The Bicycle Pavilion on Belle Isle

Detroit's bicycle pavilion on Belle IsleIn 1898, the League of American Wheelmen (LAW) Michigan Division secured a $10,000 appropriation from the city of Detroit. The money was to build a bicycle pavilion on Belle Isle.

They followed up with another $2,500 the following year to “furnish up bicycle pavilion with pump, repair outfit, racks, and other conveniences” according to Edward Hines.

During this time, the mayor of Detroit was William Maybury. The Mayor was presumably a bicyclist since he was a member of the LAW. A statue of Maybury is in Grand Circus Park, sitting in a chair opposite of Mayor/Governor Hazen Pingree.

Just prior to this pavilion being constructed, a New York park agency inquired about how Detroit handles bike parking and bike rentals. Detroit park commission secretary and manager M. P. Hurlbut explained that there was a small (less than 1,000 square feet) pavilion that was bid out to companies renting bikes on Belle Isle. The winning bid was $1,000.

Hurlbut then explained the purpose of the larger planned pavilion:

It is to be a two-story building and the first or ground floor ‘will be used by bicycle riders in case of stormy weather to store their wheels in, and undoubtedly some time in the future there will be a privilege for renting bicycles leased from this building, and possibly a temporary repair shop.

“Wheels” is another term for bicycles.

110 years after being built, the pavilion still stands on Belle Isle, though it is now called the Athletic Pavilion. It is between the now-closed zoo, athletic fields, and tennis courts in the center of the island. From the outside, it seemed to be in decent shape.

The size and grandness of this pavilion is a testament to the strength and importance of bicyclists in the city of Detroit in the late 1890s.

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