Detroit Harbor Terminals is located along the Detroit River in Detroit, Michigan. Prior to the completion of the terminal, most of the commodities and raw materials used in Detroit were shipped first by water to Cleveland, Chicago, or Toledo and shipped to Detroit via rail. Construction of a ten-story, 900,000 square feet building, of reinforced concrete, was the largest on the Great Lakes when it opened on March 15, 1926. The new building was designed by famed architect Albert Kahn and his firm.
By 1958, the year before the St. Lawrence Seaway opened, Detroit handled 87,232 tons of overseas imports and exports. Prior to the opening of the Seaway, each of the Great Lakes ports had their captive cargoes. Detroit claimed iron ore, gravel, coal, and related commodities. Duluth had grain and iron while Toledo had coal. Traffic was only expected to grow with the opening of the Seaway. After the Seaway opened, Detroit handled 50% of all foreign cargo on the Great Lakes. By 1965, its ports handled 1,658,732 tons of cargo.
After a complex deal collapsed into bankruptcy in the 1970’s, Detroit Marine Terminals operated the warehouse until 2003 when it defaulted on bonds owed. The terminal, which mostly handled steel imports, had seen its revenues decline after the federal government imposed higher steel tariffs in 2002. The complex, namely the warehouse, was closed.
In the years since, Detroit Harbor Terminals has been a focal point of exploration for so many, partly due to the Boblo Island Amusement Park mural painted on the side of the building. For several decades, until 1993, the docks behind the terminal served the park’s ferry. The ten-story building, at 115 feet high, also provides optimal views of the Detroit River and a skyline view of downtown Detroit.