Apparently the point of the Belle Isle "Shiver on the River" was to promote public support of Belle Isle non-profit groups. This past Saturday, what seemed like every non-profit Belle Isle group ever, set up tables inside the Belle Isle Casino to show why we should pledge our funds and there seemed to be a decent turnout. Personally, I enjoy helping out the Belle Isle and its vast array of amenities whenever I can. With a layout created by New York City Central Park designer, Frederick Law Olmstead, the island is an unbelievable place, which, if given the proper care, can compete with any public space in the country.
The main reason for my visit to the Shiver on the River though, was to catch a glimpse of the now shuttered Belle Isle Aquarium. Closed in 2005 due to budget cuts, Saturday marked the first time that it was open to the public in four years. The aquarium has a long, and storied history. While only about the size of one showroom in some modern day aquariums, such as the stunning National Aquarium in Baltimore and Shedd in Chicago, the Belle Isle Aquarium opened on August 18, 1904, making it the oldest public aquarium in the country. Designed by Albert Kahn,
"The exterior of this structure was most noted for its Gothic style entrance. This highly decorated stone facade incorporated two spitting fish and the emblem of Detroit. Underneath, the word "AQUARIUM" was carved into the stone with the face of Neptune, the Greek God of Water. The facade and the front of building would soon become covered with vines, that would give it a more rustic appeal."
(Friends of the Belle Isle Aquarium)
While there were no fish in the aquarium on Saturday (the place is in no shape to be open, hence the need for support), it was previously home to 1,500 individual animals and 146 species. Now, with nothing inside but empty showcases, scattered furniture, and, even in lieu of the Friends of the Belle Isle Aquarium's best intentions, a distinct feeling of sorrow, it was hard not to imagine weekends past, where parents would take their kids, dress them in their Sunday's best, and watch them stare in amazement at everything the aquarium had to offer.
The preceding paragraph was meant to make you feel nostalgic, even if you never had the opportunity to visit, because in a time of economic crisis, it's hard to see how the Friends of the Belle Isle Aquarium group is going to find the resources to reopen this Detroit gem without massive public support. You can't, however, fault them for trying. I sincerely commend their efforts and will continue to give my support. I'm sure even the Friends of the Belle Isle Aquarium would admit that the aquarium might not be on on the top of everyone's list of important causes during these trying times, but even in times of hardship, it's nice to look forward to one day when this Detroit institution could be up and running once more.
If you are interested in supporting the Friends of the Belle Isle Aquarium's cause, you can help monetarily, or physically, by going to the Friends of Belle Isle Aquarium's website at Friends of the Belle Isle Aquarium.
If you are interested in learning about ways in which you can support Belle Isle and its institutions, you can check out the Friends of Belle Isle website here.
Below are some photographs taken this Saturday at the Belle Isle Aquarium. You can find the entire flickr set here.
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