Michigan Central Station Adventure (part 1)

Depot by Rick Dolishny

Michigan Central Station Adventure (part 1)

To view the trailer for “Depot” click here.

Growing up in Windsor, I’ve often wondered about the hulking structure just north of the Ambassador Bridge in Detroit, Michigan. It wasn’t until the Internet when I was able to conduct searches of what I knew about the building and piece it all together. And since then, I’ve been obsessed with viewing any images or scarce video I could find of the place. I dreamed of an opportunity to photograph it myself in high quality, somewhat better than cameraphone safaris I’ve taken in the past.

You can read about the history of the magnificent building on Wikipedia, but suffice to say the world’s tallest train station was a grand structure upon it’s completion in 1913, and has come to symbolize many frustrated Detroiter’s views on local politics and urban decay.
When Detroit City Council decided to appropriate Federal ‘stimulus’ money to demolish the building as soon as within a month, I raced to action.
Two people immediately came to mind to join me. I would be taking some expensive gear into the building and needed a posse.
I’ve known Mir Lada from our time at Ryerson’s Photo Arts program, and he’s gone on to become one of Canada’s top photographers. You can visit Mir’s site here. He knew about the building and photographed the exterior on a recent trip to Chicago.
Our other member of the team was Chris Barnes, who has picked up on my love of urban decay through Facebook and commented on a number of posts involving abandoned buildings and cities.¬†With a team firmly assembled it was time to secure a guide. Within minutes of posting a “help wanted” ad of craigslist.org, we had dozens of responses. Interested guides included college girls, a teacher, a paranormal advisor, and a local filmmaker who shot a segment for current.tv a few years ago and had a quality segment to show for it. With Brad we found our guide.
The trip to Detroit was quick and enjoyable. Having made that drive hundreds of times to visit family in Windsor and Detroit, I am very familiar with the route. It’s also second nature to me to bring lots of ID (especially with the passport requirements changing June 1 2009), but I guess Chris didn’t get that memo! At the border, all he had was a birth certificate, which got us a trip to a holding area for clearance.
The border agents were curt at best, but once they realized we were all photographers just hoping to take some pictures, one of the agents whispered under his breath, “I’m a photographer too, watch out at night”. With that, we were back on the road, our orifices intact.
A word of caution: if you’re entering another country as a photographer and in an immigration holding area, avoid using the word “shoot” as I did.
After clearing customs, it was a quick three minute drive to the base of the Station. We piled out of the car and pressed up against the razor wire, enjoying a spectacular sunset and total solitude. If it wasn’t for the crack whore passing by on her way to ‘the ho-down’ I would say we were pretty much on our own. And yes, I had to look it up, there was in fact a downtown Detroit ‘ho-down’ happening at the same time as our trip.
After a quick survey of the building, we headed downtown to check into our hotel. The Book-Cadillac has a storied past and was slated for demolition no less than two times in recent years. But $180M has created a hotel that is nothing short of a modern wonder. In fact, perhaps a bit too modern judging by the 42″ plasma screen and double-sized bathroom. But the exterior is stunning and the neighbourhood surrounding Washington Blvd. is showing tremendous signs of positive energy. There are of course office towers that sit completely empty with trees growing on the roof, if you care to look up. The city is certainly a place of contrast, which makes for an interesting adventure.
After a refreshing late-night dinner in Mexicantown, we headed back to the hotel to check our batteries, clean our lenses, and try to get some sleep. We had a 9AM call time with our guide and we didn’t want to be late.
To view the trailer for “Depot” click here.
In the next chapter, a “Soul Food” breakfast, the Obama calming effect, getting inside and almost not getting back out.
Also, a detailed look at the innovative gear and tech we brought in to document the building.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *