Motown Museum: The Little House That Rocked the World
Hitsville U.S.A. received a $65 million upgrade and you’re invited to experience it.
When you hear names like Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, The Supremes and The Temptations, you immediately know that Motown Records is the common denominator. And it all began in a little house on West Grand Boulevard in Detroit.
Known as Hitsville U.S.A., this modest space was the birthplace of countless careers – guided by a young visionary named Berry Gordy Jr. From the time that Berry bought the building in 1959 with an $800 family loan and the label produced its first hit by Barrett Strong, Motown Records smashed through barriers and defined the sounds of the ‘60s through R&B, hip-hop, pop and soul.
It was no accident that Motown Records emerged in the time and place that it did. Its origins are part of a larger creative movement in 1960s Detroit that was sparked by the industrial boom and powered by Black music traditions that incoming residents brought up from Southern states.
Motown Records’ success was driven by more than just the talent it represented; it was a unique synergy of Berry’s creative vision and the business acumen of his sister, Esther Gordy Edwards. When Motown moved to Los Angeles in the 1970s, Esther held on to Hitsville U.S.A. and, in 1985, transformed her private collection of music memorabilia into the Motown Museum.
For the past two decades, the Motown Museum has been preserved and amplified by Chairwoman and CEO Robin Terry, Esther’s granddaughter. As someone who was raised being surrounded by the greats like Diana Ross and Smokey Robinson, it was only natural that this family legacy would come full circle.
This cultural gem is in the final phase of a $65 million upgrade and has reopened after being shuttered for a year. Immersive tours can take you through a series of curated exhibits, including the apartment that Berry lived in with his family during the launch of the label, and the iconic Studio A where many of Motown’s biggest hits were recorded.
Once the full expansion is complete, the modest home will be backed by a state-of-the-art complex featuring interactive exhibits, a professional recording studio, a performance theater and an expanded retail experience. In addition to its mission to educate visitors about the lives and legacies who have passed through these doors, the Motown Museum is dedicated to nurturing emerging artists and entrepreneurs – just as it did in its heyday as the “Sound of Young America.” To book a tour, visit motownmuseum.org/visit/book-a-tour.