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Most of the photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs, 20 to 200 megabytes in size) from the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) Many were digitized by LOC contractors using a Sinar studio back. They are adjusted by your webmaster for contrast and color in Photoshop before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here.

 
 
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VINTAGRAPH • WPA • WWII • SUMMER IN ITALY, 1951

Noble Riggers: 1906

Noble Riggers: 1906

Detroit circa 1906. "Belle Isle ferry dock." A good place to pick up a yacht sail. The steamer Garland, seen earlier here. 8x10 glass negative. View full size.

 

Bois Blanc

The sign actually says "Bois Blanc" referring to another island in the Detroit River also known as Boblo Island.

June 7, 1906?

Possibly circa on or shortly before June 7, according to the displayed timetable. Can't make out what the two words to the left of "June 7" are. "Best Blues"?

Does your mother still dress you?

Can anyone fill me in on why that one boy seems to be wearing a doily on his shoulders? This is not something that I have seen before, and I am wondering if it is a common article of clothing. It occurs to me that his mother might have thrown that over his shoulders as a sort of shawl anticipating cooler temperatures out on the water. Can anyone shed any light on this for me?

[Appears to be a kind of Fauntleroy suit. - tterrace]

This is a view of the ferry dock at the foot of Woodward Avenue

Sure, you could travel a few miles down Jefferson Avenue and cross to the Island over a bridge, but for a dime you could cruise there in style on the Garland or its sister vessel, which began ferry service when Belle Isle opened in 1882.

In their 1957 book Made in Detroit, Norman Beasley and George W. Stark describe the allure of the steamers: “All day long until late at night, the Belle Isle ferries traveled up and down the river. … The fare was ten cents, and if the passenger so chose he could ride all day long for his original dime. … In the dusk of evening, the ride back to the city was exhilarating. The lights in the scattered high towers gave dimensions to Detroit; the growing skyline gave a sense of growing importance.”

Sadly, the last boat sailed in 1957.

Giggle, Giggle!

One can almost hear the gleeful titters of the little girls in their summer frocks and straw hats, about to embark on an exciting voyage to exotic and storied foreign climes. Well, maybe those lands are still in the US and just across the river, but when you're five or ten, opportunities like this take on exciting aspects out of all proportion to the way adults reckon these things.

Stove burned

The giant Garland stove you remember was made of carved oak. It was moved from near Belle Isle to the state fairgrounds off 8 Mile in 1965. In 1974 it was disassembled and stored, but then was refurbished and returned to the fairgrounds in 1998.

In Aug. 2011, it was struck by lightning and burned.

Belle Isle from Canada

I grew up in Riverside (now Windsor) Ontario in the 1950s, and we lived on Esdras Place, just one block from the Detroit River. At the foot of Esdras there is a private park owned by the residents, and it looks directly across the river to Belle Isle. There were many kids on the block then, and that is where we learned to swim. There were picnics and parties held there though the summer.

The Kodachrome photo was taken by my father in 1955, and shows residents swimming in the river, with Belle Isle on the far side. The freighter steaming past is the Ralph Budd, which had an interesting history.

A sign in the 1906 photo indicates service to Bois Blanc, on June 7. It was also known as Bob-lo Island, downstream from Detroit. You can read more here.

"Naming rights"

existed even in 1880, when the Garland was built, reportedly the first electrically-lit vessel on the lakes. She was named for the most popular model manufactured by Detroit's Michigan Stove Company; in return, the vessel's owner, Captain John Horn, had his new craft festooned in nickle-plated decoration, courtesy of the stove manufacturer. Indeed, the odd-looking mass ahead of the funnel is an example of that handiwork, a garland with the letter "G" inside. When I was a kid a gigantic Garland stove, at least two stories tall, dominated the approach to Belle Isle at Detroit, built for Chicago's Columbian Exposition. For all I know, it's still there.

The Garland endured quite awhile. Horner lost the vessel after the tragic accident involving mostly altar boys, referred to in the comments to Shorpy's original view of the ferry, when her builder, the Detroit Dry Dock Company, repossessed it. She continued in the Detroit-Sarnia service, renamed City of Sarnia in 1923, until removed from service in the early 1940s. She sank at the dock in 1945, and was dismantled in situ 1946-47.

 
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Shorpy.com | History in HD is a vintage photo blog featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1950s. The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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