From the vault: 1991 segment captures Michigan Central Station’s descent into decay
Former train depot in Detroit now owned by Ford
DETROIT – After Michigan Central Station shuttered in 1988, the building became a gold mine for scrappers and other thieves.
A Sept. 16, 1991, segment with Chris Hansen offers a peek into the old train station that vandals tore apart for years.
Watch the segment above.
While travelers no longer walked through the building, people and wild dogs were in and out of the once grand transportation hub that opened in 1913.
In the first three years that MCS was empty, thieves stole copper, chandeliers and other materials from the depot after the building’s owner, real estate developer Mark Longton Jr., bounced several checks with a security company that used to watch over the abandoned structure.
READ MORE: A brief history of Michigan Central Station
At the time of Hansen’s report, it was estimated that three stolen chandeliers were worth about $100,000 each.
Plans for train station fall through
Longton had plans to turn MCS into a casino, but they never materialized.
In 1996, Controlled Terminals Inc., a company owned by Manuel Moroun, bought the station. Ideas about what could occupy the building were bounced around, but it remained empty.
MCS continued a constant fall into despair and became a symbol of decay and Detroit’s decline for decades. It remained a hot spot for vandals. Photographers, urban explorers and homeless people also found their way inside.
In 2015, things started looking up for the building. Security was ramped up and much-needed improvements began.
New windows were installed, as well as an elevator that is able to transport heavy construction materials and machinery to the top floors.
However, no concrete plans for the station were in place.
Ford purchases historic train depot
New hope for the 18-story structure came in 2018 when it was announced that Ford Motor Company purchased Michigan Central Station.
The automaker is planning on creating a campus that will consist of about 1.2 million square feet of property in Corktown. The mixed-use space will feature office space, retail space and residential housing. The company plans to locate about 2,500 employees, mostly from its mobility team, to the space by 2022.
Ford has said it is using historic pieces from the iconic train station to plan its redevelopment. Many stolen artifacts were returned to Ford after it gained ownership of the building, and those items have offered a look at what the train depot once was.
Items from the old station include a large clock, decorative pieces from a stair post, a fire extinguisher, mail slots, train tickets and elevator call buttons, among other historical pieces.
Early renderings showed that the company plans to keep much of the building’s historic flare. The main floor is expected to remain open to the public.
MCS draws crowds after new future revealed
The hulking structure, which will most likely not be used for several years as renovations are done, has already been host to several events since it came under new ownership.
Shortly after Ford acquired the building, there was a celebration in front of MCS. It featured local artists and a performance by Detroit rapper Big Sean.
Ford also offered free tours of the station last summer.
In the fall, it was transformed into a haunted house, and the inaugural Michigan Central Station Winter Festival was held outside the building in early 2019.
The highlight of the festival was a 3D light show that includes images of the station's glory days, its revitalization and its future, and showcased local artists.
Watch the light show below.
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