To celebrate its purchase of Michigan Central Station in May, the Ford Motor Company opened the once-shuttered halls of the iconic Detroit landmark to the public for an open house this past weekend.

Ford Michigan Central Station open house line

Originally, 20,000 people registered for Ford’s open house at Michigan Central Station from Friday to Sunday. There was so much interest in the event, that Ford extended its hours through Monday and had to resort to waiting lists. In many cases, people were turned away due to the station reaching capacity.

For decades, the station’s shadow loomed over the city’s Corktown district. It stood as a visible reminder of the area’s decline. Abandoned by Amtrak in 1988, the towering structure became an empty shell. Afterward. it was the subject of several failed development concepts and constant vandalism. Although the incoming Ford era is a fresh chapter in the storied building’s more than century-long history, the open house was a public study in urban erosion.

Michigan Central Station Gateway Clock

The only remaining artifact on display from the station’s former glory was the gateway clock. It was added to the event last-minute. It had been missing for more than 20 years when its “thief” reached out to Ford with less than a week to go until the open house. He or she facilitated its return. It can be inferred the thief was trying to protect the clock from vandals.

Inside, graffiti is almost everywhere within human reach, and most surfaces from floor to ceiling bear degrees of deterioration. Despite the building’s unchanged state of disrepair, Ford’s overarching message during the event promised the opposite. The automaker emphasized rebirth, not only for the station, but also for Detroit itself. Attendees interacted with exhibit iPads by sharing their “dreams for the future of a more advanced Detroit.” Meanwhile, a large projector screen aired segments and quotes about the station and the city from the History Channel.

Michigan Central Station’lobby open house

The automaker also focused on the station’s history by assembling a makeshift museum. Featured artwork and sequences of placards displaying images, timelines, and captions gave attendees a side-by-side sense of past and present. As for the station’s future, Ford plans to renovate it into an automotive tech campus. The automaker made it clear it is looking to advance itself and the Detroit community. And based on how many people the event attracted, the Detroit community will be paying attention to Ford’s progress.