112 years after Michigan Central Station construction began, Detroit train depot prepares for new life

Work started on Michigan Central Station 112 years ago.

The permits were pulled in May 1910, and crews got to work on the building in Detroit's Corktown.

Framework of Michigan Central Station in 1913 (Photo: Detroit Historical Society/Ford)

After the building was forced to open early due to a fire at the existing train station in 1913, MCS became a busy hub frequented by military personnel and other travelers. 

Check out this note from 1913 found in a Stroh's Beer bottle

However, train travel eventually began declining, and fewer people passed through Michigan Central. This led to the closure of the main waiting area in April 1967. It later reopened after Amtrak took over the station in 1971 and did more than $1 million in renovations. A bus terminal was also added during this work.

Michigan Central Station in 1955 (Photo: Detroit Historical Society/Ford)

The upgrades couldn't save Michigan Central Station, though, and the last passenger train would leave the depot on Jan. 5, 1988. After it closed, the building became the target of vandals and a victim of the elements. The building was stripped, windows were smashed out, and water filled the basemen and poured in though the roof.

Now, 112 years after work started on the building, Ford is working to create something new with nodes to the past engrained in the historic structure.

PHOTOS: Crews discover artifacts while restoring Detroit train depot

The automaker bought MCS in 2018 and started a massive renovation project that has included emptying out the water from the basement, replacing wiring, duct work, and plumbing, and repairing masonry.

This process has included restoring original pieces when possible and replacing parts that weren't salvageable.

An unpainted 3D printed piece next to the original 

For instance, a 3D printer was used to recreate pieces that adorn the windows. New bricks were also matched to original bricks to ensure they looked how they did when the train station was operational.

Ford is preparing Michigan Central for its autonomous vehicle teams and other tenants. Plans include leaving the main floor open to the public. 

Crews work inside Michigan Central Station on Jan. 11, 2022

There will be a coffee shop where drinks are served out of the old ticket windows. There will also be small shops. In the concourse, there will be eating areas and spaces for education, as well as event spaces. 

The concourse of Michigan Central Station on Jan. 11, 2022

This final phase of the project is focused on finishing up the interior of the building. As of January, the ceilings were mostly done, and the building was ready for new floors.

Michigan Central Station is expected to be ready for tenants by the first or second quarter of 2023.

In addition to what will be inside the building, it is part of a bigger project involving the surrounding community. It will serve as the anchor of a 30-acre walkable campus.

More: Renderings show what Michigan Central Station campus will look like