For years, the Michigan Central Station has served as an object of morbid fascination for residents throughout Detroit. Opened on December 26, 1913, the station served as the city’s main train depot until January 5, 1988. Since then, the building once known for its ornate, high-ceilings and nearby office tower has become infamous for its broken windows and graffiti. Now, the family that owns the derelict landmark has reached an agreement with Chamberlain Glass and Metal to produce new windows for the building.
The Moroun family acquired the train station in 1995 and almost immediately drew criticism for failing to rehabilitate the structure, which is often described as Detroit’s most infamous eyesore. However, in recent years, the Morouns have invested a considerable amount of money in the property: the family estimates they have spent around $4 million to secure and clean the station, removing water and asbestos and restoring electricity to the interior. Last year, they even announced that they would install a new elevator to aid the renovation work, a project that is now nearing its completion.
But the latest step in restoring the structure is a window replacement project, which would address 16 stories of more than 1,000 window openings in the structure. This enterprise will be relatively small when compared to the sheer amount of work needed to make the building usable again. But it would also be one of the first publicly-visible changes to the train station, which is currently surrounded by a chain link fence.
The contract to produce the replacement windows was awarded to Gary and Jason Chamberlain, owners of Chamberlain Glass and Metal. Working alongside Graham Architectural Products of York, PA, the company says it is working to determine a system that is both historically valid and capable of meeting the standards of a modern office tower. While no cost estimate or timetable has been released, a spokesman for the Moroun family confirmed that the Chamberlains received the contract.
The historical accuracy of the windows could likely be a controversial subject for the Detroit community, especially since the Moroun family has still reportedly not found a new use for the building. Over the years, residents suggested turning the depot into everything from a casino to a trade center.
“Evaluating the architectural or historical significance of windows is the first step in planning for the window replacement project, and a complete understanding of the function and history of windows is vital to making a proper evaluation,” says Rob Duffy, President, All Phase Residential Construction LLC. “The decision process for selecting replacement windows should not begin with a survey of contemporary window products which are available as replacements, but should begin with a look at the windows which are being replaced.”
For years, the Moroun family has stated that they are improving the train station for future use. Last September, a representative announced that the Morouns would spend $80 million to renovate the station in coming years, although it is unclear what the money will be used for.