Once known as Bois Blanc (“White Woods”) for the white birch trees, which blanket the island, Bob-Lo has a uniquely interesting architectural heritage as well as a natural one. On the southern half of the island is one of three surviving military blockhouses dating back to the war of 1812, as well as the 19th century lighthouse built to help ships navigate the mouth of Lake Erie.
The most impressive landmark of all is the stunning stone Dance Pavilion, which was commissioned by Henry Ford. Here, live music filled the air from the biggest bands of the 40s and 50s, right up to the legendary Motown acts of the 60s and 70s.
Now, another great page is about to turn in the architectural heritage of Bois Blanc.
From the simple birch bark canoes of the Huron Indians to today’s luxurious pleasure craft, boats have always been a part of Bob-Lo Island’s history. Yet none have figured larger than the two excursion steamers, The Columbia and Ste. Claire, which for over 80 years ferried people between Detroit and Bob-Lo.
From families seeking an afternoon at the island’s Amusement Park to young couples seeking a night out at the Dance Pavilion, these two ships are now retired but sail on forever in the memories of all those who visited the island.
Stand on the shores of Bob-Lo and you can almost hear the steamers chugging down the river. At the ferry docks, the air tingles with the sound of families and lovers arriving for a day of fun and sun. And in the amusement park, the wind carries the delighted screams of children riding the Tilt-A-Whirl and Super-Satellite
Closed since 1993, the Bob-Lo amusement park provided generations of children and adults alike. For a trip down memory lane, please feel free to browse the following links:
Bob-Lo Island’s rich history has blessed with some of the most unique historical sites of the area.
This historic landmark was constructed by the government of Upper Canada in 1836 and until it closed, marked the main navigational channel that guided upbound traffic from Lake Erie to Amherstburg, Windsor and the Upper Lakes. It’s rubble stone finished exterior rises to over 40 ft and it’s lantern, situated 56 feet above the high water mark was reported in 1872 as visible for 18 miles in clear weather. It figured prominently in the occupation of the island by rebel forces during the 1837-8 rebellion era before it was liberated by Canadian Patriots in 1838.
In 1961 the lighthouse was designated a national historic site for its role in the rebellion.
In 2008 a partnership was formed with ERCA & Parks Canada to create Bob-Lo Historic Lighthouse Park & Whitesands Beach.
Henry Ford financed a dance hall that was rumored to have been designed and built by famed Detroit architect Albert Kahn but was later determined to have been designed by John Scott.
This monument, erected in 1909 was built in tribute to sailors and maritime interests in the Great Lakes. It measures 18 x 24 feet and required 25 tons of cement and 250 loads of sand and gravel to complete.
It has remained a visual landmark for boaters entering the Detroit River from its southern end for nearly 100 years. It is adorned with a full sized anchor that was taken from the old four masted steam barge “The City of Cleveland” after its sinking. The monument was designed, built and installed entirely by employees of the Detroit, Belle Isle and Windsor Ferry.