This is from the Detroit Department of Recreation's Web site:

AMERICA' S LARGEST CITY-OWNED ISLAND PARK... Detroit's city fathers purchased the 983-acre island in 1879 for $200,000, against the opposition of those who thought the price was too high. They elected to retain the name Belle Isle (beautiful island) by which the property was popularly known.

In 1883, the designer of New York City's Central park, [Frederick Law Olmstead], created the master plan for Belle Isle's transformation.

By 1889, visitors could enjoy the park via the islands' first wooden bridge.

Olmstead also helped select Cass Gilbert's design for the mammoth Scott Fountain, chosen over 93 other entries in a nationwide competition. Among Gilbert's other achievements was the design of the U.S. Supreme Court Building in Washington, D.C.

Between 1903 and 1930, the Casino, the Aquarium, Whitcomb Conservatory, and Livingstone Lighthouse were designed by Albert Kahn, who was also selected for the General Motors and Fisher Buildings. The nearly half mile-long bridge that takes you to Belle Isle today was originally constructed in 1923 and a meticulous renovation was completed in 1986. In 1942, the bridge was renamed after General Douglas MacArthur. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.