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Sunday, July 29, 2012

Graystone Ballroom and Motown Records, Detroit, Michigan

Motown Records
The 1976 Detroit Urban Conservation Project provides us a window into two iconic Detroit buildings just a few blocks apart from one another on Woodward Avenue. The first is what was popularly called the Motown Building just north of I-75 and Woodward. This building inauspiciously feel in 2005 just prior to the Super Bowl. A bit further north of this was the Graystone Ballroom. This building was demolished too around 1980. The Graystone Ballroom once hosted Duke Ellington and was among the most popular of dance halls in the country. Distinguished by a substantial dance floor with an open and uninterrupted span, this was among the liveliest of spots along Woodward Ave for decades.

Motown Records in 2001, prior to demolition

Both Motown Records and the Graystone Ballroom were targeted for use as museums at different times. Regrettably, neither of those proposals transpired to honor the Jazz and Motown heritage of Detroit respectively. Had either or both come to fruition, they might have helped to cement Detroit's musical legacy. Instead, this great musical legacy stands without a dedicated visible landmark downtown.

Graystone Ballroom, 1976

Graystone Ballroom in background as nearby buildings are demolished, 1976.
Today the Motown Records building has given way to a parking lot. In the 2000's a McDonald's restaurant was built on or very near the site of the Graystone Ballroom. Of the more than 25 buildings present on the block around 1950, fewer than 6 remained in 2012.

Detroit, Michigan, 1950 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map, vol 2, Sheet 77
Buildings demolished between 1950 and 2012.


  1. Is there a block that better symbolizes Detroit than this one? Vacant lots, a McD's on the busiest street, industrial, lofts, and two small residential buildings left.

  2. I've always loved Detroit, it is like having a relative with a wasting disease.

  3. I'm 68 years old and I remember Detroit before it started wasting away. It truly was one of the most beautiful cities I've ever seen.It took 150 years to make Detroit what it was,it will take that
    and then some to revive it.