August 10, 2017

Electric Park, Ablaze With Light

Dlectricity is a celebration of the wonder of light, technology, art and electricity—we can only imagine the wonder produced by electric light 111 years ago.

Detroit’s Electric Park opened to the public in 1906, on the west side of the Belle Isle bridge, now the site of Gabriel Richard Park. The park promised to bring attractions and entertainment surpassing the White City in Chicago of 1893, and the Detroit Free Press proudly proclaimed that “Rome with its seven hills will be a poor second to the roller coaster which is to be installed on the westerly side of the park.”

Complete with fortune tellers, fun houses, slides, a railway, concert space and programming, vaudeville shows, animals, acrobats, jugglers, and a roof garden café (“This promises to be a favorite place for young men to take their best girls on pleasant summer evenings, the whole atmosphere being conducive to ‘whispered nothings’ and that sort of thing”—Detroit Free Press, 1906). Plenty of free entertainment was also offered to visitors on the 7-acre ground space.

The founder of Electric Park, Arthur Gaukler, researched ways to bring summer entertainment to the masses. He believed in Detroit and the city’s future growth and development. A Free Press article from opening day also advertised for the public to buy shares of the park, promising a safe investment with a large return. Although the park closed for good in 1928, it brought joy to the city during its short but exciting time. The park’s use of electric light made it a pioneer of nighttime entertainment.

Electric Park was the earliest celebration of electricity and technology in Detroit—it is no wonder that it lived on in the hearts and minds of Detroiters to inspire Dlectricity more than a century later.

An April 1906 Free Press article proudly reported in advance of the park’s opening: “As its name indicates, Electric Park will be one grand blaze of electric lights in the evening. Some 75,000 incandescent bulbs will be used altogether…The lights, like everything else about the park, will be arranged in the most artistic manner possible…the scene after dark will be beautiful beyond description.”

Check out more photos of Electric Park here