Historic Detroit

Every building in Detroit has a story — we're here to share it

Greyhound Bus Garage

The giant greyhounds on the side of this building in the shadow of the Ambassador Bridge were a Southwest Detroit landmark.

This massive Art Moderne building was built as a service garage for the Greyhound bus lines, occupying two city blocks between Fort Street and Lafayette Boulevard and Fifteenth and Seventeenth streets. The garage was erected on a former Detroit United Railway streetcar site. The garage was designed by the Detroit architectural firm Harley, Ellington & Day. The construction was supervised by Howard Gerlach of J.W. Harris Associates of New York; R.F. Dressler was in charge for Greyhound. The 242,000-square-foot structure cost $3 million to build, the equivalent of $43.3 million in 2024, when adjusted for inflation.

Ground was broken Oct. 7, 1946. When it opened July 12, 1948, it was said to be the largest bus garage in the United States - "and probably in the world," The Detroit News wrote while the building was being constructed, in its Sept. 7, 1947, edition. Mayor Eugene I. Van Antwerp attended the opening ceremony.

The garage area allowed for up to 600 buses a day to be serviced, including a paint-spraying department, engine-cleaning section, two automatic bus-washing stations (capable of washing a bus in 40 seconds), and air-conditioned dormitory and lounge for drivers. There were also two 20,000-gallon diesel fuel tanks, which were capable of dispensing 350,000 gallons of fuel a month. There were 17 hoists and 12 service pits for oil changes and the like, with 275 servicemen Beyond the garage service areas, the facility had a paint shop, parts stock room and the executive offices of Great Lakes Greyhound. The steel-framed building had a yellow-bricked facade. It had a giant steel truss that provided an area of 178 feet by 429 feet that was unobstructed by columns - a perk when navigating a bunch of buses inside. All told, the building had 240,000 square feet of usable floor space.

"We are building for the future," Robert W. Budd, president of Great Lakes Greyhound, told the News for a July 11, 1948, article previewing the opening. "The far-reaching maintenance facilities of this garage constitute a major step forward in our efforts to provide continuously better bus transportation. The erection of this garage is a positive demonstration of our faith in the progress of Detroit and the Great Lakes area."

At the time the garage opened, Greyhound was able to cart Detroiters all over the country. One-way fares were $2.65 to Cleveland ($34.70 in 2024 dollars); $6.50 to Louisville, Ky., ($85.11 in 2024) and $4.85 to Pittsburgh ($63.51). July 1948 also saw Greyhound introduce its new luxury bus in Detroit. It was considered an "experimental model," incorporating new design and mechanical features, as well as new gadgets, such as a "pillow-type radio speaker."

The garage took on an unexpected use, with the Crowley's department store chain using it as a warehouse, as well as housing its buyers and in-house advertising team.

Greyhound used the facility until the late 1980s or early 1990s.

The building was sold at some point to the Moroun family's Northern Border Transit LLC. In late October 2023, the Moroun family said that it planned to tear down the garage in order to expand the Ambassador plaza's footprint along Fort Street. Under an agreement with the Hubbard Richard Resident Association, the Ambassador Bridge Co. would donate 10 of its properties around the Hubbard Richard neighborhood to the community group, along with $20,000 per property to assist in redevelopment. The Morouns also would donate property to the City that would be incorporated into the Roberto Clemente Recreation Center at 2631 Bagley Ave. As for the Greyhound garage property, it would be split into two parcels, with the larger parcel being donated to the neighborhood for non-industrial redevelopment. The company also said it would build a new 16th Street connector from Lafayette to West Fort in order to improve traffic flow. The Bridge Co. said it was donating and investing about $9.5 million in the community as part of the deal.

"Earlier this year, I promised to the City Council that we would make a beneficial and positive agreement with the community," Matthew Moroun, chairman of the Ambassador Bridge Co., said in a statement Oct. 29, 2023. It was important that we kept that promise."

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan said in a statement that the agreement was "a major turning point for the Hubbard-Richard community and the Bridge Co. Their willingness to work together resulted in an agreement to build a badly needed plaza expansion in a way that respects the residential character of the community and provides it some real benefits."

Demolition began in mid-February 2024, even though the approval process to expand the bridge plaza was not finalized. According to media reports, state and federal approvals had not yet been made. The building was completely cleared by April 15, 2024, with only piles of twisted steel and heaps of brick still on the site.