In purchasing Michigan Central Station after three decades of abandonment and vandalism, Ford inherits a former train depot that is missing many of its once-grand architectural flourishes. But thanks to a charitable thief, it's just re-acquired a stolen antique clock that hung for decades above an entryway.
The Detroit Free Press reports that The Henry Ford museum in neighboring Dearborn got a call late last week saying that the depot clock wanted to "go home," and immediately notified contacts at Ford Land and The Ford Archives. Ford officials then contacted the donor, who told them the clock had been missing for more than 20 years "and is ready to go home." He told them to send a truck and two men to load it, and shared its location, saying he left the clock leaning against a burned-out building about 2 miles from the train station.
Ford maintenance workers offered to stop and grab it in their truck on their way home from work, the Freep reports. They found it carefully wrapped in moving blankets and tape in an overgrown lot. Ford later confirmed the clock's authenticity through photos and chemistry examination.
The clock's future is uncertain; it could be returned to the wall and used as a working clock, or displayed as an building artifact as part of a display about the building's history.
The story illustrates the profound emotional pull of the building, which first opened in 1913, welcomed waves of overseas immigrants to then-booming Detroit, sent soldiers to two world wars and survived the Great Depression. The presumed thief who returned the clock later texted Ford officials, saying "Thank you so much. I loved that clock and I loved that station."
Ford Chairman Bill Ford Jr. says the automaker plans to renovate the soaring lobby area and the 18-story tower in an environmentally friendly way, and he's gone to great pains to say Ford wants to be seen as a good neighbor in the rapidly gentrifying Corktown neighborhood. Dave Dubensky, chairman and CEO of Ford Land, tells the Freep the company is encouraging others who might have pieces of the train station's history who want to return them to the company to contact Ford, no questions asked.