Created in 1845, Belle Isle Park is larger than New York’s Central Park and designed by the same landscape architect: Frederick Law Olmsted. All of Olmsted’s parks follow a design principle of three zones – a formal zone, an active zone, and a natural zone, which can also be found in Belle Isle Park: FORMAL ZONE: Encompasses the James Scott Fountain and Sunset Point. ACTIVE ZONE: Cultural attractions [including the Conservatory] and athletic fields. NATURAL ZONE: Belle Isle’s wetlands and forests. Since much of the low-lying island was originally marshland, he proposed a series of canals that were emptied by steam-operated pumps, and then filled via a system of connected underground pipes. The canals also served for pleasure boating; the “pond” seen in this photo is actually part of the original canal system, which is in the process of being cleaned up and already used once again by kayakers in the summer months.
Designed by renowned Detroit architect Albert Kahn, the conservatory was originally built of wood in 1904, the structure and frame of was replaced with steel and aluminum in 1949. The conservatory consists of five themed sections: palms; tropical; cacti; ferns; and the Show House, which has plants that are changed with the seasons. It is the oldest continually running conservatory in the United States and in 1955 it was named for Anna Scripps Whitcomb who donated 600 orchids to the City of Detroit.
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