Z – ZOO, Belle Isle

Mershell Jr, Mary Virginia (or is that Doris?) and their father, Mershell Graham in front of the Conservatory on Belle Isle. 1920s.

The Belle Isle Zoo was originally established on the island in 1895 with a deer park and a bear den. By 1909, the Detroit Zoo on Belle Isle had 150 animals in 32-acres. The Belle Isle Children’s Zoo was established in 1947 dismantled in the 1970s. In 1980, the Belle Isle Safari Zoo was opened with raised walkways expanded into the wooded area. The Belle Isle Safari Zoo closed in 2002. Historical Gallery and Fun Facts

The route from the Graham home on Theodore to Belle Isle. That is the same route we took in the 1950s from my grandparents house to Belle Isle.

Can’t Get Animals For Belle Isle Zoo

Buying Trip Fruitless; Market Empty; War Blamed

Added to the other shortages which have taken the joy out of life during the past year, we now have the wild animal shortage.

The lack of supply in this commodity was brought forcefully to the attention of E. G. Becket, commissioner of the park and boulevard department. Last week when efforts to obtain additional specimens for the Belle Isle zoo came to naught.

James Timmons, animal keeper at Belle Isle, was sent on a scouting expedition by Mr. Heckel, with instructions to bring back some zebras, camels and any other specimens obtainable. A trip to Cleveland Toledo and Cincinnati resulted in a report from Mr. Timmons that no animals worth buying were to be had.

“The scarcity of wild animals for zoo and menagerie specifically is due to the World War.” H. W. is Busch, park department superintendent, said Sunday. “There have been no importations for more than four years, with the result that what stock is offered for sale is of such poor quality that the city cannot affort to waste its money.”

According to Mr. Busch, the supply of deep sea fish from which the aquarium is stocked also is limited. A recent trip made to the West by Mr. Heckel in quest of deep sea fish failed to produce a single specimen.

The park department has a fund of $2,500 to spend for zoo specimens this year and to date has succeeded in placing but one order, which is for a pair of ostriches. These are expected to arrive within a few weeks.

I can’t believe this is my last A to Z post for 2020!

20 thoughts on “Z – ZOO, Belle Isle

  1. I’ve heard of Belle Isle and knew it closed, but nothing beyond. I’ve enjoyed your daily posts on your family. A lot of sadness in there with tragic events, but the love shines through.

    1. Belle Isle was a wonderful park when I was growing up. In the past several years it was turned into a state park with an entry fee and there is now the Detroit Grand Prix that they tell me, takes over important parts of the island making it a mess.

  2. Congratulations on another successful A to Z Challenge! This post brings to mind the tigers in the Bronx Zoo who caught COVID-19 from an asymptomatic essential zoo worker. Interesting how global events like war and contagious disease affect the animal world as well as our own.

    1. I read that a zoo in Northern Germany might have to feed the animals to each other because of loss of income during the pandemic. I never heard anything else about it. And I remember the animals escaping a zoo in Iraq during the bombing during the war.

  3. Congratulations on completing the challenge. They are fine ostriches! It has been a delight to follow you through another year of A to Z.

    I have a similar photo to the one of Mershell jr, his father and sister of my two children with their father when we visited Melbourne Zoo. I remember my then two year old son was way more interested in the garbage collection truck doing his rounds than the animals.

    Your newspaper article brings home the challenges of the war and the previous period of isolation in 1919. Although our figures look bad now, they were much worse in 1919. I fear for our supply chains now, not for zoo animals but anything from medicines to technology, living in a global world is challenging at the time of a pandemic.

    Stay well.

  4. Catching up on your A to Z, congratulations on completing the challenge!
    My husbands company once took a bunch of us on a trip to San Diego where we visited the zoo. We all got to go behind the scenes and learn about the animals, watching their food being prepared, and a visit to the nursery. A lot different than the little Granny Zoo my grandparents used to take me to back in the day!

    1. That must have been interesting. These days, before the pandemic, I stopped enjoying the zoo. I feel for the animals in those small spaces.

  5. Congratulations, Kristin, you did it again–and in style! Hope you’re feeling fulfilled.

    I like the photo–each of them looking in different directions! Mershell Sr. looking very snappy.
    I rather winced when I heard the animals described as “specimens” for a “menagerie.” Don’t think that zoo people would use that language today!
    Well done you.

    1. I’m feeling kind of like I need to have something like the A to Z to focus on going forward. I’ll have to organize myself something. I’m never at a loss for things to do. I do have several posts of research I’ve was doing before April that I want to write up and then I want to concentrate on organizing my posts and information. I hesitate to say into a book, but something like that.

  6. What an interesting article!

    Congratulations on completing the challenge! I’m happy you joined us again this year 🙂 I always enjoy learning more about your research, and I appreciated all the photos this year!

    The Multicolored Diary

    1. I thought it would be easier on my time to use more photos and fewer words. Seemed to work. Thank you for visiting so much! Hope to be back next year.

  7. A great closign post to the Challenge. I really really enjoyed it, this year. Yes, it was abotu my favourite time in history, but I think you had great stories to tell and wonderful photos to share (I loved those!) that made it truly special.
    You did such a great work!

  8. Although my visits were not daily, I enjoyed catching up on the ones I missed out when I did visit.
    The photos and the family tree you shared this year made remembering the all the names easier.
    Despite the tragic losses of young lives, your posts rang out with cherished memories of love, care and wholesomeness.
    Loved reading the letters of proposal and acceptance (your grandparents’) a lot.
    Felt transported back to the twenties.
    Thank you Kristin and congratulations.

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