Scott Fountain Belle Isle, Hart Plaza, Jazz Festival

9 Sep

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Kris and I have been coming to the Scott Fountain on Belle Isle for as long as I can remember, and we are not alone! Through the years we have witnessed dozens of weddings, numerous family photographs, and countless visitors enjoy the splendor of the fountain. Designed by Cass Gilbert and sculpted out of Vermont White Marble by Herbert Adams there are over 109 water outlets. From the great outer bowl rises the central pedestal of intricately carved figures that upholds the top most basin. Take a good look, the detail is remarkable; You can find Neptune, dolphins, lions, turtles and sweet faced cherubs. The central spray jets water 125 ft into the air and is most impressive. It seems people are always drawn to water, so a fountain on an island is an even greater attraction. Belle Isle Park is the largest city island park in the country, it was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted who also designed Central Park in New York City.

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There is a bit of interesting history that goes along with this amazing tower of cascading of water.  James Scott was a wealthy bachelor who was known as a gambler, womanizer, and a loafer. Scott had inherited his father’s real estate fortune and it was said he was not to have done a days work in his entire life. He told off-color stories, gave big tips, dated beautiful women and played vindictive practical jokes. He was disrespected and disliked by most of the businessmen and city officials in Detroit at the time. In 1910 James Scott died, he left $500,000.00 to the City of Detroit with the stipulation they use it to build a fountain on Belle Isle and a life-sized statue of himself; people were outraged. After 15 years or arguments and debate, the fountain and statue were finally built in 1925 for all to enjoy.

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The fountain itself has changed a bit through the years too; the beautiful Pewabic Tile that graced the interior of great outer bowl was removed last year when repairs were made, sadly it was all destroyed and thrown away. There is a current fundraising effort in the works to raise the money to replace the tiles, Pewabic still has the original plans. The lower area of the fountain bordering the lake is not running this year, there are repairs to be made and little money to work with. It is still worth looking at, I love the giant clam shells, and remember fondly when water sprayed freely. I recently read that the 1973 drama “Scarecrow” had a famous scene between Gene Hackman and Al Pacino that was shot at the fountain, I will have to rent it and check it out! It seems all who married in Detroit back in the day came to Belle Isle to take pictures, it was the place you came for picnics and reunions, it was and still is a magical gathering place.

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 It was a scorching hot Saturday, the kind that drags you down, saps your energy and drives you inside to some air conditioned place. Well, unless the 32nd Annual Detroit Jazz Festival is going on! It’s hard to pass up the Labor Day Weekend event no matter what else is going on, billed as the largest FREE Jazz event in the world you will never see or hear anything like it. The urban setting is quintessential; the Detroit skyline in one direction, in the other, the sparkling blue Detroit River lapping against the Windsor shoreline. Hart Plaza plays host to the event and does a marvelous job. Hart Plaza is said to be the spot Detroit’s founder Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac first landed in 1701. It is home to two amphitheaters, statues and sculpture, the first international memorial to the underground railroad, and of course the Dodge Fountain. Designed by Isamu Noguchi in 1978 this 30 ft tall stainless steel fountain pays tribute to Horace E Dodge. The fountain has 300 water nozzles that spray down into an 8 ft tall walled circular black granite pool, most importantly on a hot day it provides overheated pedestrians a place to cool off. Wander from stage to stage, or sit on the grass under a shade tree; you can  hear everything from traditional, New Orleans style, or Modern Jazz, the entertainment goes on for four days straight. The festival has gotten so big it now spills down Woodward right into Campus Martius, I think I counted six by stages in all. It is an incredible mix of musicians and fans, food and drink, sights and sounds.

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