Encyclopedia Of Detroit

Michigan Central Station

Michigan Central Station, located in Detroit’s Corktown neighborhood, was the city’s primary railway depot from 1913 to 1988. Prior to the new station’s construction, the Michigan Central Railroad operated out of a depot located near the Detroit River and Third Street – about where Joe Louis Arena previously stood. Michigan Central Station was built partially to accommodate rail traffic from the Detroit-Windsor rail tunnel, which opened in 1910, and an increase in passenger business. The station was put into use before a formal dedication in December 1913 due to a fire destroying the Third Street station.

The impressive structure was designed by New York hotel architects Whitney Warren and Charles D. Wetmore, along with Charles A. Reed and Allen Stem, designers of New York City’s Grand Central Station. The building consists of a three-story depot with 10 gates for trains, and an 18-story tower with more than 500 offices. The depot’s waiting room was the highlight of the station, with marble floors, high vaulted ceilings, bronze chandeliers, and many other details indicative of Beaux Arts style. It also featured a restaurant, lunch counter, barber shop, florist, bathing facilities, and other amenities.

Rail travel saw a sharp decline beginning in the 1950s due in part to the proliferation of highways and air travel, and ridership from the station sagged. Ownership changed hands several times beginning in 1968, with portions of the station closing and facilities disappearing until the final train departed on January 5, 1988, bound for Chicago. Redevelopment plans for the structure came and went, and much of its lavish features were destroyed by vandalism and neglect. The structure was saved from the threat of demolition several times thanks to pending plans and its listing on the National Register of Historic Places, achieved in 1975.

After sitting vacant for decades, the derelict but still beautiful station had become the target of “ruins photography,” and drew comparisons to Detroit as a whole. In June 2018, Ford Motor Company announced their purchase of the building, and their plans to transform the station and nearby buildings into a mixed-use campus. A remarkable undertaking spanning several years, the building underwent a full restoration and re-opened in June 2024, with an opening celebration headlined by a televised concert featuring Detroit musical legends.




Michigan Central Station Postcard

Michigan Central Station's Waiting Room

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