In the 1830s the Congdon brothers, Elisha and James, settled the land where Chelsea is located. In 1848 they offered the Michigan Central Railroad a free site on which to build a station. The first and succeeding structures were freight stations. The first shipment sent on May 2, 1850, was a barrel of eggs weighing 130 pounds. For a time more wool was shipped from Chelsea than from any other place in the state. Grain, apple, stock, and meat shipments were also large. In 1880 the Michigan Central established Chelsea as a passenger service point. The depot was built with two waiting rooms—the east for women and children, the west for men.
In 1880, Chelsea was chosen by the Michigan Central Railroad for an experiment in upgrading the appearance of rural stations. Mason and Rice of Detroit were commissioned as the new station's architects. Their design was Victorian, characterized by numerous gables and gingerbread embellishments. This depot served patrons of the Michigan Central until 1975 when the company was taken over by Amtrak. In 1981, Amtrak discontinued service to Chelsea and closed the station. Fearing damage from prolonged neglect in 1985, area citizens formed the Chelsea Depot Association to restore the building. The group purchased the depot that year, and restoration began in 1986.