Monday, July 2, 2018

A Brief History of Detroit's Michigan Central Station

By Gretchen Sawatzki

When Detroit's 18-story Michigan Central Station opened in 1913 it was the pride and joy of Detroit and Southeast Michigan. Its architects, Reed & Stem of St. Paul, Minnesota and Warren & Wetmore of New York were granted the contracts on a joint venture to construct an awe-inspiring civic building drawn from classical architecture and the romance of the (then) modern railroad. Its grandiose design consisting of 50 foot ceilings, 68 foot Corinthian columns and mammoth arches were symbolic of Detroit's economic and industrial power to those visiting from far and wide.

A445, Michigan Central Station, Detroit, Michigan, United States, 2016
By Brian W. Schaller [FAL], from Wikimedia Commons

At the time of its opening nearly 200 trains left the station each day. By the 1940s nearly 3,000 office workers called the Michigan Central Station their workplace. The train station continued to flourish through the 1950s when subsidized highway projects took precedent and automobiles became the preferred mode of transit. The train station continued to operate through the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s when it was finally decided in the mid-1980s to end train service at the station all together. In January 1988 the last passenger train rolled out the station for the last time.

Michigan Central Train Station Interior - 26 June 2009
By Rick Harris from Toronto, Ontario, Canada (Michigan Central Station [3]) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Since then, the train station has sat as a sign of Detroit's decay waiting for the moment when it could be resurrected. In June 2018, it was announced that the Ford Motor Company purchased the building with plans to renovate - turning the long-vacant landmark into nearly 5,000 offices with its main lobby open to the public. 

It's a rare occasion that such a magnificent building can come back from near collapse. Detroiters and Michiganders alike are thrilled that this once decaying structure will have a new life in a recovering city.

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