Belle Isle Bridge (Old)
Photo taken by Douglas Butler in November 2015
License: Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY)
View this photo on Flickr
BH Photo #341148
Although a great portion of the bridge was destroyed, five 88 foot long Steel Pony Truss sections of the bridge adjacent to Belle Isle were saved from the fire. They were floated downriver 150 feet and were re-used as part of the temporary wooden bridge that was used to access Belle Isle until the new concrete bridge structure was completed in 1923. The temporary wooden bridge was dismantled along with the five 88 foot Steel Pony Truss sections. One of these sections was purchased by the Swan family of Grosse Ile Michigan and had Dunbar and Sullivan dredge out the swamp that separated Snake Island (later renamed Swan Island in honor of the Swan family) from southwest Grosse Ile. Besides, who would want to live on Snake Island?. Once the new canal was completed, Dunbar and Sullivan floated the surviving 88 foot Steel Pony Truss section of the original Belle Isle bridge down the Detroit River on a barge and erected it over the new canal. The wood deck roadbed remained in place until the bridge was updated in the 1950s and was replaced by a concrete deck. Three feet of the south side of the bridge had a concrete sidewalk added for foot traffic. The Swan Island bridge is still in use, over 115 years after it was originally built and erected over the Detroit River. Interesting note, the Native Americans name for what is now called Belle Isle was translated and meant "Swan Island". I have attached a superimposed picture (Thanks to Nathan Holth of HistoricBridges.org and the Detroit Library) of the 88 foot Pony Truss bride sections on Belle Isle with a current picture ( of the Swan Island Bridge. I lived on Swan Island from 1947 until 1965 and watched the bridge being updated in the 50s.