Cityscape

Long-Empty Studio Gains Fresh Attention In I-94 Project 'Cross-Hairs'

July 03, 2013, 9:03 AM by  Alan Stamm

There's a boarded-up brick building on Second Avenue near Wayne State that you've probably never heard of, though you know stars who made music there.

Now it gains a higher profile as fresh evidence that we don't know what we've got 'til it could be gone.   


United Sound System's former studio at 5840 Second is boarded up and unused for more than a decade.

The former United Sound Systems studio, a two-story structure on a residential block of Midtown Detroit, is cited by critics of I-94 expansion plans that could bring its demolition.

Though music hasn't been made there for a while, the Free Press refers to "the sound quality created within its walls" in the lead paragraph of a Wednesday about a preservation group's concerns. 

Down in paragraph 13, though, readers learn this about the possibly endangered treasure:

The building . . . doesn’t have a historical marker or designation to protect it. Wood is now covering the windows on the front, and it hasn’t been used regularly for more than a decade.

There's no doubt "the place is rich with history," as Marlon A. Walker writes. Artists who recorded there include George Clinton, Miles Davis, the Dramatics, John Lee Hooker, Luther Vandross and Eminem.

Walker calls it "one of the city’s most treasured music houses," though it's not a museum, visitor attraction or potential future studio. He explains why:

Aretha Hood, who owned the building for a time in the early 2000s with her husband, said studio upkeep was too costly, regardless of the building’s place in history.

“It was a money pit,” said Hood, a dentist on the city’s west side. “It needed so much work.” 

The Free Press reporter initially casts state highway planners as villains who put the building "in the cross-hairs of MDOT’s plans to reconstruct the freeway." His main source has a broader target, it turns out.

Carleton Gholz, founder of a two-year-old nonprofit called the Detroit Sound Conservancy, laments what he calls a lack of effort by others to preserve Detroit’s musical history.

“We’ve got to have an overall plan,” said Gholz. . . .“This is Motown. Do we care about the musical history or don’t we?”

Careful what you ask. 



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Throw back to this beautiful shot of winter filled Downtown Detroit on Woodward Ave with the QLine. Hopefully soon we can enjoy mass transit in the city once again.

By: Michael Lucido