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About the Photos

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 • THE TOY DEPARTMENT, 1913

The Grayhouse: 1907

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The Grayhouse: 1907

Detroit circa 1907. "Horticultural Building, Belle Isle Park." Check out their latest Vine. 8x10 inch glass negative, Detroit Publishing Company. View full size.

 

Mom

My mom told me stories of trips to Belle Isle on the streetcar when she was a young child. Here she is in 1936 at 17 years old in front of the greenhouse.

Grayhouse Kodachrome: 1956

Interior of the Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory on Belle Isle, Detroit, Michigan, April 1956. Scanned Kodachrome slide.

Belle Isle Scripps Conservatory, April 1956

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More Kodachrome slides of the interior and exterior that were taken in 1955-56 can be found here.

Fond memories

Of occasional visits here with my mother in the '50s. For all the exotic plants, bright colors & winter warmth, I most remember the humidity. Now that Belle Isle is a state park, maybe the Conservatory will be returned to its former glory.

Now belongs to the State

With the current bankruptcy procedings of the City of Detroit going on, the State of Michigan has acquired ownership of the entire island including all upon it. Hopefully this bids for better times, as it has fallen upon hardship in recent years.

Belle Isle Beauty

Info from the Belle Isle Conservancy website:

"The Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory was opened in 1904 and was designed by Albert Kahn, modeled after Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello. The Conservatory is divided into 5 distinct sections: The Palm House, Tropical House, Showroom, Cactus House and the Fernery. Mrs. Anna Scripps Whitcomb bequeathed her 600-plant orchid collection to the City of Detroit and the Conservatory. In 1955 the Conservatory was dedicated to her."

My family, beginning with my grandparents, visited Belle Isle at least twice yearly for nine decades. It's great to see the historical photos displayed here at Shorpy. I keep hoping to find family in one of these oldies.

Challenge

OK Shorpy colorists, you're on.

 
THE 100-YEAR-OLD PHOTO BLOG
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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