Monday, February 15, 2016

Michigan Central Station: The most iconic abandoned building of Detroit

The abandoned Michigan Central Station is one of Detroit's most iconic buildings. Just like the Motor City, the station has its own story of rise and decline.

Michigan Central Station opened on January 4, 1914. It was designed by the architects of New York City's Grand Central Terminal in a Beaux-Arts Classical styleMichigan Central Railroad owned and operated what was then the tallest railway station building in the world. It was a time when no one could foresee the growing trend towards increased automobile use, which explains the large size of the station. And indeed, in the first years of operation more than 200 trains left the station each day and lines would stretch from the boarding gates to the main entrance. Among notable passengers arriving at MCS were Presidents Herbert Hoover, Harry S. Truman and Franklin D. Roosevelt, actor Charlie Chaplin and inventor Thomas Edison.

During World War II the station was used heavily by military troops. After the war though, the decline in railway travel began as more and more people would use cars for vacation or other travel. Service to the station was cut back and several unsuccessful attempts to sell the building were made in the 1950's and 1960's. By then, the station's restaurant and several shops were closed, as was the biggest part of the waiting room, and only 2 ticket windows would serve passengers.

When Amtrak took over the station in 1971 there were attempts to restore MCS to its old glory. The main waiting room and and entrance were reopened and a $1.25 million renovation project started in 1978. Six years later though the building was sold to a transportation company which decided to shut it down. The last Amtrak train departed from Michigan Central Station on January 6, 1988, 74 years and 2 days after the station opened.

During the last 3 decades there has been a lot of discussion about the station's future. Many potential uses have been proposed, among them the redevelopment of the station into a trade processing center, a convention center and casino, or Detroit Police headquarters. In 2009 Detroit City Council asked for the demolition of MCS even though the station has been added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Starting in 2009 works to renovate the station have started by the building's owners. Among them, the removal of asbestos, internal demolition work, removal of water, broken glass and other debris, electricity restoration, and installation of a freight elevator. In 2015, works for the installation of more than 1,000 windows in the building's exterior began. However, there is still no set plan for a future use of the station.

Meanwhile, Michigan Central Station has been featured in films such as Transformers, The IslandNaqoyqatsi and Four Brothers as well as Eminem's music videos. Photographers and urban explorers have been visiting the station for years, making it an iconic example of ruins photography.

SEE ALSO: More abandoned places in Detroit and around Michigan // More abandoned places in the United States // More abandoned railway stations and trains // LIST OF ALL DESERTED PLACES

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