It’s no secret that Detroit is home to its fair share of abandoned buildings and long-closed public spaces. Whether you’re driving past Michigan Central Station or checking out photos of the once-bustling Grande Ballroom, reminders of the city’s past are omnipresent. Tucked away on the city’s iconic island park, though, is a true sight to behold: the sad yet fascinating remnants of a zoo. You’ll want to learn more about these spectacular and strange ruins in Detroit.
Please note: the abandoned Belle Isle Zoo is located on private property. Please do not trespass.
If you’ve ever spent time on Belle Isle, you understand why it remains one of the most beloved spots in the Motor City. With pretty riverfront views and family fun galore, there’s truly something here for everyone.
While today’s Belle Isle is home to attractions like the historic Belle Isle Aquarium and the stunning Whitcomb Observatory, some locals might not realize that it once housed an impressive children’s zoo.
That’s right: all the way back in 1895, the Belle Isle Zoo opened its doors and welcomed Detroiters and out-of-towners alike. It was renamed the Detroit Children’s Zoo in 1947 as its popularity continued.
During its heyday, the zoo was home to everything from monkeys to deer to elephants and seals. For many Detroit residents, visiting the zoo on Belle Isle was undoubtedly a beloved family-friendly tradition.
The zoo’s final era was ushered in during the 1980s, when it was once again rebranded under the name Safariland. By the turn of the century, this once-beloved Belle Isle site was forced into closure.
In the years since, plans to revamp the zoo have fallen flat, but its ruins have been documented by drone photographers and urban explorers alike. Images provide an eerie look at the now-crumbling locale.
It’s easy to imagine the one-time happy atmosphere that permeated this space, which hosted everything from family outings to first dates to field trips. Its dilapidated state is both spooky and decidedly sad.
While the zoo remains shuttered, Belle Isle is now home to a Nature Center that allows visitors to learn about local wildlife and other creatures in a safe environment. This island park remains a must-visit in Detroit.
Did you and your loved ones visit this now-closed zoo on Belle Isle during its operational years? Perhaps your older family members remember visiting the Detroit Children’s Zoo in its heyday. These strange ruins in Detroit were once home to delightful memories and we always love to hear from you, so share your experiences with us in the Facebook comments. To recommend another unique abandoned place in Detroit, fill out our official nomination form.
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