Posts tagged ‘Cities’

January 4, 2013

Other Things I Like About Detroit

On my most recent book tour, I spread out my readings so I would have a little extra time in each city to talk with social justice organizations, visit friends, and have some general fun. At each stop, I asked the locals I met, “If you moved away from [insert city name here], and you were back for only one day, what would you do?”

In Detroit, the answer was pretty unanimous: Belle Isle.

Belle Isle is a nearly-1,000 acre park in the middle of the Detroit River. The park was designed by Frederick Law Olmstead, who was also responsible for Central Park in NYC. While Belle Isle Park is more than 100 acres larger, its annual budget is a mere $2.8 million — compared to Central Parks $43 million — for all physical upkeep and programs. Unfortunately this means that many of its wonderful resources are unavailable most of the week, or have closed for good: the aquarium, the zoo, the casino.

Following are some pictures of Belle Isle, and other things I like about Detroit.

Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory

The Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory, a greenhouse and botanical garden covering 13 acres. Designed by Detroit architect Albert Kahn, it opened in 1904 and is the nation’s oldest conservatory.


Cactus graffiti!

Nancy Brown Peace Carillon

The Nancy Brown Peace Carillon. In 1936—in the midst of the Depression that devastated and impoverished Detroit—Nancy Brown suggested that readers of her column, *Experience,* one of the US’ first personal advice columns, donate their nickels and dimes to build a Peace Carillon on Belle Isle. So many did so that this 850-foot Neo-Gothic tower was built less than 5 years later.


The abandoned Belle Isle Zoo. For more great pictures, see

Wild dog on Belle Isle. While staying in downtown Detroit, near the Woodbridge neighborhood, I went out to the corner store and saw pheasants. Who out there has written interesting stuff about Detroit rewilding? Anyone know?


More things (not on Belle Isle) I Like About Detroit:

The Milner Hotel: One of the few independent hotels left in Detroit’s downtown. Alas, I stayed there in the last week they were open. In October 2012, the hotel closed and is being converted into condos (boo). Opened in 1917 during Detroit’s boom years as part of a national chain, the Milner then advertised itself with the slogan, “A Bed and a Bath for a Buck and a Half.”
More on the closing here:


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