Photos by Stephen Hilton.
James Scott has been sittin’ in his chair on Belle Isle for 87 years straight, and by now he’s about seen it all.
He watched them put up all the skyscrapers downtown, gazed fixedly as ferries took people to Bob-Lo Island, an amusement park downriver. Tears fell from his eyes when smoke blew over the horizon the day of the 12th Street Riots, and when his old mansion was turned into an apartment building and then abandoned, left to rot. He smiles when kids sit on his lap or whenever the fountain the is turned on again.
Scott’s the one that paid for the big, grand fountain on Belle Isle that people like to get married at. In his will, he gave the city $500,000 to build it, with one stipulation: they also had to build a statue of him next to it.
People weren’t sure if they wanted a statue of Scott in the city. He’d spent his whole life mooching off his large inheritance, drinking and gambling. But in the end, they agreed to Scott’s terms, and the fountain – along with the statue – got built in 1925.
I often find myself wondering what it must feel like to have been made immortal. So one day, I asked Scott. His answer?