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  1. #1

    Default The Railroad Magazine's and Ford's Restoration of the Michigan Central Station

    Railroad magazines have published extremely laudatory essays about Fordís restoration of the depot on Twelfth Street.
    The December issue of Railfan and Railroad (Available for $6.99 at has an essay by the architectural historian and rail photographer, Emily Moser. I learned a great deal. Both Grand Central Station in New York and our station opened in 1913. The Vanderbilt family, who controlled the New York Central, wanted to capitalize upon air rights by building large structures on the property near or next to their Detroit and New York depots. In New York, they owned a great deal of land so the hotels and office buildings they erected were not directly at the station as in Detroit. The original architectural reviews of the Detroit structure were not laudatory since critics thought the 18-story office tower greatly detracted from the exceptional elegance of the depot. The Reed and Stem architectural firm won the competition to design the two stations but the Warren-Whitmore firm also entered the competition. The Vanderbiltís made the two firms cooperate and it was not, I infer, a happy collaboration. Whitney Warren had studied at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris and strongly influenced the exterior design of the stations. He was a Vanderbilt cousin so he was influential. He chose as his model for the exterior of the Detroit station, the Chapelle Notre Dame de Consolation on rue Jean Goujon in Paris.
    In Detroit, the Vanderbiltís had trouble buying land from the 100 or more residents who lived in the area. Perhaps they bought less land than they wished so the Detroit office tower was constructed directly adjoining the depot. The essay makes it clear that the upper three floors were never completed finished. but now they will be completed but there is still indecision about whether they will be used for condos, a hotel or offices.
    The January issue of Trains magazine (, $6.99) has an equally impressive and informative essay by Thomas Garver and Oren Helbok. This one focuses more on how very well engineered the station was when it was built. It also desceibes, in considerable detail, the engineering work now underway and the exceptional attention now being paid to restore the original artwork and details. It includes interviews with people responsible for the redevelopment. The authors have nothing but extreme praise for this project.

  2. #2


    Here is an architectural plan for NYC Grand Central Station which included a tower above the station. I'm no expert on the history of this building, but it does look as though the original plans for both NYC and Detroit both had a tower, but only Detroit's was finished as planned.
    Attached Images Attached Images  

  3. #3


    One of those railroad magazine essay also stated that the original plans called for a tower very near or on top of Grand Central Station in New York. Whitney Warren thought it was look unattractive and, since he was
    related to the Vanderbilt, influenced them to change the location in New

  4. #4


    Chapelle Notre Dame de Consolation on rue Jean Goujon—I don’t see that much influence. What am I missing?
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  5. #5


    That's a great picture of Chapelle Notre Dame de Consolation. The details and the figures toward the top of the pediment of that church are a little
    bit similar to what we can see at the Detroit station. Alas, I am no architectural historian.

  6. #6


    Quote Originally Posted by Lowell View Post
    Chapelle Notre Dame de Consolation on rue Jean GoujonóI donít see that much influence. What am I missing?
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  7. #7


    Thanks MikeM!

  8. #8


    Thank you very much, MikeM, for that picture. I can see why an architectural and rail historian would assert that Whitney Warren drew upon his sketches of Chapelle Notre Dame de Consolation when he designed our Detroit depot. Thanks

  9. #9


    The morning New York newspaper includes a rather favorable essay about Detroit's revival starting with a description of the renovation of the Michigan Central station.

    When Detroit entered bankruptcy in 2013, I did not think we would read positive essays about the city in the national press.

  10. #10


    Little typo there - I don't think even the burbs boast a 3.4% unemployment rate.

  11. #11


    The Census Bureau's 2018 American Community Survey reports the following unemployment rates:

    Total Detroit metropolis 5.5%
    City of Detroit 14.0%
    Suburban Ring 4.2%

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