Ford’s 1920s Missed Connection with Michigan Central

Jun 06, 2024

While Michigan Central Station is set to open following a meticulous six-year restoration by Ford, the properties around the former train depot could have looked a lot different today if company founder Henry Ford’s plans had come to fruition. 

In the 1920s, Ford purchased at least 50 properties, which cost about $2.5 million at the time, across Michigan Avenue from the former Detroit train station with the intent to build a hotel and shopping center to serve the more than 4,000 daily travelers going to and from Michigan Central Station. 

The buildings were to be linked by underground tunnels, according to a Detroit Free Press article from that era. It’s unclear from records recently unearthed by Ford’s Archives team why Henry Ford abandoned those plans in the mid-1940s. 

During the years Henry Ford owned the properties, they were managed by Oakwood Realty, a precursor to Ford Land, which was created in 1970. 

Although it’s unknown why Ford moved on from plans to develop the area near Michigan Central Station – World War II and the transformation taking place within the company around that time are both possibilities – many of the Corktown buildings he once coveted are still in existence today.

Michigan Central OPEN

From June 6-16, Ford Motor Company and Michigan Central will host Michigan Central OPEN, welcoming the community to celebrate this historic moment in Detroit’s history. Festivities begin Thursday, June 6 with an opening night spectacular, Live from Detroit: The Concert at Michigan Central which will feature a once-in-a-lifetime lineup of some of Detroit’s biggest stars. Produced by the Emmy-winning Jesse Collins Entertainment, the sold-out show will feature short films, appearances by local leaders, and creators telling stories of innovation and culture from around the city and the region. Then, beginning June 7, The Station’s doors open to the public for the 10-day, immersive OPEN House experience to see the landmark’s restored first floor. Michigan Central’s art program will also unveil a new iteration of Reddymade’s me + you, a critically acclaimed interactive sculpture, specifically for Michigan Central.