The Crown Jewell of abandoned buildings in Detroit was the Michigan Central Station (MCS). To write the word “was” is an unbelievable feeling! It was abandoned, and now it is the future of something special for the people of Detroit and Ford Motor Company. I have always said I would trade every abandoned window and building for jobs and commerce. Over the last decade we have had some great moments of recovery here. Compuware is kind of the spark that started this then add Quicken Loans. The stadiums and casinos are all nice additions as well. Those all brought the small business back as well. The Detroit Free Press in this article used the best quote “the greatest comeback moment yet”.
I have to look at the past two weeks as a miracle for Detroit. A Hail Mary play call by Ford to save the station. I think the impact to Corktown is going to be immense. Just over the weekend the attention to the area felt significant. Slows BBQ and Mercury Burger bar were packed and a lot of the conversation circulated around the station and Ford. Pure excitement and wondering what is going to happen is the general consensus. I know I feel the same way. I know every person I have talked to feels the same way.
I feel Detroit has some great political guidance right now. A lot needs to continue and the neighborhoods also need some of this downtown love. Industry will grow and bring jobs, homes and money. Detroit still needs a key piece to the puzzle. As I stood in front of MCS on Tuesday afternoon and listened to William Clay Ford Jr speak I heard what Detroit has been missing for years. A leader; I felt like he was Steve Jobs on that platform. We have lacked an outspoken leader in Detroit for all of my life. Politicians can make a lot of noise but they come and go. Ford Motor Company already has over 100 years vested into the city. Mr Ford has the heart of the city and the suburbs in his hands. All he has to do it step up again and again. Leadership takes more than talking and the promises for the revival of MCS should prove that Mr Ford can breathe leadership back into the city. If Mr Ford reads this or if you forward it to him…please urge him to continue what he started. It’s more than the charities and even a building like MCS. Make speeches and lead by example…be the leader we need. We don’t need silent…Detroit has long suffered in silence!!
It is impossible to deny the presence of this building on the landscape. It is huge! Nothing around it compares in size or beauty. When it was built in 1913 it was the largest train station ever constructed. I have for years called it the Ellis Island of Detroit. My Grandpa and my Dad left for service using the train station. I can only imagine the sight and feelings people must have had when they rolled into town. The site and size of the building must have been breathtaking. I can only imagine immigrating from another country and coming to America on a boat. Then getting on a train and taking the long journey to Detroit and seeing this beauty when you roll into town.
I love taking Pictures of Detroit. It has been the story I have spent my adult life focusing on. I remember the first time I ever walked into the station. I was in awe of the beauty and sheer size of the interior. Even faded and full of graffiti it is enough to take your breathe away. When Ford announced the purchase of the station it was an amazing surprise. The bigger surprise to me was the email I received a few weeks before seeking my pictures of the station. I was lucky enough to have the pictures that fit the show Ford was putting on display. The past, present, and the future of the station. Thru this weekend the station is open to the public and demand is high. Here is a link to register to see it.
This has always been one of my most favorite views of the station. The concourse area near the ticket booth. From floor to ceiling it is an example of an architectural masterpiece. In the center of this photo where the focus of graffiti is painted is where the clock once held its spot. A day before the public announcement that Ford was to take over the station someone returned the clock. I have been shooting this building since 2002 and I have never seen the clock hanging there. As an avid explorer for years I made sure to never take things or destroy things. My entire goal has always been to document and take pictures. I am encouraged that the clock was returned and I hope more will return but I have my doubts.
The columns and architecture catch your attention. The details and quality of work have managed to survive 40 years of neglect I do not study architecture or have any clue how to build things but I can appreciate this. I just know that I loved how they crossed and looked. This is an example of when water and gravity work together.
It is nearly impossible to capture the height and depth of the building in one picture. Columns are all through out the Grand Hall. Huge! They have supported the weight of this beauty since 1913 and have stood the test of time. The goal of this below picture was to show the detail, height and beauty of the columns. I am looking forward to seeing the changes and rebirth of this beauty.
Way way back in 2005 it was early in the morning and the skies were clear. My friend Ken and I were in the station shooting away and I happened to look out the door and see these clouds starting to roll in. I grabbed my gear and I started to RUN up all the flights of stairs. All 18 floors…you kinda feel like a Fireman doing this sometimes. No elevators or escalators which always forces you to walk. I made it up the stairs and shoved my camera out a window and took a few pictures of these rolling dark clouds. Then the rain came and it poured.
After you hike up all those stairs you have to take in the view towards south west Detroit. The Ambasadoor bridge which is owned but the former owner of the station is right outside the windows. It is easy to understand why this is a desirable location. The bridge to Canada is in your shadow. The train tracks that flow into the city lay on the doorstep of the building. What has always amazed me is how long MCS sat empty.
The front windows. The eye sore that was for 30+ years. For miles and miles away you could see the station and all these broken widows. The station closed when I was twelve years old. My first memories of it were going to Tigers games and seeing it as an empty mess from the exterior. When I was older and shooting the city I would always look at these windows and dream of what happened, who was here and how did this happen.
These broken windows are the reasons I started to photograph and document Detroit. The reasons I wished to bring attention to the city. I would wish, pray and hope for something different. This week has been one of the most exciting and amazing weeks in the history of the city. A rebirth has begun and Detroit is on the rise. We are coming back and I hope we are ready to grab hold of every possible opportunity to continue this growth.