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Michigan Central Station (also known as Michigan Central Depot or MCS), built in 1913 for the Michigan Central Railroad, was Detroit, Michigan's, passenger rail depot from its opening in 1913, when the previous Michigan Central Station burned, until the last Amtrak train pulled away from the station on January 6, 1988.

The building, located in the Corktown district of Detroit near Tiger Stadium and the Ambassador Bridge about Template:Convert southwest of downtown Detroit, still stands today, though it remains unoccupied. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1975. Reports of restoration projects and plans have gone as far as the negotiation process, but none have come to fruition. Restoration of Michigan Central Station is seen as an important project for the economic development of the City of Detroit.



The unfinished building began operating as Detroit's main passenger depot in 1913 after the older Michigan Central Station burned on December 26, 1913. It was begun earlier as part of a much larger project that involved the Michigan Central Railway Tunnel below the Detroit River for freight and passengers. The old station was slated to be replaced by the new Michigan Central to place the passenger service on the main line. The old station had been located on a spur line, which was inconvenient for the volume of passenger service that was being served.


The growing trend toward increased automobile use was not a large concern in 1913, as is evidenced 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 remote distance from downtown Detroit. The reason for the placement this far from downtown was a hope that the station would be an anchor for prosperity to follow. Initially, things were looking up as Henry Ford began to buy land near the station in the 1920s and plans were made, but the Great Depression and other circumstances squelched the development efforts. Further compounding MCS's future problems was the fact that no large parking facility was included in the original design of the facility. So when the interurban service was discontinued not even two decades after MCS opened and streetcar service following in 1938, 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 $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 projects was begun in 1978. Only 6 years later, the building was sold for a transportation center project that never materialized. Then, on January 6, 1988, the last Amtrak train pulled away from the station after it was decided to close the facility.

The property has changed hands several times after the 1984 deal, once even selling for less than $80,000. It is now owned by Controlled Terminals Inc. Another transportation company, the Detroit International Bridge Co., owns the nearby Ambassador Bridge. Both companies are owned by the same businessman, M.J. Moroun.[1]

The station is sometimes used for films. The station was used for scenes in the movie Transformers (directed by Michael Bay) in October 2006. In January 2005, the station was used as a location set for the movie The Island (directed by Michael Bay). In September 2002, extensive closeups and fly-by shots were featured in the movie Naqoyqatsi. In the 2004 film Four Brothers, the movie opens with the main character driving his car along the Michigan Central Station.



Opened in 1913, the building is of the Beaux-Arts Classical style of architecture, designed by the Warren & Wetmore and Reed & Stern firms who also designed New York City's Grand Central Terminal.[2] The price tag for this Template:Convert building was $15 million when it was built.

The building is composed of two distinct parts: the train station itself and the tower which rises 18-stories. The roof height is Template:Convert. Speculation as to what the tower was originally designed for include 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 interiors of at least the top floor had never been completed and served no function.

The main waiting room on the main floor was modeled after an ancient Roman bathhouse with walls of marble. The building also housed a large hall adorned with Doric columns and contained 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 the departing train platforms, 11 tracks in all. Below the tracks and building is a large area for baggage, mail, and other office building functions.

The building has since been stripped of most valuable items including brass fixtures. It has also been the victim of extensive vandalism.

Future developmentEdit

Template:Future building

Depot owners said (2008) their goal is to renovate the decaying Beaux-Arts, neo-classical building that's been closed since 1988.[3] The owner does not view financing as a problem, but rather finding the right use, with an estimated cost of $80 million to renovate.[3] The station has been an attractive site for filming movies.[3] 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.[4]
  • Convention Center and Casino - Ambassador Bridge owner Manuel J. "Matty" Moroun,[1] proposed that his 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.[3]
  • 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. However, in mid-2005, the city cancelled the plan and chose to renovate its existing police headquarters.[4]
  • Renovation budgets have been estimated to require from $80 to $300 million to renovate. The Detroit Wayne County Port Authority has the ability to issue bonds and could take part in financing.

See alsoEdit


  1. 1.0 1.1 Fitch, Stephanie and Joann Muller (11-15-04).The Troll Under the Bridge.Forbes. Retrieved on July 29, 2008.
  2. Detroit's Abandoned Train Station. (accessed April 20, 2006).
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Aguilar, Louis (4-8-2008).Michigan Central Depot owners say 'Roll 'em!'.The Detroit News. Retrieved on July 29, 2008.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Mullen, Ann (8-6-2006).On Track.Metro Times. Retrieved on July 29, 2008.

References and further readingEdit

External linksEdit

Template:Architecture of metropolitan Detroit Template:Detroit

Template:Registered Historic Placesfr:Michigan Central Station pt:Estação Central de Michigan

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