BATTLE CREEK, MI
175 Main St., Battle Creek, MI 49016

Freight Train passing Grand Trunk Depot
Former Grand Trunk Depot, Battle Creek, MI; October 1998

The massive Grand Trunk Depot in Battle Creek was built in 1906 to plans prepared by the architectural firm of Spier and Rohns. Local contractors M.M. Lewis and Sons of Battle Creek constructed the facility and the Adix-Bartoschek Co. of Detroit served as interior decorators.The cost of construction was $100,000. The 1907 Battle Creek Daily Journal proudly called it "one of the most elaborate and finely finished depots in the country".

The design includes grey granite walls on the first floor, brick and cut stone trim walls above that, and a Spanish tile roof. As originally built, there were rounded domes, similar to those on the track side, atop the tower roofs. A long covered platform extended well over 100' to the east, where there was a freight/baggage room. Inside, there was a dining room and kitchen on the east end, with railroad offices above, on the second floor. Most important was the amazing waiting room, 90 by 32 feet, with thirty-foot high barrel-vaulted ceilings. Its walls were originally dark blue, studded with renaissance ornaments of gold and cream. Along the sides of the waiting room were the ticket and telegraph office, men's smoking lounge, a women's "retiring room" lounge, and a massive fireplace. In the west end of the waiting room, faux marble columns support the exterior wall.

The building was in use as a passenger station through 1971 when Amtrak took over passenger service on the Grand Trunk. The railroad used the building as office space until 1988. In 1989 the depot underwent a major renovation, for use as home to the Community Action Agency (CAA) of South Central Michigan. Parts of the building are open to the public during business hours.

The Grand Trunk main line and two Amtrak routes pass in front of the old depot. Just west of downtown Battle Creek, the old Michigan Central Detroit-Chicago track joins the Grand Trunk tracks for the run through downtown. Just east of the Grand Trunk depot is another junction where the lines separate. The "International" stays on the Grand Trunk to Port Huron, while Chicago-Detroit trains rejoin the old Michigan Central route. Amtrak trains now stop at a new depot on the south edge of downtown.

Track Side/West End, Grand Trunk Battle Creek Depot
Track Side/West End

Track side/East end
Track Side/East End
As originally built, both towers were topped by domes as shown above,
and the open-ended gable roof used to extend out to the baggage room.

Main Entrance on Street Side
West End of Street Side

Street Side, East End
East end of Street Side

A grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation allowed CAA to not only buy the building, but also make it better suited to their need for a lot of office space. The goal of the renovation architect, Randy Case, and the project manager, Michael Spezia, was to preserve the original structure of the building as much as possible and to make it functional office space. One of the challenges presented was that of making the main vaulted ceiling area functional without destroying the grandeur of the area. The solution was to build a mezzanine.

It fills most of the vaulted ceiling area, and is connected to the old second floor by a walkway and new doorway cut into the east end of the waiting room . One nice benefit of the new mezzanine is that you can now touch the high vaulted ceilings and stained glass windows that were far out of reach in 1906.

Fortunately, the budget allowed for restoration , or in some cases rebuilding, of most of the wonderful architectural details of the original building. Old partitions were removed, and extensive plaster repair work was done. The northeast entrance area with its large open oak staircase was restored to its 1906 appearance. Michigan Woodworking repaired and replaced damaged oak wainscoting and windows throughout the building. Many of the original, beautiful stained glass windows had either been broken or covered over . Amazingly, the original Illinois glass manufacturer was still in business and was contracted to do the restoration work on the stained glass. A mural of the Kalamazoo River was uncovered during renovation. It had a number of gaping holes, but through a grant for historical restoration, it was returned to its original beauty. The postcard view of the interior shown below has links to several other interior features.

Links here to pictures of fireplace, 3 windows, mural and ticket office
Waiting Room Interior, Looking East
Click details for Pictures.

Old Postcard View of Battle Creek Depot
East end of Station, Covered walkway, and Baggage/Express Room

November 1998, Updated August 2005
Louis Van Winkle
All Interior pictures from the Luann Sommers Collection.

E-mail questions or comments to louisvw@mc.net

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