The Michigan Central Station


For my first post, I thought it would only be fitting to discuss my one true love of Detroit.

I was born and raised in the Detroit area, and I can recall coming downtown since the early 80s with my parents, passing all the skyscrapers and abandonned buildings that lined the city streets. I couldn’t help but look up in amazement, because I rarely had the opportunity to see the “city” where I lived. Those early memories have stuck with me my entire life.

A few years ago, my love for the architecture in this city was rekindled when I started working downtown. There is so much variety and style and it makes Detroit what it is.

One building, which I passed time and time again was the Michigan Central Station. It has become a landmark in it’s own right, with a historical past and a possible future. It’s iconic, and it best exemplifies our fair city.

The building first opened in 1913, and it was designed by Warren & Smith and Reed & Stern – the same firm that designed Grand Central Station in New York City. Originally built at a cost of $15 Million dollars, it was one of the most elegantly designed structures in the era (note: at this time, it was believed that Detroit would become the next New York City, which is why there was tremendous growth during this period).

It was the main hub for transportation in and out of Detroit. But with the eventual decline of passenger trains, the station eventually closed it’s doors on January 6, 1988 and has since laid on the outskirts of the city where it has fallen victim to vandalism and neglect.

There has been a lot of discussion in recent years as to the future of this structure, and as of this year, it is slated to be renovated and become the future police headquarters. This has been said many times in the past, and it is questionable whether or not it will actually happen.

In 2001, a couple of friends and myself decided to enter the building and document our trip. I had been past the station before, but was always intimidated by the razor wire fences and police patrol cars that randomly cruised by. One crazy summer night after work, we decided to go for it and entered through the front gate into the station, making our way through the labyrinth of hallways and passages beneath the building and ascending to the upper levels and eventually to the very top of the station.

It opened my eyes, and forever changed my impression of Detroit.

This beautiful, majestic building was in complete ruin. I walked through the station and I couldn’t help but get this feeling of the history and the significance that this building once played. It was almost the equivalent of walking through the roman ruins, just imagining what once was.

Around every corner, we would spot these architectural details, and were simply amazed.

It was at this moment, I realized that I loved Detroit, that it was my home and no matter what anyone said, I would defend it as being one of the great cities.

It was quite the experience. Since then, I have tried to go back in to the station several times, but it’s nearly impossible to get in anymore. There is too much security and alarms have been put in place – I can’t risk the tresspassing fines and possible jail time. But I will always remember that day I went. The day I fell in love with Detroit.

link: Michigan Central Station tour images and video

6 Comments so far

  1. SNWEB.ORG (unregistered) on September 7th, 2005 @ 1:53 pm

    Great article.

    Yes it is one fine building. I have been in it a lot in the past few months. It is actually very simple to get in, just keep your eye out.

    Best of luck

  2. Jeremy Pawelek (unregistered) on September 7th, 2005 @ 2:35 pm

    I can’t say I’ve recently tried to get in, but last summer when I tried to get back in, I sort of had a run-in with the Detroit Police who let me off with a warning.

    There are plenty of other buildings in Detroit to explore that aren’t as high-profile as the MCS, but are equally interesting.

  3. kaszeta (unregistered) on September 12th, 2005 @ 10:30 am

    Myself, I’ve been inside Michigan Central (while waiting for a very delayed train to arrive at the small Amtrak “shed” about a 1/4 mile away) in June 1992. I vividly remember the absolute vandalism, garbage, and wanton destruction, only to find out from a friend that the place had been closed only 4 years. It looked the same then as it does now—the devestation was bad enough that the place has a kind of timelessness, in that it’s been so completely destroyed and stripped that there is little more that can be done to the place. I also remember meeting some interesting homeless people there, one of whom showed me the “safe” way to the roof.

    I also recommend digging up a copy of Kelli B Cavanaugh’s book “Michigan Central Station” that covers pictorially the whole history of the station, all the way from it’s initial construction to some fairly recent events (an art show shown in the main hall, for example).

  4. (unregistered) on September 15th, 2005 @ 11:42 am

    here are some in and around photos so you do not have to risk breaking the law or get a tetanus shot-

  5. SeeDetroit com (unregistered) on September 15th, 2005 @ 11:43 am

    here are some in and around photos so you do not have to risk breaking the law or get a tetanus shot-

  6. Lassal (unregistered) on September 22nd, 2005 @ 4:20 pm

    I’m a student here at Wayne state studying to become a real estate developer in Detroit. My Dream would be to redevelop Detroit’s crumpling treasures into viable entertainment and residential properties. Michigan Central Station is one of them. I just pray to God it can hold on for me.

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