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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
The interior with sea-green ceiling tiles
The exterior with its Baroque entryway
The basement of the aquarium, which is the Winter home for the fish the live in the adjacent pond.
An interior display in the aquarium
A night view of the exterior during the Light Up the Aquarium event.
The aquarium and conservatory during the Light Up the Aquarium event.
For more information on the aquarium, visit http://historicdetroit.org/building/belle-isle-aquarium/ and http://belleisleconservancy.org.