What is it about our society that we can’t come to grips with history? It seems everywhere you turn, there is a new project designed to push the past into the ground and roll over it with something new and better, which may be new but is only subjectively better.
We have such a hard time maintaining old buildings, partly because we refuse to see the beauty in their architecture and the amazing wonder to behold in their hallowed halls. “If these walls could talk” is a very deep, philosophical statement if you really think about it. It’s not about hearing gossip or sordid tales of what occurred somewhere in years gone by. It’s a testament to the souls who walked and talked in those hallways to create the place you currently know.
In a previous job, I worked at Michigan’s State Capitol, actually having an office in the historic building. It was, by far, one of the greatest perks of the job. Whenever I felt deflated or frustrated by the day-to-day nonsense of politics, I could always take a break and find some solace by focusing on the building’s architecture or decoration that had been painstakingly restored over the years. Luckily, the disaster of cramming half floors and cubicles into the Capitol in the 1970s and 80s was undone and the building was restored to its full glory.
On the other hand, in Detroit, an amazing architectural landmark and testament to the ghosts of years gone by is not so lucky and may be very close to seeing the final nail pounded into its coffin. According to this article in Crain’s Detroit Business, the Detroit City Council is pushing to have the building demolished. The mayor wants to use federal stimulus money to tear it down, which is rather ironic.
Added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1975, the building is now just a sad, broken hulk.
As Crain’s reports:
“The nearly 100-year-old building dominates Detroit’s southwest skyline and in its heyday had been considered one of the city’s most stately structures. Built in 1913, the station was designed by the same architects responsible for New York’s Grand Central Terminal. It served thousands of travelers each year, but its demise was set as rail service in Detroit began to fall off.”
David Kohrman pulled together a wonderful testament to the Michigan Central Depot at Forgotten Detroit, complete with its history and photos so you can see for yourself what time, a lack of responsibility and an uncaring society has done to this once-majestic structure.
If only those walls could talk — I bet we’d hear them sobbing.
(Michigan Central Depot photos courtesy of Forgotten Detroit.)