One of Detroit’s truly historic icons, the Belle Isle Aquarium is the oldest public aquarium in the U.S. Opened in 1904, this ornate building features a single large gallery under an arched, green tile ceiling, to evoke a spookily-accurate underwater ambience. The aquarium (which also served as a speakeasy during Prohibition) is now run by volunteers and opens every Saturday and Sunday from 10am-4pm. If you’re heading over to Belle Isle—a 982-acre island park on the Detroit River—take time to check out the Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory (7000 Inselruhe Ave, 313-331-7760) too, a beautiful 13-acre botanical garden and greenhouse a short walk from the aquarium.
Belle Isle Aquarium says
The Belle Isle Aquarium is a public aquarium located in Belle Isle Park in Detroit, Michigan. Designed by noted architect Albert Kahn, it opened on August 18, 1904, and was the oldest continually operating public aquarium in North America when it closed on April 3, 2005. The aquarium reopened to the public on August 18, 2012, and is now run entirely by volunteers. The 10000sqft historic building features a single large gallery with an arched ceiling covered in green glass tile to evoke an underwater feeling.The aquarium was operated by the Detroit Zoological Society prior to the 2005 closure. It is currently operated by the Belle Isle Conservancy.HistoryThe aquarium basement served as a speakeasy during Prohibition and later held large fish which no longer fit the Belle Isle Zoo's gallery tanks. Closed circuit television allowed remote viewing of these fish. The aquarium was slightly remodeled in the 1950s.Attendance was on a declining trend in its final decade: 113,000 visitors toured the aquarium in 1995 and only 56,000 in 2004.On 14 January 2005, the city of Detroit announced that the aquarium would be closed to save $530,000 annually, with the staff being reassigned to the Detroit Zoo or the Belle Isle Zoo, and the fish transferred to other aquariums. It was originally scheduled to close on March 1. Although an extension was granted to the Friends of Belle Isle Aquarium to come up with a fund raising plan, the aquarium was closed on April 3, 2005.