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Located in Historic Downtown Chelsea, MI |  734-475-0862

History

More Helpful Info About Chelsea Depot and Our History

What is Chelsea Depot?

The city of Chelsea and its depot are a collection of three small hamlets, two Congdon brothers and a railroad. During the migration of settlers in the early 1800s, Darius and Nathan Pierce, settlers from Vermont, and Elisha and James Congdon, all came together in an area now known as the city of Chelsea.

Darius and Nathan Pierce were from Ontario County, New York and they bought 640 acres located at what is now present day Main Street and Old U-12. This area was soon established as a hamlet and called Pierceville. Further to the south, another group of settlers from Vermont took up a nearby area and called it Sylvan Center. Sylvan Center is now better known today as M-52 and Jerusalem Road.

How the City of Chelsea Came to Be

The Congdon brothers, Elisha and James, had purchased land on the hill that was to remain a prominent feature in the ongoing history of Chelsea. Predictions for crops were rather poor and one of the only advantages of the property was a wagon trail cutting through one third of their land. After some time, Nathan opted to split from Darius and settled another area near today's M-52 and Sibley Road location. By 1834, this Washtenaw County community was renamed as Kedron, taking its name from a river in Jerusalem.
In 1840, the Michigan Central Railroad started to lay tracks heading westward from Detroit to Marshall. By 1844, tracks were already reaching as far west as Kedron. Elisha, owning the land to the south on the hill with the wagon trail and railroad crossing, wondered about the city being name Kedron. Thus, on July 20, 1844, Darius Pierce wrote to U.S. Senator Alpheus Phelps of Ann Arbor to request that the name of the settlement be changed to Chelsea. He had hoped to have the city named Chelsea after the Massachusetts town where he originally came from.

Alpheus then wrote directly to the P.O. Department in Washington, and received the reply that if it were satisfactory to each of the five families who resided there, the name could be changed. Shortly after this news, Kendron did in fact become Chelsea. With the connection now established between the wagon trail (M-52) and the new railroads, the business from Pierceville and Sylvan Center began to move to more convenient locations on Congdon Hill. These developments made it possible for barbers, blacksmiths, general stores and hotels to thrive and the hamlet of Chelsea was forever transformed.

Information About the Creation of the Train Station

In 1848, Chelsea offered the Michigan Central Railroad a free site on which to build their next train station. The first and second structures were both freight stations, and the very first shipment was sent on May 2, 1850, and it was a barrel of eggs weighing 130 pounds. 

For a period of time, more wool was shipped from Chelsea than from any other place in the state. Grain, apple, stock and meat shipments were also substantial. In 1880, the Michigan Central Railroad established Chelsea as a passenger service point, and the depot was built with two waiting rooms - the east for women and children and the west for men. Chelsea was selected by the Michigan Central Railroad for an experiment they were conducting regarding upgrading the appearance of their rural stations. 

Mason and Rice of Detroit were commissioned to be the new station's architects and their selected design was Victorian, being characterized by fantastic gables and gingerbread embellishments. This depot served patrons of the Michigan Central Railroad until 1975 when the company was eventually taken over by Amtrak. In 1981, Amtrak opted to discontinue service to Chelsea and close the station, however, fearing damage from prolonged neglect in 1985, area citizens formed the Chelsea Depot Association to restore the location again. The group made the decision to purchase the depot that year, and the restoration process began in 1986.
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