Reviving the Belle Isle Aquarium

HOPE FLOATS



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MORE THAN A century ago, Michigan legislator David E. Heineman was so captivated by an aquarium he visited while traveling in Italy that he returned home with hopes of seeing one built in his hometown.

His dream was realized in 1904 and, after a proud run as the country’s longest continually operating aquarium, it was shuttered in 2005.

Now, there are signs that the vacant Belle Isle Aquarium may be doing more than treading water. In May, the aquarium received a $45,000 grant from Michigan’s Historic Preservation Fund to repair the roof. Jennifer Boardman, secretary and executive board member for the Friends of Belle Isle Aquarium, calls the award a first step in the aquarium’s reopening. “We’re thrilled that it’s being invested in, because that’s an indication of the importance of the building,” Boardman says. 

Architect Albert Kahn designed the Belle Isle Aquarium, which is dramatic in several regards, including the green glass tile that sheathes the vaulted ceiling, lending an underwater aura to the space where tanks once housed 1,500 aquatic creatures representing 146 species.

Today, the space is underwater quiet with the onetime echoes of children’s excited voices as absent as the fish.

“We’d like to see some new, innovative things put in,” Boardman says. “It’s a huge building. There’s room for all types of things that weren’t thought of when the aquarium was built. We would like to make sure we restore it so that when it reopens, people are wowed by it and it sustains itself.”

Information: belleisleaquarium.com.
 

Archive »Related Content

Good Reads

Editor Steve Wilke sums up some of his favorite books of the month.

Bringing the Heat

Photo exhibit puts the focus on fire performers.

Web Exclusive: Interview with Apolis, a brand featured at Willys Detroit

Tiger Tales

Wives reflect on lives spent with baseball icons.

Joining the Table

A newcomer’s edible introduction to Detroit reveals an idiosyncratic and unpretentious restaurant scene

Most Popular

  1. Butchers, Bakers, & Candy Makers
    Locals aim for a slice of the food industry pie
  2. A Taste for Travel
    Culinary tourists and locals are finding a wealth of fine dining around Traverse City
  3. Standing the Heat
    In a world of culinary stars inspired by Julia Child, where are all the female executive chefs?
  4. So You Wanna Be A Chef (Or Just Cook Like One)
    Local culinary classes range from making doughnuts to earning degrees.
  5. Fresh Fare
    Treetops Resort's Farm2Fork events tap the bounty of local producers.
  6. Better When Basted
    Big Rock's Matthew Fitchett gives lamb a seared spin.
  7. The Way It Was - State Fairs
  8. Rockford Brewing Company Brewery Profile
    Embracing the outdoors and the creative spirit, Rockford Brewing Company works to promote a...