The United Nations Headquarters placed on Detroit's Belle Isle? It could have happened

(WXYZ) - Depending on your perspective, the battle over the future of Belle Isle that accompanied the recent fighting over Detroit's finances either ended as a victory for local control or a defeat that will lead to the further decay of one the city's jewels.

However, this wasn't the first time that the island park featured prominently in a high profile fight. You could say the first battle involving Belle Isle literally changed the face of the world.

That's because it was the fight over where to place the United Nations.

According to t he new book Capital of the World: The Race to Host the United Nations by Rutgers' Professor Charlene Mires , it was Detroit and not New York that was the first city to actively campaign to be the host city for what would become the primary hub for world diplomacy.

Professor Mires also writes about the subject in an article for Foreign Policy magazine .

Mires writes that in 1944, while World War II still raged across the globe, Detroit began pitching itself as the ideal site for what would become the United Nations because of its location on the US-Canadian border and because of the city's role as the Arsenal of Democracy.

The location city leaders picked to place the new organization was Belle Isle, calling it the perfect setting.

According to Professor Mires, Detroit was soon competing with cities all over the country, including Chicago and Boston.

However, Professor Mires says Detroit's pitch was doomed when diplomats ruled the Midwest was too isolationist and decided that UN had to be located in the Northeast.

She writes the deal to put the UN in New York was sealed by a gift of $8.5 million from John D. Rockefeller Jr. 

Print this article Back to Top

Comments