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The Ypsilanti Freighthouse - Ypsilanti, Michigan
Posted by: Groundspeak Regular Member GT.US
N 42° 14.820 W 083° 36.622
17T E 284646 N 4680500
Quick Description: The Ypsilanti Freighthouse is listed as one of the approximate 500 contributing structures to the City of Ypsilanti’s Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978 and 1989.
Location: Michigan, United States
Date Posted: 9/16/2007 11:56:26 AM
Waymark Code: WM2785
Published By: Groundspeak Premium Member silverquill
Views: 48

Long Description:
From the website at (visit link)

The Ypsilanti Freighthouse, as part of the Michigan Central Railroad complex, played a
vital role in the growth and development of the City of Ypsilanti and all of southeastern
Michigan. The Michigan Central Railroad (MCRR) completed its first major railroad
line in the State from Detroit to Ypsilanti in January 1838, with the first train arriving on
February 8. Ypsilanti was founded in 1823 on the Huron River, which provided an
abundant source of waterpower. It was the second incorporated village in Michigan and
was selected as the terminus of this first rail line because the MCRR, as it pushed the
railroad west toward Chicago, viewed it as a location with great potential for growth.
Prior to the railroad, interior mobility and trade in Southeastern Michigan had depended
upon the Sauk Trail, or “Chicago Road,” which today is known as U.S. Route 12. The
coming of the railroad to Ypsilanti made access into the farmlands of Michigan’s frontier
easier for the entire area. Similarly, flour mills, saw mills and various industries along
the railroad could then ship goods across the country and abroad. By the time of the Civil
War, Ypsilanti was connected to an elaborate transportation system that sent goods to
large ports such as Toronto, Quebec, New York and Boston. The railroad continued as
Washtenaw County’s primary transportation infrastructure until after World War II.

Traveling by railroad was so popular in Michigan that within the first year nearly 200 passengers were transported daily from Detroit to Ypsilanti. The structures from this early period of railroading in Ypsilanti included a wooden passenger station, freighthouse, and a large woodshed that housed locomotive fuel. The increased
commercial traffic allowed several businesses to flourish in the immediate vicinity of the
Michigan Railroad complex. Most notably was the Follett Hotel, built in 1859 by
Benjamin Follett, who was involved in the construction of the new brick depot in 1863.
Today the entire area is known as Depot Town, the second organized business district in
In 1864, a brick depot replaced the wooden one. It has, however, had a difficult history,
and only a portion of it is still located across the tracks from the Freigthouse. It was once
a grand three-story station complete with an integrated Second Empire tower. It was so
severely damaged by a fire in May 1910 that the tower and entire second floor were
removed and the roof lowered to its present one-and-a-half story height. Then in 1939
several freight cars, moving west, careened off the tracks near Cross Street and whipped
into the side of the depot causing extensive damage. The structure was rebuilt once again
to its present configuration. In 1984, Amtrak discontinued its service to the Ypsilanti
Depot and then sold it to a private party in 1987. Although the depot still exists, efforts,
beginning in the late 1980s to adaptively reuse it, have failed to materialize. Fortunately,
the 1878 Freighthouse remains nearly intact.
Between the arrival of the railroad in 1838 and the end of service in 1984, Ypsilanti
established itself as a center for the transportation of goods into and out of the area. The
Freighthouse remains as an important complement to the depot that contributed to the
success and activity of a larger railroad complex.
The Freighthouse was built in 1878 in response to the burgeoning commerce in the area.
Construction lasted four month and was completed by contractor C.T. Douglas from Aurora, Illinois.

The purpose of the new Freighthouse was to provide temporary storage for the large
volume of inbound and outbound freight passing through Ypsilanti via the railway.
Boxcars loaded and unloaded their freight from a siding on the east of the building
through large cargo doors, and wagons did the same from a loading platform on the west.
The operations of the Freighthouse were managed from the office located in the southern
portion of the building. Access to this area for both the public and railroad personnel was
provided through two separate doors.
From the time of the construction of the Freighthouse until the early 1930s, an agent of
the MCRR was in charge of both the passenger and freight depots; however, as rail
freight declined in favor of trucking, the railroad subleased the freight operation to other
The New York Central took over the failing MCRR in the late 1930s as Depot Town
became more and more of a gritty area of service establishments and blue-collar bars.
Local Ypsilanti resident Harvey Staebler, who lived across the street from the
freighthouse at the rear of 39 E. Cross, served as the Railway Express agent at the
freighthouse from 1935 until operations ceased in 1959. Tyner Furniture, a local Ann
Arbor and Ypsilanti business, used the building during the 1960s and 1970s as a
warehouse, during which time the windows were covered with dark green plywood
giving it a derelict appearance.
The Freighthouse was acquired by the City of Ypsilanti in 1979 and it was opened as a
community center. The following year it began to house the bi-weekly Ypsilanti
Farmers’ Market, for which it is currently most well known. Its wide open lay out and
rustic character made it an attractive site for uses such as weddings, parties, community
events, fundraisers, civic meetings, auto shows, general commerce, antique auctions and
a polling place for local elections.
Two previous plans have been completed for the Freighthouse. In 1988, Architects Four
looked at alternative uses for the building and how to modify it for greater public use. In 1998, Beckett/Raider and Cooper Design completed a study of the Farmers’ Market use and suggested an addition on the north end for restrooms and other services for the building.
After serving the citizens of Ypsilanti for nearly 25 years, the Freighthouse was closed in
2004 due to building code violations. In January 2005, under an agreement with the City,
The Friends of the Ypsilanti Freighthouse took over management of the facility and have
been working with the City to restore, rehabilitate and renovate the building in order to
bring it up to code to receive a permit of occupancy. The Friends have raised about
$30,000 and the Depot Town Downtown Development Authority has raised additional
funds toward the repairs. The City received a $6,800 Fire Act, Homeland Security grant,
which was used to install an alarm system in the buildings. In addition, the City has
received two $30,000 Certified Local Government (CLG) grants from the Michigan State
Historic Preservation Office. One was used for electrical improvements. The other grant, obtained in May 2005, is being used to fund this Conditions Assessment Report, which
will serve as a road map for rehabilitation activities. Rehabilitation will allow the
Freighthouse to reopen and begin, once again, to generate income to help pay its
operating expenses.
The Ypsilanti Freighthouse was listed on the Michigan State Register of Historic Sites on
July 17, 1997 as the Michigan Central Railroad Freighthouse, Michigan Historic Site No.
L2029. It is also listed as one of the approximate 500 contributing structures to the City
of Ypsilanti’s Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic
Places in 1978 and 1989.
Name of Historic District (as listed on the NRHP): Ypsilanti Historical District

Link to page with the Historic District: [Web Link]

100 Market Plaza Ypsilanti, MI USA 48198

How did you determine the building to be a contributing structure?: Narrative found on the internet (Link provided below)

Optional link to narrative or database: [Web Link]

NRHP Historic District Waymark (Optional): Not listed

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