Outdoor Adventure Center / Globe Building / Dry Dock Complex
The Outdoor Adventure Center (image from Detroit Free Press).
The OAC Kayaking simulator (image from OAC).
Campsite exhibit (image from OAC).
Suspension bridge (image from OAC).
Airplane exhibit (image from OAC).
Waterfall exhibit (image from OAC).
The building prior to restoration in 2013 (image from Denver Riverfront Conservation).
The building documented in HABS survey (image from the Historic American Building Survey).
Interior, HABS survey (image from the Historic American Building Survey).
HABS survey photo of the building (image from the Historic American Building Survey).
Detroit Dry Dock #2 in 1892 (image from Wikimedia Commons).
Stereographic photo of a ship at Detroit Dry Dock by Jex J. Bardwell (1824-1903) (image from Wikimedia Commons).
Backstory and Context
home to the Detroit Dry Dock Company and later to the Globe Trading Company,
the National Register of Historic Places designated building is now home to the
Michigan Department of Natural Resources' Outdoor Adventure Center in Milliken
State Park. The Outdoor Adventure Center (OAC) features hands-on activities and
exhibits including a zip line, waterfall, airplane simulator, suspension
bridge, fishing simulator, rock and tree climbing, a native fish aquarium, bike
and snowmobile simulators, and more.
History of the Building
The Detroit Dry Dock Company (or Dry Dock Engine Works) was started by Captain Stephen R. Kirby, who had built ships in Cleveland and Saginaw beginning in the 1840’s. Kirby sent his son, Frank, to the Cooper Institute in New York to train in naval engineering, and in 1870 the two were reunited in Michigan. Established in 1869 at Orleans and Atwater Streets, the company shifted the shipbuilding industry of Michigan from Marine City to Detroit. Incorporated in 1872, Dry Dock bought out Wyandotte Shipbuilding five years later, with Frank in charge of the second yard. Hulls for a variety of ship types were built at the Wyandotte yard, and finishing work and steam engines were installed at Dry Dock, which employed 600 skilled tradesmen by 1890. In 1892, the steel and brick machine shop building (now known as the Outdoor Adventure Center) was constructed as part of what would become a six-building engine building complex by 1919. Designed and constructed by the Berlin Iron Bridge Company, the building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. One apprentice machinist who worked on steam engines from 1880-1882 at the Dry Dock Company was Henry Ford, who decided to put an engine into a carriage to create the first automobile. Dry Dock was sold to the American Shipbuilding Company in 1899, though Kirby’s was kept in the Wyandotte Yard and Orleans Street facilities, renaming them the Detroit Shipbuilding Company; the company folded due to recession in the 1920s.
The Detroit Police Department launched from Dry Dock #2 during Prohibition in the 1930’s to catch rum runners trying to ship alcohol across the river from Canada. The Dry Dock building was bought by the Detroit Edison Company, a stove manufacturer, which used the complex for appliance repair through the 1950’s or 1960’s. By 1966, the Globe Trading Company, a wholesale machinery firm, had its name on the building. Though various companies occupied the different buildings of the Dry Dock Company over the years, all eventually left the complex, and most of the buildings were demolished. The machine shop complex is the only standing structure remaining and was shuttered and abandoned for two decades. It is considered one of the earliest and best examples of steel-frame construction. In 2013, as part of the development of Milliken State Park, plans began to formalize for a renovation of the building as the Outdoor Adventure Center, which opened in July of 2015.
The Outdoor Adventure Center
The Outdoor Adventure Center (OAC) features hands-on activities and exhibits including a zip line, waterfall, airplane simulator, suspension bridge, fishing simulator, rock and tree climbing, a native fish aquarium, bike and snowmobile simulators, and more. The facility also has classrooms for education about park, forest, wildlife, and fish management. The Center's exhibits are: Majestic Elk Entrance; Fire Circle; Detroit, the River and the Globe Building; Underwater Michigan; Overnight Lodging; Michigan's Rivers and Lakes; Waterfall and Underground Mine; Duck Blind and Tower Blind; Beaver Lodge and Wetland; Pine Forest and Trails; Campsite; Big Tree; Hunting and Trapping Traditions; Hit the Trail; Airplane: DNR in the Sky; Nature in Your Neighborhood; Treetop; Sand Dunes, and Citizen Science. OAC also offers archery classes, group programs for schools and scout troops, programs for adults (Fishing 101, Birding for Beginners, Birth of a Land Ethic, and City Slickers), and hosts birthday parties and other special events. The last Wednesday of each month, the Center offers free admission from 6-8 pm for special programs on a variety of topics (such as camping).
Detroit Riverfront Conservancy. "Milliken State Park and Harbor." Accessed July 27, 2016. http://detroitriverfront.org/riverfront/east-riverfront/milliken-state-park-and-harbor.
Detroit Riverfront Conservancy. "Outdoor Adventure Center." Accessed July 29, 2016. http://detroitriverfront.org/riverfront/east-riverfront/outdoor-adventure-center.
DetroitTurbex. "Detroit Dry Dock Engine Works / Globe Trade." Accessed July 29, 2016. http://detroiturbex.com/content/industry/globe/.
Newman, Stacy. "Detroit Dry Dock Company." Encyclopedia of Detroit, Detroit Historical Society. Accessed July 27, 2016. http://detroithistorical.org/learn/encyclopedia-of-detroit/detroit-dry-dock-company.
S., Joel. "St. Aubin Park Riverwalk: Glimpses of Detroit's Riverfront History." Historical Marker Database. August 3, 2010. Accessed July 27, 2016. http://www.hmdb.org/marker.asp?marker=33975.
State of Michigan. "Outdoor Adventure Center." Department of Natural Resources. Accessed July 29, 2016. http://www.michigan.gov/oac.
Walbridge Contracting. "Bringing the Great Outdoors into the City." Accessed July 29, 2016. http://www.walbridge.com/projects/globe-building-reconstruction-milliken-state-park-adventure-center.