Most people know Michigan Central Depot as Detroit's abandoned train station. Depending on a person’s perception, it either rises majestically or hulks gloomily over the Corktown district southwest of downtown.
The 18-story building was designed by the same architects who designed New York’s Grand Central Station. It was rapidly completed for use and dubbed the Michigan Central Depot after Detroit's original train depot burned down in 1913. Although the building was isolated a couple of miles southwest of downtown, the city hoped it would attract business and other buildings to the area. Unfortunately, it never did.
While the area surrounding the depot didn't experience the expected boom, the depot itself remained busy and in use up to and throughout the years of World War II. According to David Kohrman at ForgottenDetroit.com, it was probably the advent of the automobile that caused the decline in passenger service to the building thereafter.
There was one brief period of resurgence in the 1970s when Amtrak took over the building and passenger-train service. In spite of renovations thereafter, the depot's doors closed for good in 1988 because the passenger service continued to decline. For the next 20 years, the building sat forlorn and unoccupied, except perhaps for the homeless who used it for shelter and the vandals who stripped it of its splendor.
The building was designed in the Beaux Art style by architects Warren and Wetmore, and engineers Reed and Stem. The Michigan Central Depot’s main waiting room is reminiscent of a Roman bathhouse, boasting 76-foot ceilings, walls and columns made of marble and plaster-decorated arches. While a tower of office space was built above the train station for commercial use and/or a hotel, the interiors of the top five floors were never completed or occupied.
Now and in the Future:
In 2004, Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick announced intentions to renovate the building for use as the new police headquarters, but the plans never came to pass. Meanwhile, the building continues to decay, making renovation more costly and less likely. The bleak landscape that remains, however, has found use in the movies. In 2004, it served as a location in the movie Four Brothers. Michael Bay is apparently a fan of the building as well, using it as a location in both The Island (2005) and Transformers (2006).