Michigan Central Station

Detroit, MI

Michigan Central Station (MCS) was dedicated on January 4, 1914, and was rushed into service following a fire at the old downtown depot a few weeks prior. Originally constructed to serve William Vanderbilt’s New York Central Railroad, the building was designed in the Beaux Arts style by two architectural firms, New York’s Warren & Wetmore and St. Paul, Minnesota’s Reed & Stem, who had previously collaborated on the New York Grand Central Terminal. They used their expertise in railroad and hotel design to fabricate a three-story train depot and an eighteen-story office tower. The interior of the station inspired awe, with its vast spaces and massive stone columns beneath vaulted ceilings. When it first opened, it was the tallest railroad station in the world and the fourth tallest building in Detroit.

With the decline of rail travel after World War II, MCS suffered a prolonged decline. Ownership was transferred to Amtrak on 1971, at which time the building was significantly remodeled and modernized. The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1975. It went into private hands in 1985, and a series of efforts to bring the station back into functional use failed. On January 5, 1988, Train No. 353 bound for Chicago became the last train to roll out of the venerable depot. The deteriorating building sat vacant for decades, and was repeatedly threatened with demolition. In 2018, the Ford Motor Company purchased the building with the intention of rehabilitation it into an office campus.

Over 30 years after its closure, EverGreene has been called in to restore this magnificent train station to its original beauty. EverGreene was retained by the Ford Motor Company to assess, replicate, and restore approximately 56,000 square feet of decorative plasterwork. A distinguishing feature of the station’s Beaux-Arts architecture is the plaster, which covers most of the building’s first floor and was made to look like stone, a cost-saving measure at the time of construction. EverGreene conservators performed a detailed plaster survey in 2021, which formed the basis for the work performed by the plaster restoration team.

EverGreene preserved and cleaned the original plaster material that could be saved, and fabricated new portions where needed. Three different plaster techniques were used– traditional three-coat plaster, ornamental plaster, and veneer plaster – in order to repair and replicate over 3,000 cast plaster pieces, including the coffers, medallions, and rosettes that adorn the waiting room’s walls and ceilings. The plasterwork was choreographed to create a seamless transition of old and new in the areas most visible to visitors. While some digital tools were used, a team of 15 to 20 craftspeople from EverGreene did most of the plasterwork by hand using floor-to-ceiling scaffolding. EverGreene completed all plaster work between 2021 and 2023.