|Wooden bridge over canal, Belle Isle, Burton Historical Collection, predates Sylvan Creek and Oakway Bridge described below.|
A guy named Benjamin Gravel makes it his labor of love to post photos of Detroit-area structures and their architects via Facebook and Detroit Yes. When he posted a photo of Belle Isle's Oakway Bridge, over Sylvan Creek, with guesstimated dates of 1910's to 1920's, I was compelled to spring into action with my mega-librarian skills. I found this, from June 1914:
...which if you continue reading (I can never resist continuing reading and there went my night), leads to this:
"I also desire to register my protest against the erection of any more buildings on Belle Isle Park, especially those of the cheaper sort. I am also opposed to the plan of a municipal dance hall on Belle Isle Park. If erected at all it should be located elsewhere. There has been too much of a tendency on the part of people who are looking only to financial gain and who in turn enlist the assistance of their friends in public positions in advocating those things which would transform our beautiful park into a second Coney Island. Let us keep Belle Isle beautiful, restful, and with sufficient opportunities for recreation without submitting the visitors to unnecessary annoyances in the way of noise or subjecting them to a constant temptation for spending money unnecessarily. All of which is respectfully submitted. WM. T. DUST, Commissioner"It turns out this Willam T. Dust was quite multi-talented. He served the city in many roles, including as the Commissioner of Parks & Boulevards during one of the greatest growth phases in Detroit's history. A bio of him can be found here:
I also found this modern description of the Oak Way bridge, which still has what are likely Pewabic tiles on it:
The eleventh annual report of the Commissioner of Parks and Boulevards, from 1899-1900, describes how the streets on Belle Isle were named, "OAK WAY From Riverbank Road east to Lakeside Drive. so named because of the oak trees located along this roadway". Well, that makes sense.
Want to get lost in Belle Isle's bridges? 199 photos here.
And yes, I know. I hardly ever write anymore. But I do still hang out on the island with Smart, Fluffy, and friends.