Detroit Skyline from Belle Isle

James Scott Fountain Detroit Background

Motor City, photo by Art Bukowski

I’ve featured a number of photos of the James Scott Memorial Fountain on Belle Isle on Michigan in Pictures, but never one with this view. Pretty cool!

View Art’s photo bigger on Facebook.

#TBT: Yesterday & today at the James Scott Memorial Fountain

James Scott Memorial Fountain 1932

James Scott Memorial Fountain, c 1932, photo by Tom Clark

Here’s a fun pair of pics. Tom went back to where this family photo was taken in the early 30s and got a picture of the scene. You can see the one above background big, the one below right here and see more including another shot from the Belle Isle Conservatory in his Wonderful Michigan slideshow.

James Scott Memorial Fountain Bell Isle

More Belle Isle including the story of the James Scott Memorial Fountain on Michigan in Pictures.

Cass Gilbert, controversy and the James Scott Memorial Fountain

Rising Above

Rising Above, photo by Tom Hughes

“Mr. Scott never did anything for Detroit in his lifetime and he never had a thought that was good for the city.”
~ J.L. Hudson

Sometimes when you peer into history, you see things you didn’t expect, and that’s definitely the case with today’s subject. The Cass Gilbert Society’s page on the James Scott Memorial Fountain on Belle Isle explains that the fountain was completed in 1925, designed by noted architect Cass Gilbert (designer of the US Supreme Court Building in DC), and executed by sculptor Herbert Adams

The fountain was the result of a bequest from millionaire playboy James Scott, a figure of much controversy in Detroit at the turn of the century. Detroit’s fountain of mirth  from the excellent Rearview Mirror series in the Detroit News (removed, but see The Wayback Machine) tells of the opposition from prominent citizens and clergy like J.L. Hudson and Bishop Williams that a playboy, loafer, gambler and vindictive practical joker like Scott be memorialized solely because he was able to plunk down a vast sum for his own monument. While public opinion kept the project scuttled for years after Scott’s death, influential Alderman David Heineman and others took up the charge, likely seeing how a vastly expensive fountain could enhance Detroit’s island park.

Speaking to reporters gathered in the office of Mayor Philip Breitmeyer, Heineman said: “I can look around this office and see pictures of men who played poker with Jim Scott. I say the bequest should be accepted.” He also recalled that “Jim always liked Belle Isle and loved to see the children there.”

The mayor agreed with Heineman. “I don’t believe the city has a right to insult any of her citizens by refusing a gift for such a good cause,” he said.

In the end, their view prevailed. It took more than 15 years, but Breitmeyer lived to attend the fountain’s dedication in 1925. Cass Gilbert, the New York architect who planned the Detroit Public Library, won a competition for design of the glistening white memorial at the lower end of the city’s pleasure island.

Read on at archive.org and see Wikipedia for more on Belle Isle.

Tom took this shot on Sunday. See it bigger and see more including a detail view in his slideshow.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This post previously appeared but sadly the photo was deleted by the owner. It’s one of my favorites so I re-blogged it!

More black & white photography and more Belle Isle on Michigan in Pictures!