Ontario’s Bois Blanc Island, frequently abbreviated as “Boblo Island” opened its amusement park in 1898. With whirling rides, organ music, and brightly glowing lights, it attracted thousands to the shores of the little island to revel in wholesome fun.
For almost 100 years it was only accessible by classic steam-powered riverboats: The SS Ste. Clair and SS Columbia brought passengers from Detroit, each boat could bring up to 2,500 visitors at a time. Smaller ferries brought visitors from nearby Amhertsberg, Ontario and Gibraltar, Michigan.
The dance hall, financed by Henry Ford, was once the second largest in the world and capable of holding 5,000 dancers. It also featured one of the world’s largest orchestrions, an automated self-playing orchestra machine, which features 419 pipes and its very own percussion section. There were also big band nights, which drew “black and tans,” multiracial crowds of young people during the 1920s.
Attractions included rides such as the Nightmare, the Wild Mouse, and the Screamer as well as a Ferris wheel, a zoo, and the popular “Scootaboats.” Needless to say, the amusement park brought joy to all those who visited. Detroiters even referred to Boblo Island as “the Coney Island of Michigan.”
But the old-fashioned charm of Boblo Island was eclipsed by more modern attractions like Cedar Point in its later decades, leading it to close its gates for good in 1993. Since the amusement park’s closure, Boblo Island has been renovated for luxury homes. Though many of the amusement park structures have been torn down, you might still hear a passing shriek and the tinkle of organ music amidst the remaining century-old ruins of Boblo Island.