These could be the last days for the Detroit Boat Club building on Belle Isle. Historic preservationists, though, have vowed not to give up without a fight.

The building is unfortunately in shambles. There has been little investment since the boat club left the building in 1996, and last year, water damage caused a ceiling to collapse. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR), which manages Belle Isle, estimates a full renovation would cost roughly $54 million. At a Belle Isle Park Advisory Committee meeting on Oct. 19, both the DNR and preservationists agreed the price tag was too high. It’s unclear whether the building can be saved by spending less, but the DNR said it’s considered multiple options. 

Preservationists are keen to save the Boat Club because it is unique. The Venetian-style building opened in 1902 and is the most noteworthy structure designed by Detroit architect Alpheus Chittenden. It has verandas on all three floors and arches wrapping around the exterior. The interior features lots of woodwork, a cupola and nautical decorations. 

Read more about the Boat Club’s history in this incredibly thorough post on

Aaron (he/him) believes in telling true stories about real people. He doesn’t think there’s anything better than a crisp fall afternoon at the Detroit Jazz Fest.