Outdoor Enhancement Project

dossin 1

On July 1, 2019, the Detroit Historical Society broke ground on the first part of a four-phase, $4.9 million outdoor enhancement project at the Dossin Great Lakes Museum. A favorite destination for maritime enthusiasts, history buffs and nature lovers, the museum has occupied its riverfront Belle Isle site since 1960 and has more than doubled its attendance over the last five years. While it underwent significant renovations in 2013 as part of the Society’s Past>Forward campaign, this new project marks the first time that the museum’s entire campus will be activated for historical interpretation and recreation.


The first phase of construction, a $1.5 million upgrade focusing on visitor amenities, is projected to last through Spring 2020 and offer exciting enhancements for museumgoers and island visitors of all types.

• The museum’s outdoor maritime artifact displays will be upgraded with improved signage and placement, including the revered anchor from the freighter Edmund Fitzgerald, which will be highlighted in a beautiful Lost Mariners Memorial to include a garden, custom lighting and seating areas.
• The museum will also gain a riverwalk and observation telescope, a riverfront event patio and an upgraded central lawn area, providing highly desirable spaces for both public and private events.

In addition, amenities have been designed for active users of the museum’s site:

• New pedestrian lighting, bike racks, benches, a cycle service station and a canine refresh station for pets to coincide with the construction of the Belle Isle section of the Iron Belle Trail, which will pass by the museum entrance.
• A new kayak launch with a soft shoreline will be constructed to stabilize the existing cove adjacent to the museum and serve those interested in non-motorized recreational water activity. For the first time in its nearly 60-year history, the Detroit River will be accessible from the museum for recreational and educational opportunities!

Construction on the Visitor Amenities Phase of the Dossin Outdoor Enhancement Project is led by L.S. Brinker Company with design oversight by SmithGroup. Because of the planned extension of roadways and hiking and biking trails, as well as possible alterations to surrounding land areas, the Society is also coordinating closely with the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT), the Michigan DNR, the Belle Isle Conservancy and others. This phase of outdoor construction is not expected to impact the museum’s regular public hours.

FUTURE PHASES - expected to be complete in 2021

Three additional phases of the Outdoor Enhancement Project, expected to be completed by 2021, are set to include:

• A riverfront connector trail similar in design to the Detroit Riverwalk.
• Construction of a historic landscape that would approximate the natural setting of Belle Isle before it was developed as a recreational space and complement the nearby Piet Oudolf garden presently under construction.
• Improved access to the museum from The Strand and parking lot from Inselruhe Avenue.

The Society has raised $1.9 million of the $4.9 million total budget and is currently seeking gifts to ensure the seamless completion of the project.


Outdoor Enhancement Campaign Sponsors


Miss Pepsi Pavilion

Douglas and Diane Dossin


Del and Dianne Dossin Ruth Riverwalk

Del and Dianne Dossin Ruth


Telescopes and Canine Stations

Dr. Kevin and Marlena Hanlon


The Lost Mariners Memorial Sponsored by Karen and Drew Peslar

Karen and Drew Peslar


Aaron and Helen L. DeRoy Patio

DeRoy Testamentary Foundation


Soft Shore River Access

Sidonie Dossin Brown

George Johnson


Outdoor Signage and Wayfinding

A. Paul and Carol Schaap


Outdoor Garden and Bicycle Station

Chip and Sarah McClure


Flagpole and Observation Area

DaVille Consortium


Overall Project Support

Stephen and Bobbi Polk

Richard Dossin

Dr. Kevin and Marlena Hanlon

The Nicholson Family

Bill and Happy Rands

Joe and Maureen Kaiser

Motor City Chapter, Jack and Jill of America Inc.