And that wasn’t all they found…
Michigan Central Station in Detroit has been getting some work done to restore the building to its former glory after a long period of disuse had left the historic train station in complete disrepair. But, construction workers made a surprising discovery in May of 2021 when they stumbled upon a message in a bottle from more than a century ago hidden in an unlikely spot.
The glass bottle was secreted behind some plaster crown molding 25-feet high in the ceiling of the massive building. The bottle is a Stroh’s beer bottle and it was holding a piece of paper rolled up inside from before the 1914 opening of the station. Workers, Lukas Nielsen and Leo Kimble, were removing an unsafe wall when they made the discovery and halted the demolition to investigate further.
The renovation project has been funded by the Ford Motor Company as part of a $740M revitalization project for Detroit, and archivists for the company took a look at the message in the bottle after it was found. At the public unveiling of the note the grandson of the founder of the Stroh Brewery Co., John Stroh III, was on hand to witness the event.
The message inside the bottle was damaged with time, but the names of the men who wrote it are still legible. It reads, “Dan Hogan and Geo Smith stuck this (illegible)…of Chicago July 1913.” These two workers had traveled from Chicago just to work on the building in an era when cities were modernizing at a rapid rate.
Other artifacts found in various areas of the historic building include a basket which held a box which held tickets from early in the station’s operation. Workers also found a button from a pair of Finck “Detroit Special” overalls, the gold standard for workmen in the 1910s. An adding machine, a pair of women’s shoes, and a single child’s shoe were also found during the work to the building.
The station had been in disrepair for many years before Ford took the project on and the magnificent building had become a frequent spot for graffiti. In later years the station had been fenced off with barbed wire to prevent further damage from vandals.
Once the renovations are complete the Michigan Central Station will become a mixed-use space and the office for the Ford automotive technology groups campus in the Corktown neighborhood of Detroit. The project is in the homestretch where finishing touches will soon be the main focus of the workers there. The building is expected to be fully renovated by 2022.