On the evening of Tuesday, June 19th I stumbled across an article announcing that Ford is opening Michigan Central Station for the weekend – I was immediately hooked.
I asked all of my friends, siblings and even my Mom if they wanted to join on a spontaneous weekend trip to Detroit, but they all were busy, didn’t want to spend the money or were simply not interested in something that I was ecstatic about. On Friday afternoon I set out, by myself, on what was estimated to be a four hour and 30 minute drive. I spent some of that time wishing I had a companion to join me on such an adventure; however, the fact that I went alone turned out to be one of the most insightful parts of the trip.
I had two strangers, one older woman from Georgia that I met at a Hostel and another woman from Tonawanda, NY (small world!) who sat next to me in Michigan Central, tell me how they were glad that I didn’t let being “alone” stop me from pursuing my interests.
Michigan Central Terminal is an massive, iconic, and, from a distance – at 15 stories tall in a neighborhood of mostly 2 or 3 stories – is an almost oppressive structure that looms over Corktown (the historic Irish neighborhood that the station is a part of). But up close and inside, a sense of grandeur replaces any sense of oppression – it was once the gateway to Detroit. Not that long ago, with all its windows broken, it was also the symbol of decay for Detroit . But now, it is likely to become the symbol of rebirth for Detroit.
That optimism could be felt standing in line to enter the train station that officially closed 30 years ago. Thousands of people showed up just to see this building, so many that Ford chose to extend the opening through Monday – a result of people’s astonishing support for this development.
I commend Ford using Michigan Central, and some nearby buildings, as the base for their autonomous and electric car divisions and in doing so, generating a lot of attention and investment in Corktown and Detroit. Unfortunately, most of the other historic train stations that were built in the late 19th and early 20th centuries will not have the support of a single, large company. Almost every major city in America had a big train station in the early 1900s, but few are still used for transportation today; Grand Central in NYC and Union Station in Denver being noteworthy exceptions. Not every station was as magnificent as Grand Central, Michigan Central, or Buffalo Central, but they’re still historic structures on the fridge of urban communities across America. Symbols of new mobility and wealth in the Industrial Age, Opportunities for economic and social advancement in the Information Age.
If you want to see more images from my trip, check out this post: Art and other Images From Detroit.
Be sure to check out the History Channel Documentary, ” Detroit: Comeback City” which will first air at 9PM ON JULY 1ST, 2018.
Below is a Tweet from Sarah Rahal, of the Detroit News, who took an awesome photo from the top floor of the Terminal, showing part of Corktown along Michigan Ave, the CPA Building (Conductor’s Protective Association, not Certified Public Accountant), and the crowd who showed up to enter Michigan Central).
Below that is an official video from Ford* about Michigan Central Station.
— Sarah Rahal (@SarahRahal_) June 23, 2018
*I am in no way affiliated or sponsored by the Ford Motor Company, or Ford Land. However, if a representative from Ford reads this article, and wants to support me writing more about the adaptive reuse/restoration of Michigan Central Terminal or other Detroit properties, please comment below or email me.