Belle Isle Aquarium in Detroit – Photographs of Albert Kahn’s Baroque-Beaux Arts Treasure

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A Detroit aquarium was first proposed by Rep. David E. Heineman, who had once served as the City’s chief assistant attorney. He was successful in convincing the Legislature to authorize bonds for construction. A vote of the people confirmed support for the project and the bonds were issued in 1900.

Renowned architect Albert Kahn designed the aquarium and its next door neighbor, the Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory. He chose sea-green tile for the ceiling to give visitors a sense of being underwater. It featured both freshwater and saltwater tanks.

The front of the building, with its Baroque entryway, includes the city of Detroit seal and its motto: “Speramus meliora; resurget cineribus” – “We hope for better things; it will rise from the ashes.”

It is considered to be the longest continually operating aquarium in the United States. It closed in 2005 but has since reopened, and is now seeing expanded support from numerous sources, including many dedicated volunteers.

Photography by Rodney L. Arroyo

Belle Isle Aquarium Photo - Detroit - Interior

The interior with sea-green ceiling tiles

Belle Isle Aquarium Photo - Exterior - Detroit

The exterior with its Baroque entryway

Belle Isle Aquarium Photo - Detroit - Interior Basement

The basement of the aquarium, which is the Winter home for the fish the live in the adjacent pond.

Belle Isle Aquarium Photo - Detroit

An interior display in the aquarium

Belle Isle Aquarium Photo - Detroit Exterior Night - Light Up the Aquarium 2015

A night view of the exterior during the Light Up the Aquarium event.

Belle Isle Aquarium Photo - Detroit Light Up The Aquarium

The aquarium and conservatory during the Light Up the Aquarium event.

For more information on the aquarium, visit and

This entry was posted in Blog, Buildings, Detroit.