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On Location in the Station – Part 2: The Ghost

The photo is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license by Winter4368.

By: Nathan Wilson

The second station in this series opened in 1913 and was once one of the most used stations in the United States. With more than 200 trains departing daily at the beginning of World War One and employing more than 3000 people in its tower, Michigan Central Station was one of the iconic stations in the United States.

During the height of use in the 1940’s, the station saw more than 4000 people go through during their daily commute. After World War Two, the station started to see a decline in usage. The placement of the station, away from downtown in hopes of creating development in other places, started to be a downfall. With no large parking facility and the interurban service being discontinued, the station had a harder time bringing people in.

In 1956 the station was put on the market for only five million dollars. The asking price was only 1/3 of the total price of construction in 1913. The station was not purchased and was once again put on the market in 1963 with the same outcome as in 1956.

Things looked to be on an upswing in 2000 when the station was turned into an intermodal freight facility, only to decline again when the facility closed in 2004. The station has since been proposed to become a trade processing center, a convention center and casino, headquarters for Detroit Police, and the headquarters for the Michigan State Police. These proposals did not pan out and the station continued to sit vacant.

In May of 2011 the Ann Arbor firm of Quinn Evans was made to oversee restoration of the station. In June of that same year, asbestos abatement began on the first floor of the station. In June of 2012, electricity was restored to the interior of the station. Finally, in June of 2014 $676,000 worth of rehabilitation work began in the facility on the roof and windows.

While the building has been vacant, it has been very useful for the film industry. Films such as Transformers, Eight Mile, The Island and Four Brothers have used the station for parts of their productions.