained a popular destination through the early 20th century, and during Prohibition in the 1920’s, a speakeasy in the basement let gangsters drink like fish with the fish (that basement now holds fish that are too large for the display tanks– you can watch them swim via closed-circuit TV). But, by the 1990’s and early 2000’s, tourism dropped off massively (save for 2002, when one of the female white bamboo sharks in the aquarium gave birth despite having not been near a male– a rare case of parthenogenesis), and in 2004, it was announced that the aquarium would close to save money for the city.
Backlash over the closing of Belle Isle was immediate, with voters voicing their displeasure. Funds were raised, and a few days after the aquarium’s 108th birthday, it reopened again. Today, work is being done to restore as many of the 60 tanks as possible. When the aquarium opened, it held 1,500 fish of 146 different species, specializing in freshwater fish from the nearby Great Lakes.
Right near by the Belle Isle Aquarium, you’ll find the equally stunning Belle Isle Conservatory. Opened at the same time as the aquarium, the beautiful dome is the main focal point of the huge botanical garden and greenhouse. Named in the 1950’s for Anna Scripps Whitcomb, who donated large amounts of money as well as her massive collection of orchids to the conservatory. Like the aquarium, the conservatory is the longest-running, public conservatory in the country. Hopefully, gems like these will not only remain open for many more years to come, but will actually help revitalize Detroit!
Featured image via Belle Isle Conservancy Facebook
More rad history…