Michigan Central Station tours begin; 'Summer at the Station' held June 21-Aug. 31

On Friday, Michigan Central Station's deep roots were on display as the building opened its doors to visitors for the first time in nearly four decades. 

Artifacts placed inside the renovated building tell a story from generations ago – when it was still a hub for train travel. 

"Over the next 10 days, more than 60,000 people are expected to participate in reopening festivities for the iconic landmark, which were kicked off last night with an outdoor spectacular in Roosevelt Park that featured an electrifying lineup of Detroit icons," according to a news release from Michigan Central.

Lester Johnson said he came through the station as an eight-year-old in 1956. Now, he works as a security guard at Michigan Central.

"This is just so emotional for me to be here. It’s very special," Johnson said. "It’s actually breathtaking to see this train station and to know that I came through in 1956, and being the first officer for Allied, to be assigned to this. For Mr. Ford to have the vision to restore this is just a monumental moment."

Inside the pristine landmark, waves of people checked out the breathtaking mix of Michigan Central’s past and present – complemented by old train station recordings, memoribilia, photos, original columns and more.

"You can read lips when you come through the door," said retired Detroit firefighter, Ron Butler, who previously fought fires at Michigan Central Station. "Everyone is like 'wow.' I had the same reaction."

The building now operates as a "technology and cultural hub in Detroit," according to the news release.

Butler is now the founder of NewLab, a technology research lab, which is operating inside Michigan Central.

Ford bought Michigan Central station in 2018. And when they began renovating it, a recall for original memorabilia was put out, said Melissa Dittmer, Michigan Central's head of place. One of the stolen relics Michigan Central reclaimed was the carriage house clock.

"Someone reached out to us via email and said, ‘I have the original carriage house clock.’ It existed on the outside of the carriage house, and when all the carriages would come in, they would see the clock up above. And at some point in time, that clock face disappeared," Dittmer said. "And so they reached out and said 'we have it, we're going to return it to you because we see that you as Ford, are really putting the time and effort and passion into restoring the station, and we want it to come home. 

"So that person left the Carriage House clock in a field covered in a blanket and told us where it was. And we went out to get it and our historic archivists and architects said ‘yes, this is the original piece.’ And so that was one of many examples where a big architectural element had been saved by someone because it was precious to them, because it represented so much to them. And then they returned it back to the station."

Registration for the Michigan Central open house tours has closed. 

However, the first floor will be open to the public from June 21 through August 31 as part of "Summer at the Station." Visitors will not need tickets and will be able to take self-guided tours from:

  • 5-9 p.m. on Fridays
  • 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. on Saturdays

The first round of business tenants will start relocating into Michigan Central during the fall. Restaurants, retail shops, and other businesses will eventually open up in the building as well.