Curbed Intern Daniel Ericksen contributed to the research for this post.
Detroit's Motown landmarks can be pretty hidden if you don't know what you are looking for. Fortunately BLAC published an excellent guide earlier this year to all the real estate (houses, recording locations, mansions!) important to that era of Detroit. Motown, the record company, was founded by Berry Gordy, Jr. in Detroit in 1959. Now take a tour of the city as he knew it, mostly in the 60s. Gordy moved his record company to LA in 1972.
The Brewster Wheeler Rec Center is where Berry Gordy spent most of his time before investing in Hitsville. Built in 1917, the recreation center was originally used as a library. Gordy practiced boxing in the center while a hopeful singing group known as The Supremes used it as a rehearsal space. An aspiring boxer, Joe Louis, also trained at the center. The building sits vacant but the city is accepting proposals for development.
This is where all the magic began. Berry Gordy had a vision for the former photography studio and pursued it until his dream became a reality. Berry moved in with part of his family in 1959 and revamped the studio into one of the most legendary recording studio's in music history. Hits that reached the top of the charts from artists such as Stevie Wonder, The Temptations, The Supremes, Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin, The Jackson 5, The Four Tops and many more were made here. With the eventual end of the Motown Recording label in Detroit, the birth of the Motown Historical Museum began in 1985.
Notoriously known as the recording studio where Marvin Gaye recorded "What's Going On", United Sound Systems was a great alternative for Motown artists. Serving as a studio for Motown artists and other bands you may know including The Rolling Stones and The Red Hot Chili Peppers, United Sound arguably has just as much historical value as Hitsville. Today it's also used as a museum but can still be used for recording purposes after being originally founded in 1933.
5840 2nd Avenue Wayne State University, Detroit, MI 48202
Before Motown hits were heard and loved, they were published in this building. If you're wondering where the name "Jobete" comes from, it was named after Berry Gordy's childen Hazel Joy, Berry and Terry. Jobete sits next to Hitsville and is part of the Motown museum.
Gordy took over this home in 1965 to handle the financial aspects that came along with Motown's success. With Gordy and his associates writing hit after hit, a building specifically for managing money must have actually been necessary.
Also known as the "Motown Mansion", Berry Gordy lived large in his 1917-built mansion. Motown stars were over constantly at the 8,200 square foot property. After all, who wouldn't want to spend time in the home movie theater, or the olympic-size swimming pool, or the bowling alley at his place. Berry was able to attain the house by 1967, only 8 years after borrowing $800 from his family to purchase Hitsville.
Once Berry Gordy moved into his every-need Motown mansion, he left his sister and her husband, Marvin Gaye, this beautiful home. The house was built in 1951 and served as Marvin's home throughout the 70's. At least that's what we've heard through the grapevine.
This former Motown star's home does not seem to get the "Respect" it deserves. Aretha's old house is not in the best shape. Built back in 1949, the house was probably in prime condition when Aretha resided in it. The 2,210 square foot house is apparently not for sale, however, it looks pretty empty.
"Signed, Sealed & Delivered" it's not yours. Stevie Wonder's old house is currently occupied. The 2,244 square foot home was built in 1937 and still looks like it's in pretty good shape. Cross your fingers to hope that it stays in good condition, in case you happen to be superstitious.
Gladys Knight lived sufficiently in her spacey 3,550 square foot home, with probably enough room for her "pips" too. Built in 1926, the home looks extremely good for it's age. The home appears to be occupied and very well-maintained.
Don't forget that "Dancing In The Street" was happening in the Motor City, but more specifically, it was going on right here. Martha Reeve's former 1927-built house still stands strong. Measuring at 3,248 square feet, there was room to dance inside the house too.
You might want to "Shop Around" before purchasing Smokey Robinson's old house. Although Smokey's old home measures at 2,431 square feet, the duplex appears to need a lot of work. After all, it was built in 1913 and is now in an area that is undesirable.
Living right down the street from Smokey Robinson, Diana Ross could of had Smokey come see about her anytime of the day, although Berry Gordy probably would of had something to say about that. The Supremes leader's old duplex has seen better days as well.
"Get Ready" to see where The Temptations lead singer spent many of his Motown days. The apartment building opened in 1964, which was in the prime time for Motown music. David Ruffin was definitely not looking back when he lived here in luxury. Apartments are still available to rent here.
When the Motown Stars hit the road for their Motortown Revue Tour, they were sure to stop by The Fox Theater in their home town Detroit. In 1966 it held the stars including Marvin Gaye, The Supremes, Stevie Wonder, The Temptations, The Miracles, and The Marvelettes, all in one concert, for the whomping price of $2.50. The Howard Crane designed theater was opened in 1928 and stills hosts shows today, but not for $2.50.