Preserving the Past

Detroit Central Market

Detroit Central Market

The Henry Ford
Detroit, Michigan

Detroit’s original open-air market, the “Vegetable Shed,” was built in 1860. Designed with Swiss chalet-style details, the building thrived as the city’s agri-commerce center until 1894, when it was relocated to Belle Isle and repurposed as a picnic shelter, horse stable, and eventually a storage facility. Abandoned and partially burned, The Henry Ford saved the structure from demolition in 2003, carefully dismantling and preserving the building.  

We led the rebuilding of the market shed at Greenfield Village, an 80-acre outdoor living history museum on The Henry Ford’s campus.  The restored historic structure uses 70% of its original materials and is a rare example of a mid-nineteenth century wooden commercial building and an early use of cast iron in commercial construction.

This was an important, really symbolic, [structure] that was put up to provide a place for the people of Detroit to buy their food.
An exterior photograph of an abandoned market building.

A Historic Treasure Saved

With the approval of the Detroit City Council and the Office of the Mayor, in 2003 The Henry Ford purchased, carefully documented, and dismantled the market structure and moved its timber frame and extant iron columns from Belle Isle to a storage facility.

An exterior photograph of an open market.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Most of the cast iron columns, wood beams, rafters, and other timber members you see at the market today are from the original structure. This means the project’s carbon footprint is lower than that of a comparable new structure.

An exterior photograph of an open market.

Meeting Modern Standards

To meet modern structural codes, our team introduced moment frames composed of new columns and underground concrete beams along with the historic cast iron columns. Original timber members are reinforced with tie rods. Electrical feeds are hidden within false downspouts.

An exterior photograph of an open market.

Attention to Detail

We designed replica decorative wood brackets and roof cresting and trim based on historic photographs. Paint analysis ensured historic colors were used. The restored columns are set in the plaza to illustrate the full length of the original market.

An exterior photograph of an open market.

The Market Returns to Life

The first permanent addition to Greenfield Village in over 20 years, the market is used for farmers markets, special events, and seasonal celebrations throughout the year. It also educates visitors about Detroit history and the evolution of food systems and safety over time.

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