Detroit Boat Co. Belle Isle Special


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I was just given a wood and canvas canoe which is missing the canvas, seats, thwarts, decks, etc., basically a shell. The planking is mostly there and in good shape. The ribs appear to be mostly in good shape; a few are cracked, most of the ends are in place with no rot. One loose stem came with the canoe, but I'm not sure it mates with the ribs properly so it may not be the correct stem. The intriguing part is that I was also given a brass plate indicating this is a Belle Isle Special by the Detroit Boat Co.


Here is a rough picture of the canoe

I'm new to the forum and canoe restoration. I figure the first step in this project is to research the boat; confirm it is a Belle Isle Special if possible, find out the construction details so I can make it true to form. If anyone has any information on this canoe, or know if there is one in existence I would greatly appreciate it.

Please offer advise on what other details I should be looking for in the canoe to help with identification. I have taken more detailed photos which I can post as time allows. This is going to be a long term project for me, I plan to work on it between the other parts of life. Thank you in advance for putting up with all of the questions I know I am going to be asking as this project proceeds.

Here is what I have found so far:

- The canoe is 16' long, 34" beam as it sits (I didn't measure depth).
- There are no markings on the stem I have, and I have not found any markings on the canoe.
- The front(?) seat is about 54" from the bow line. The location of where the rear seat was located is not obvious.
- Dragonfly Canoe Works does not list the Belle Isle Special as an offering in the 1911 catalog.
- I found a write up announcing this canoe in a 1909 Field and Stream:
Field and Stream, Volume 14, 1909
Page 1070-1071

A New canoe finished in mahogany, the most beautiful creation yet in this line of water
craft, is the announcement of the Detroit Boat Company, of Detroit, Mich. It is attracting
the attention of canoeists and prospective canoe buyers everywhere. The 1910 mahogany-
finished model is known as the Belle Isle Special, and is termed by the makers "the
triumph of the canoe-builder's art." Enthusiastic canoeists say the model, with its long
lines and graceful tapering, is quite the handsomest yet produced The Belle Isle Special
is made of tough white cedar, with stems of white oak and thwarts of oak or ash. The
decks, each 34 inches long, are of the finest mahogany and add a new elegance to canoe
finish. The gunwales are also of mahogany running full length. Canvas in one seamless
piece, with

a special oil composition ironed in, thoroughly filling the pores, makes the canoe
absolutely waterproof. The Belle Isle Special comes in 16, 17 and 18-foot lengths,
weighing 65, 70 and 75 pounds respectively. Despite the fact that it is built with the
skill, care and materials of expensive furniture, it is quoted at the prices of ordinary
canoes. The Detroit Boat Company's "Hudson River," "Yukon River," "Tacoma" special power
and sailing canoes, so well known to canoeists, are again offered this year with approved
improvements. The company is issuing a handsome new catalogue showing halftone
reproductions of the several lines, and pointers that every prospective canoe buyer should
possess. A new feature of the Detroit Company's service to new canoeists is the
consultation department. The company invites beginners to write fully on any point about
canoes or canoeing, and promises that the communication will be answered by experts.
Address, the Detroit Boat Co., 1345 Jefferson avenue, Detroit, Mich.
Here are older posts with some information. Denis Kallery and I have collected information on the Detroit for a while-- but there don't seem to be enough boats out there to make much sense of the information we have. The Detroit was well-advertised, so I would have expected a few more. If you use the "search" function (above) you may find more information than what I post here. I made a YouTube video of a Detroit in the Canadian Canoe Museum... you can find that by going to YouTube and putting in "kkloskklos Detroit"... it is a Hudson River with sponsons. Most of what we've seen are Hudson and Yukon River models.

Your canoe was built between 1906-1916. We have a theory re the medallion-- the older ones are heavier and the stamping deeper... but there seem to be more of the "older" ones, so the thinner "later" one may be harder to find. Maybe it was only used for a short time. There's always a lot to speculate about when there are no records...

All Detroits are closed gunwale.

The Detroit medallion is very cool, and the Belle Isle is a rarer model so that particular medallion would be fairly rare. (I have a hard time using the word "rare" because it is overly-used in describing canoe-related things!).

The company, by the way, was located spitting distance from Belle Isle in Detroit. Belle Isle had/has man-made waterways built for canoes that could be rented on the island or purchased and stored there.

We have two Hudson River models-- a 15' and a 16'.

The Belle Isle Special was offered at least in 1910 and 1911, as I have dated flyers indicating so. A scan of one of them is attached.



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Those links to previous threads and the youtube video is what led me to this forum. I should have posted them as part of my research findings. My intent for this thread is to document all results. Thank you Kathy for filling in the gap.

That flyer is awesome! The details in the flyer should help with confirmation this is a Belle Isle Special. Thanks Dan. Now I have an idea of what all of the mahogany is supposed to look like. Funny thing is, I have a pile of mahogany that was left in the barn when I bought this place 20+ years ago just waiting for a project.
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Detroits have beautiful lines-- the Belle Isle should be wonderful once it's restored. To provide more encouragement, "some day" we hope to have a paddle on the Belle Isle canoe canals-- anyone who wants to be there can be there, but the more courting-type canoes, the better. This won't happen until we finish our canoe that is a Morris which was once used on Belle Isle. This sort of event is what the folks who are hoping to get more money to restore buildings on Belle Isle would promote--- newspaper stories, TV coverage-- the sort of thing that brings old canoes out of barns and more old canoe nuts (OLD canoe nuts; old CANOE nuts) into the WCHA fold.
Adding pictures of the medallions from our two Detroits. The heavier one is 3/64ths thick (approximately) and the thinner one is 1/64th (approximately).


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Belle Isle Special

Hi Tony:
I restored one years ago for Glen Raiche here in NH. Always liked it. Here is a photo that may help you.Detriot-Special-Belle.jpg