Michigan Central Station
Michigan Central Station
Michigan Central Station in 2010
|Location||2405 West Vernor Highway
|Area||500,000 sq ft (46,000 m2)|
|Architect||Reed and Stem,
Warren and Wetmore
|NRHP Reference #||75000969|
|Added to NRHP||April 16, 1975|
Michigan Central Station (also known as Michigan Central Depot or MCS) was the main intercity passenger rail depot for Detroit, Michigan. Built for the Michigan Central Railroad, it replaced the original depot in downtown Detroit, which was shuttered after a major fire on December 26, 1913, forcing the still unfinished station into early service. Formally dedicated on January 4, 1914, the station remained open for business until the cessation of Amtrak service on January 6, 1988. At the time of its construction, it was the tallest rail station in the world.
The building is located in the Corktown district of Detroit near the Ambassador Bridge, approximately ¾-mile (1.2 km) southwest of downtown Detroit. It is located behind Roosevelt Park, and the Roosevelt Warehouse is adjacent to the east. The city's Roosevelt Park serves as a grand entryway to the station. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1975. Restoration projects and plans have gone as far as the negotiation process, but none has come to fruition. In 2011, work began to remove glass and add new windows.
|This section needs additional citations for verification. (August 2014)|
The building began operating as Detroit's main passenger depot in 1913 after the older Michigan Central Station burned on December 26, 1913. It was originally owned and operated by Michigan Central Railroad. It was planned as part of a large project that included the Michigan Central Railway Tunnel below the Detroit River for freight and passengers. The old station was located on a spur line which was inconvenient for the volume of passengers it served. The new Michigan Central would place passenger service on the main line.
The growing trend toward increased automobile use was not a large concern in 1912, as is evident in the design of the building. Most passengers would arrive at and leave from Michigan Central Station by interurban service or streetcar and not as pedestrians, due to the station's distance from downtown Detroit. The station was placed away from downtown in the hope that the station would be an anchor for development to follow.
At the beginning of World War I, the peak of rail travel in the United States, more than two hundred trains left the station each day and lines would stretch from the boarding gates to the main entrance. In the 1940s, more than four thousand passengers a day used the station and more than three thousand people worked in its office tower. Among those who arrived at MCS were Presidents Herbert Hoover, Harry S. Truman and Franklin D. Roosevelt, actor Charlie Chaplin and inventor Thomas Edison.
Matters looked better for a while as Henry Ford began to buy land near the station in the 1920s and made construction plans, but the Great Depression and other circumstances squelched this and many other development efforts. Further compounding MCS's future problems was the fact that the original design included no large parking facility. So, when the interurban service was discontinued less than two decades after MCS opened, MCS was effectively isolated from a large majority of the population.
However, even with fewer means to get to and from the station, passenger volume did not decrease immediately. During World War II, the station saw heavy military use, but once the war ended, passenger volume began to decline. Service was cut back and passenger traffic became so low that the owners of the station attempted to sell the facility in 1956 for US$5 million, one-third of its original building cost in 1913. Another attempt to sell the building occurred in 1963, but again there were no buyers. In 1967, maintenance costs were seen as too high relative to the decreasing passenger volume. The restaurant, arcade shops, and main entrance were closed, along with much of the main waiting room. This left only two ticket windows to serve passengers and visitors, who used the same parking-lot entrance as railroad employees working in the building.
Things began to look better for the building when Amtrak took over the nation's passenger rail service in 1971. The main waiting room and entrance were reopened in 1975 and a $1.25 million renovation project began in 1978. But only six years later, the building was sold for a transportation center project that never materialized, and on January 6, 1988, the last Amtrak train pulled away from the station after it was decided to close the facility. In July 1992, the Detroit Master Plan of Policies for the southwest sector's urban design identified the station as an attractive or interesting feature to be recognized, enhanced and promoted. Amtrak service continued at a platform near the building until a new station opened several miles away in New Center in 1994.
Controlled Terminals Inc. acquired the station in 1996. Its sister company, the Detroit International Bridge Co., owns the nearby Ambassador Bridge and both are part of a group of transportation-related companies owned by businessman Manuel Moroun, Chairman and CEO of CenTra Inc. The company demolished the train shed in 2000, and coverted the remaining tracks and platforms into an intermodal freight facility named "Expressway" operated by Canadian Pacific Railway. The facility was closed a few short years later in June 2004.
The station has appeared in several films. MCS was used for scenes in the movie Transformers (directed by Michael Bay) in October 2006. In January 2005, it was used as a location set for the movie The Island (also directed by Michael Bay). In September 2002, extensive closeups and fly-by shots were featured in the movie Naqoyqatsi. The 2005 film Four Brothers opens with the main character driving his car along the front of Michigan Central Station towards Michigan Avenue. The building has been used in some of Eminem's work, including the title sequence of the movie 8 Mile and his music video for the song "Beautiful", during the beginning of which the building features prominently. A scene from the ABC crime drama Detroit 1-8-7 was shot and set inside the station. The building's lobby was significant in the closing scenes of the 2012 documentary Detropia.
Although the City of Detroit considered the building a "Priority Cultural Site" in 2006, the City Council on April 7, 2009 passed a resolution aimed at the demolition of the Depot. Seven days later, Detroit resident Stanley Christmas sued the city of Detroit to stop the demolition effort, citing the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966. The future of the building remains undetermined.
The building is of the Beaux-Arts Classical style of architecture, designed by the Warren & Wetmore and Reed and Stem firms who also designed New York City's Grand Central Terminal. The price tag for this 500,000-square-foot (46,000 m2) building was $15 million when it was built. Roosevelt Park creates a grand entryway for the station, which was fully realized around 1920.
The building is composed of two distinct parts: the train station itself and the 18-story tower. The roof height is 230 feet (70 m). The original ideas for the tower included a hotel, offices for the rail company, or a combination of both. In reality, the tower was only used for office space by the Michigan Central Railroad and subsequent owners of the building. The tower was never completely utilized; the top floors were never completely furnished, and served no function.
The main waiting room on the main floor was modeled after an ancient Roman bathhouse with walls of marble and vaulted ceilings. The building also housed a large hall adorned with Doric columns that housed the ticket office and arcade shops. Beyond the arcade was the concourse, which had brick walls and a large copper skylight. From here, passengers would walk down a ramp to a tunnel from which the platforms could be accessed by stairs and elevators. Under the shed there were ten passenger platforms consisting of one side platform and five island platforms along ten paired tracks. In addition, one track served the Railway Express Agency (REA) mail service at the southern end of the shed. Immediately outside the shed were seven additional freight tracks. Below the tracks and building was a large area for baggage and mail handling and offices.
In 2008, the station owners said that their goal was to renovate the decaying building that closed in 1988. The estimated cost of renovations was $80 million, but the owners viewed finding the right use as a greater problem than financing. On March 25, 2011, in an effort to push forward a potential sale and redevelopment of the depot, Dan Stamper, spokesperson for Ambassador Bridge owner Manuel "Matty" Moroun, announced plans to work with the City of Detroit on funding replacement of the tower's roof, and installing new windows on the structure. Stamper told the Detroit News: "It would be much easier to help a developer to come up with a package to use the depot if some improvements were made."
Proposals and concepts for redevelopment in the past have included these potential uses:
- Trade Processing Center – One proposal suggested turning the station into a customs and international trade processing center due to its proximity to the Ambassador Bridge.
- Convention Center and Casino – Ambassador Bridge owner Moroun proposed that Michigan Central Station be restored as the centerpiece of a new convention center, possibly combined with a casino. Such a project could cost $1.2 billion, including $300 million to restore the station. Dan Stamper, president of Detroit International Bridge, noted that the station should have been used as one of the city's casinos.
- Detroit Police Headquarters – In 2004, Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick announced that the city was pursuing options to relocate its police department headquarters and possibly consolidate other law enforcement offices to MCS. However, in mid-2005, the city canceled the plan and chose to renovate its existing police headquarters.
- Michigan State Police Headquarters – In 2010, State Senator Cameron S. Brown and Mickey Bashfield, a government relations official for the building owner CenTra Inc., suggested that the station could become the Detroit headquarters of the Michigan State Police, include some United States Department of Homeland Security offices, and serve as a center for trade inspections.
Renovation estimates have ranged from $80 to $300 million. The Detroit Wayne County Port Authority has the ability to issue bonds and could take part in financing.
The U.S. Department of Transportation has awarded $244 million in grants for high-speed rail upgrades between Chicago and Detroit. A consortium of investors including the Canadian Pacific Railway has proposed a new, larger rail tunnel capable of handling large double-stacked freight cars under the Detroit River which could open in 2017. With the new tunnel emerging near the Michigan Central Station, a redeveloped station could play a role as a trade inspection facility.
On May 5, 2011, the Detroit International Bridge Company announced it engaged the Ann Arbor firm of Quinn Evans to oversee restoration of the roof and windows of the structure. Bridge Company owner Moroun stated, "We hope this is just the beginning of a renaissance for the depot."
On June 6, 2011, partial asbestos abatement on the first floor began. The work will be conducted by Professional Abatement Services, Inc. of Melvindale, Michigan.
As of June, 2012, electricity has been restored to the interior. Lights have illuminated the main lobby nightly, interior demolition work, including asbestos removal and water removal work continues daily. The website Talk To The Station has been launched by the Michigan Central Station Preservation Society to provide a sounding board for community questions and suggestions.
On June 10, 2014, it was reported that the owners of Michigan Central Station are moving forward with about $676,000 in rehab work, and have received permits to install a new 9,000-pound capacity freight elevator, which will allow for the smooth installation of new windows and roof work.  
- Kavanaugh, Kelli B. (2001). Detroit's Michigan Central Station (Images of America). Arcadia Publishing. ISBN 0-7385-1881-6.
- Leary, John Patrick (15 January 2011). "Detroitism". Guernica. Retrieved 16 October 2014.
The station is the Eiffel Tower of ruin photography... as shown by the hobbyist and professional photographers who descend upon it on every sunny day.
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- Tom Greenwood (25 March 2011). "Decaying Central Depot to get spruce-up". The Detroit News (DetNews.com). Retrieved 2011-05-05.
- Ann Mullen (6 August 2006). "On Track". Metro Times (MetroTimes.com). Retrieved 2008-07-29.
- "New York Times asks: What's to be done with Michigan Central Station?". Model D. 9 March 2010.
- Nathan Bomey (28 January 2010). "High-speed rail grants include $244 million for Detroit-to-Chicago Amtrak improvements". Ann Arbor News (annarbor.com). Retrieved 2011-05-05.
- Shea, Bill (17 June 2010). "Windsor Port Authority joins group seeking to build $400 million rail tunnel". Crain's Detroit Business (CrainsDetroit.com). Retrieved 2010-07-07.
- Shea, Bill (26 November 2013). "Detroit River rail tunnel to start construction next year, project leaders say". Crain's Detroit Business. Retrieved 16 October 2014.
- John Gallagher (5 May 2011). "Bridge Company moves ahead with Michigan Central Depot restoration". Detroit Free Press (freep.com). Retrieved 2011-05-05.
- "Asbestos Project Notification". Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs. Retrieved 2011-06-03.
- David Muller. "Permits pulled for $676,000 in work on Michigan Central Station". Mlive.com. Retrieved 2014-06-29.
- "Morouns adding elevator to help in rehab of Michigan Central Station". Freep.com. Retrieved 2014-06-29.
- Hill, Eric J. and John Gallagher (2002). AIA Detroit: The American Institute of Architects Guide to Detroit Architecture. Wayne State University Press. ISBN 0-8143-3120-3.
- Kavanaugh, Kelli B. (2001). Detroit's Michigan Central Station (Images of America). Arcadia Publishing. ISBN 0-7385-1881-6.
- Meyer, Katherine Mattingly and Martin C.P. McElroy with Introduction by W. Hawkins Ferry, Hon A.I.A. (1980). Detroit Architecture A.I.A. Guide Revised Edition. Wayne State University Press. ISBN 0-8143-1651-4.
- Sharoff, Robert (2005). American City: Detroit Architecture. Wayne State University Press. ISBN 0-8143-3270-6.
- Sobocinski, Melanie Grunow (2005). Detroit and Rome: building on the past. Regents of the University of Michigan. ISBN 0-933691-09-2.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Michigan Central Station.|
- Gallery of historical photographs at TalkToTheStation website
- Michigan Central Station at Emporis
- Michigan Central Station at SkyScraperPage
- Save Michigan Central Latest conservation effort and the official home of the Michigan Central Station Preservation Society.
- Michigan Central Station at Detroiturbex.com
|Preceding station||New York Central Railroad||Following station|
|Michigan Central Railroad
|Terminus||Canada Southern Railway
toward Mackinaw City
|Mackinaw City – Detroit|