Monday, March 16, 2009

Michigan Central Building

I have a fascination with old buildings so when I took my granddaughter to the museum, I pointed out some of the abandoned ones along the way.

My favorite is the Michigan Central Building. It was built in 1913 in the architectural style of Beaux Arts. This combined classical Greek and Roman architecture with Renaissance ideas and was used for grand public buildings and beautiful mansions. Features included..

When this building was originally built it was located a few miles from the center of downtown Detroit. The hope was that growth would continue and that the area between downtown and the station would swell with homes and businesses. Cars were not a worry for the city planners, most people didn't own them. They took street cars or walked. The great depression took a toll on the city, buildings did not get built and soon the great station was virtually isolated from the hustle and bustle of the city. During World War 2 it did get a lot of use, but by the late 60s most of it was closed off. It closed it's doors for good in 1988 and has been stripped of it's marble walls, decorative tiles and brass fixtures.

Now the station stands alone, it's silhouette can be seen for miles. A barbed wire fence surrounds it. No Trespassing signs warn outsides to stay out, yet vandals still find ways to get inside.

When I stand and face the Michigan Central Station, protected by the 8 foot fence that surrounds it, there's an uneasiness that settles inside me. The empty bleak windows seem to stare back at me and I wonder if there's someone there, watching. My granddaughter felt it too and kept asking me, "is anyone inside there now?"

I once wrote a short story called, "If I find you". It was based on something I had read about the Michigan Central Station. Someone had written an article about the decaying ruin and mentioned some graffiti they had read. Sprayed on a wall, somewhere in a corridor, were the words, "If I find you in the evening, THEY will find you in the morning." This set my imagination in motion and I envisioned the station housing some hideous monster who killed by night. Inspired by a gargoyle like image on the upper columns of the building, I wrote about a winged creature who crept along the balconies and pediments, waiting and watching.

But nothing so sinister waits there. The once grand building continues to decay. To renovate it might be impossible. No one wants to see it gone, yet no one can bring it back to life. Maybe it has a purpose though. The Michigan Central Station was featured in a few movies recently, Transformers and The Island. Maybe it can be the backdrop for more feature films.

They say Hollywood is coming to Michigan. Maybe they'll see the potential of this once great building and save it.

I hope so. Until then, it stands alone, a bleak reminder of city neglect and urban decay.

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