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black and white photo of the dilapidated Globe Building, with broken windows and graffiti

History of the Globe Building

The Globe Building is significant for its role in the maritime history of the Great Lakes as a manufacturer of marine steam engines for freight and passenger vessels. Detroit Dry Dock Engine Works - and Detroit Shipbuilding Company, which acquired the company in 1899 - built a complex of buildings on the site of what is now the Outdoor Adventure Center.

Six buildings made up the engine-building plant of the Dry Dock Engine Works. The first of the buildings, a steel-frame and brick machine shop, was erected in 1892 at the corner of Orleans and Atwater streets. After the Detroit Shipbuilding Company dissolved in the late 1920s, the former engine-building plant was used by a small stove manufacturer, by the Detroit Edison Company for appliance repair and lastly by a machinery wholesale firm, the Globe Trading Company. The Globe Trading Company had its sign on the building as early as 1966.

During the 1930s, the Detroit Police Department used Dry Dock #2 as a boat launch for the capture of rumrunners.  Henry Ford worked at Detroit Dry Dock Engine Works from 1880-1882 as an apprentice machinist, learning the skills associated with his first love, steam-powered engines. Later he would turn to experiments with gasoline engines and their ability to power a horseless carriage. 

Learn more about the history of the Globe Building and Detroit Dry Dock Engine Works complex
Back of the Outdoor Adventure Center, with the Globe Trading Company sign still visible on brick

Outdoor Adventure Center History

Late 1990's - Under Governor Engler, the State of Michigan and the Department of Natural Resources commit to creating an outdoor recreation presence along the Detroit riverfront.

2004 - The DNR invests over $5 million from the Michigan State Waterways Fund to renovate Tri-Centennial State Harbor (St. Aubin Harbor).

2007 - The DNR and the City of Detroit execute a long-term lease agreement to create Tri-Centennial State Park and Harbor. This is Michigan's first urban state park, with 31 acres on the Detroit riverfront. During lease negotiations, the DNR attempts, unsuccessfully, to include the Globe Building as a future interpretive center.

2009 - The DNR invests over $5 million into development of the Tri-Centennial lowlands park, a wetland that demonstrates effective treatment of urban surface runoff from surrounding properties. The park is William G. Milliken State Park and Harbor.

October 2010 - The DNR begins a partnership with The Roxbury Group to look at potential building partners and a plan for Globe Building redevelopment.

2011 - The DNR awards three grants to buy the Outdoor Adventure Center, easements along the waterfront and three to six properties or easements along the Detroit riverfront. There is flexibility to get more parcels.

2012 - The DNR exhausts known entities for OAC partnership, and determines to reduce the building footprint to meet DNR needs only (estimated to be 43,000 square feet).  Based on the developer/owner's detailed estimate, the cost to the DNR would be $11 million.  The building cost is actually more, $12.8 million, which includes brownfield development tax credits that the developer agrees to apply to the project.

February 2013 - The DNR executes a purchase agreement with the developer to buy the building without exhibits. The department plans to ask for exhibits from many sponsors/partners.

Late 2013 - The DNR is not successful at securing exhibit partners. The building completion timeline creates an urgency to secure exhibit funds. The developer hires a professional fund developer. The DNR agrees to have $2.5 million of exhibits installed in the building using part of the Trust Fund grant monies.

April 2014 - Final cost to complete exhibits is $5 million.

June 2015 - The DNR and the Belle Isle Conservancy execute an agreement to have the Belle Isle Aquarium operate the OAC's aquarium. This includes transitioning fish from the wild.

June 2015 - Exhibit contractor completes the exhibits.

July 16, 2015 - OAC ribbon-cutting event.

July 20, 2015 - OAC opens to public.

2016 - In its first full year of operation, the OAC saw 100,000 visitors.