Detroit might be going through a bit of a revolution – there are new buildings and businesses popping up city wide. There are people in streets, in the restaurants and actually coming to Detroit to visit. City wide restoration is on the rise and I hear that they are even putting in a new downtown rail system. Big changes are on the horizon and I am so excited to be able to watch it happen. But what about historic Detroit – the stuff that makes it what it is? My hope is that Detroit will embrace the parts of itself that may be a bit off-beat, eccentric, and historic – and bring those parts back into it’s re-birth. Because while these parts may be falling down and covered in graffiti – they are beautiful. They are Detroit.
Michigan Central Station
Last weekend we decided to go for a drive around downtown Detroit to see the progress on the changes being made. We then decided to drive over to the old Michigan Central Station building – a decrepit and deserted train station that had serviced this area from the time it’s first train left the station in 1913 until it’s last in 1988. The building was gigantic and I could still see why it was once referred to as the Buckingham Palace of Detroit. It is said that before the buildings closure in the late 1980’s, that it housed many grand and elaborate features with marble finishes and massive ornate arches throughout. While in operation travelers passing through the station could dine in a vaulted ceiling restaurant, join fellow passengers in a mahogany paneled smoking room, read beside ornate Italian globes, freshen up in the bathing facilities or mail a postcard home from the depot’s own postal facility. It was one of the most sought after stops along the rail. Today it is surrounded by barbed wire and graffiti – but the grand size and ornate features of the exterior are still gathering onlookers and turning heads.
After leaving the station we drove over to the nearby Eastern Market – a large outdoor/indoor market full of pop up vendors and a few brick and mortar ones. This part of Detroit was bustling as people walked along the streets – in and out of businesses. There was music drifting in the air and the most delightful array of smells coming from all different directions. The bright and vibrant colors of the marketplace buildings were such a different sight than the previous stop – but all the same in historic beauty. This amazing destination in Detroit started back in the 1950’s and still operates today – seeing upwards of 45,000 visitors on any given Saturday.
The Heidelberg Project is an open air art project in the heart of Detroit which started in 1986 and is still bringing in visitors from around the world today to see it’s displays. As we turned to drive down Heidelberg street, I could immediately see that the road was full of cars and spectators, bright colors and tons of “something”. There were non functional clocks everywhere, stuffed animals attached to the trees and painted faces adorning the sidewalks. Almost immediately I felt like I had fallen down into the rabbit hole and was looking around for my tea party – but what I found instead was a weird sense of appreciation and delight for this eccentric form of art. It truly was unlike anything I’ve ever seen or experienced before and if the crowds of people showing up to walk the two blocks of art told me anything – it was that I was not alone in my fascination.
The Old Packard Plant
After leaving the Heidelberg project we drove just a few blocks over to see what remained of the once bustling Packard Plant – a former automotive manufacturing facility in Detroit. The building was large and majestic – only offering me a small glimpse of it’s gigantic size as we drove up near. The rows of broken and painted glass windows went on and on – finally braking free from my vision. I wanted to get closer, but with the plant’s growing popularity since it’s abandonment in 2010, the facility was heavily guarded and off limits to spectators.
Finally to end our day we stopped over at one of the new and popular restaurants in town. The location was fresh, vibrant and full of people laughing and coming together. I freakin’ love Detroit.
Join us on a video tour of these landmarks here: