In Response to The Metropolitan’s Call to Designate MCS An Official Ruin pt. 02

By Thomas A. McMillen Oakley


Aside from the four Turtles and their artistic namesakes, most people know very little about the Renaissance. It was a period of great rebirth and revival for both the arts and the sciences. Cities flourished and grew at alarming rates. When I lecture on the Renaissance in my Art History classes at Jackson College, and with the Michigan Department of Corrections Prison Education Initiative, I share with them what is happening in Detroit, specifically with the Heidelberg Project and Michigan Central Station.

When I saw editor Anthony Brancaleone’s article, North America’s First Modern Ruin (March 2014/15), I knew it had to be included in my class. It presents a start, a “what if?” to the discussion that is taking place about growth and rebirth in Detroit.

Recently, I asked my students to weigh in after reading the article and to offer their suggestions for what to do with this modern ruin. The responses from my prison students are often in stark contrast to those on main campus; where the students behind bars see no hope, the students on the outside see great potential. Thanks to Anthony for allowing me to use this in my class.

The following are responses and further ideas about what should be done with Michigan Central Station. In most cases the names of students have been changed:

A Functional Ruin

After reading the articles on the Michigan Central Station it really interested me and got me thinking. The history behind the Michigan Central Station and the amazing impact of transportation and importance it had amazed me. It’s incredible how relevant the station was and the many “historical figures” who have used it. After the station had been left in ruins, there is so much possibility and potential to consider today.

Personally, I think that the station could be turned into something that both allows for a “functional ruin” as well as renovated into something interactive with the sense of the greater community. To make this happen, and for there to be no budget, the possibilities are really, truly endless.

I would turn the station into a both a museum and historic place, where people and families could come to view and learn about the past of it’s use and the people who came through there. Tours could be available with views of the “functional ruins” and also renovations of what it was like before. Also in the station I would put a “dinner track”, where people could buy tickets to go on the train and have a fancy dinner. Another addition I would make would be a concert/live music arena in the downstairs, where baggage and what not was formerly kept. There would be a bar as well downstairs. In other areas of the station, I think it would be neat to have small boutiques and shops, as well as restaurants and coffee shops.

In conclusion, there is much potential for the Michigan Central Station. It is kind of sad to see something that was once so great fall to ruins, but there is also beauty in the ruins and what can become of that. It is really limitless the things that the Station can become and be molded into, whether it falters, as far as from what it used to be, or be made almost identical to what it was. I think it is great that people are taking it into consideration and appreciation of what is there and what can be made of it ~ Josephine (student)

Michigan State Police Headquarters

I think the city of Detroit would be better off reconstructing the original design of the building as much as possible and turning it into the headquarters for the Michigan State Police. It would be well taken care of; the police would have plenty of space for their headquarters, along with detachment of Homeland Security and trade inspections. They could even offer tours for the building as a historic landmark since most of the offices are located on the upper floors, they could keep the bottom floors as tourist attractions and have a real use for the building ~ Frederick (student).


Michigan Central Station is a building that has been vacant for a long time. The walls have been tagged and even the floors. The question is do we leave it as is or do we renovate it and make it become an attraction or work building that can help the state of Michigan. There have been many ideas as to what it could be renovated to. Such as, police station, trade processing center, and even a casino. Money is always an issue in most of these ideas but if we ever got the money to do so all of those ideas would be good ones. I believe that a casino would be the best idea for a renovation to the Michigan Central Station.

The state of Michigan needs to embrace change and have the Michigan Central Station remodeled into a casino. We can’t let that big building just sit there. The building is huge and could have thousands of people in it at once. If we turned this big building into a giant casino it would bring in a lot of people and a large tourist attraction for Michigan to gain more money. The cost to build the casino is around $1.2 billion, which is an insane amount, but so many people lose money at casinos so I feel like getting the money back would not be a problem.

However, if money were of no issue, the casino would be a great idea. The building is big enough to house a casino, restaurants, and even hotel rooms for people staying. The casino would be very large in size for all of the gambling games. Even outside of that part could be restaurants that could charge a lot for food to gain even more money. Most people don’t like to leave when they’re gambling either so by making a hotel in the casino would bring in more money while grabbing more tourists and visitors. If Michigan could find a way to get the money I believe a casino would be a perfect renovation of the Michigan Central Station ~ Alisse (student)

Modern Ruin

In the article, “North Americas modern ruin” A proposal is made to create functional ruins out of the beautiful disaster that is the Michigan Central Station. Many people have brainstormed and thought put pricing, and possibilities that they could do to renovate the masterpiece. I see these points and also see a great opportunity is changing the out dated ruins into a functional work of history. The renovations have been estimated between $80-300 million. With such a wide range of options and so much room available the mind can run wild thinking of what to o with the station.

I believe that modern ruins are best left unchanged and untouched. With the style and persona of Detroit as well as the state of Michigan, I feel it is a great monument to what we stand for. It is a big smelly building that was once a flourishing destination, but it is also a work of art and a legacy of what the great city used to be. Detroit is in a rebuilding state and I feel like with all these new architectural buildings and designs it is very important to keep the Michigan Central station as a monument to the great beauty it was back in the good ole days.

There are many new and hip buildings that change color, reach to the heavens, and engulf the cities landscapes. But no matter how crazy, advanced, and futuristic we can build we can never forget the past. Just like the great Coliseum, the Michigan Central Station is a showcase of talent and wealth. While it is covered in graffiti and smells like a dead cat, its great detail and craftsmanship stills shines through the cracked walls and bankrupt city.

The station is not something to change or remodel because there is no possible way that they would ever be able to achieve the beauty and architectural beauty that is showcased in the ruins. I say that the best thing to do with this behemoth building is block it off, clean it up a bit, and let the Michigan weather etch away at it and keep it as a monument and a modern ruin.

This to me is a beautiful and rustic picture and really captures the older and run down style but shows the beautiful and skillful design. This isn’t to be changed but to be maintained in a way that showcases the beauty ~

Look for Part 03 in next month’s issue of The Metropolitan. Submit your ideas for print consideration to [email protected]