"The Historic United Sound Systems
House of 1916" in Detroit, Michigan
Victor Edward Swanson,
The Hologlobe Press
Postal Box 5263
Cheboygan, Michigan 49721
The United States of America
February 13, 2019
In 1916, during the time when Detroit was evolving into one of the most important cities in the United States of America, a house was built at 1170 Second near Antoinette Street, and I say that the house, which still exists today, is one of the most important houses related to entertainment history in Detroit today. Of the most important houses related to entertainment in Detroit, I call it the second most important, if you look at years of use (from first-use date in relation to entertainment to last). Many people know about the two houses related to "Motown" (the main address for which is 2648 West Grand Boulevard) that started to become tied to entertainment in 1959 and only had a short period of use, given the main operations of Motown were moved to Los Angeles, California, in the early 1970s [Note: I do note that E.H. Scott Radio Laboratories used the building in around 1941.], and some people say that the houses are probably the most important houses, but I do not, putting them in the third-place position. Another of the famous houses in Detroit tied to entertainment is "The Historic Owen Stanley Fawcett House of 1894," which was located at 152 Putnam (or 672 Putnam, starting on August 1, 1920) from 1894 to about 1985, which was when the house was about to be torn down and which was when the Motown Museum was opened up to the public, and I consider the house 152 Putnam or at 672 Putnam to be the most-important house related to entertainment history in Detroit. In the middle of the two-thousand-teens, it looked as if the 1916 house, which for years had been the home of the United Sound Systems recording studios, might be destroyed because freeway construction, but the house was bought by the Michigan Department of Transportation in January 2019. The original address of the 1916 house was 1170 Second, and then when the house addressing system of Detroit was changed on August 1, 1920, the house became known as the house at 5840 Second. It was in January 1917 when the house was ready for use; for example, in January 1917, someone living at 152 Palmer West (in Detroit) was advertising for people to rent living quarters at the house at 1170 Second, and the advertisement noted that the house was a duplex, had unusually large rooms, and had conveniences up to the minute, and the advertisement noted that a potential renter of the one of two apartments could telephone the advertiser at MA-6433 (a.k.a. MArket-6433). The first family living in the house may have been the Anthony F. Wolfschlager family, the head of whom had been involved in the travel business by train or steamship since at least 1883; in the late 1800s and early 1900s, A.F. Wolfschlager had been a ticket agent for such entities as the Wabash Railroad (sort of a midwestern railroad system) and the Great Northern Steamship Co., working in Detroit. I cannot report what family was the first family in the house, but the Anthony F. Wolfschlager family was in the house in the fall of 1917, and I can report that the A.F. Wolfschlager family was in the house in 1919, and around 1922, the A.F. Wolfschlager family was still living at 5840 Second, and, for instance, Mrs. Irene Wolfschlager was a member of the Detroit Teachers' Association, and in June 1922, she attended the National Education Association meeting in Boston, Massachusetts. I cannot report here when the A.F. Wolfschlager family left 5840 Second, but I can report that Anthony F. Wolfschlager and Irene Wolfschlager were living at 70 East Palmer Avenue, Detroit, when he died in January 1936. In February 1918, another advertisement showed up for the public, such as in the Detroit Free Press, and the advertisement noted that, on April 1, 1918, an apartment at 1170 Second would be open, and the house had a breakfast room, a sleeping porch, and eight rooms, and a potential renter could contact the advertiser by telephone at MA-6433. I can report that, around December 1918, Mrs. Ralph E. Collins (and probably Mr. Ralph E. Collins) had one of the apartments of 1170 Second, and in May 1919, Mr. and Mrs. Cullen Corliss became one of the families living at 1170 Second. At some time between 1919 and 1929, when the big stock-market crash took place, the house began to be used by businesses, but it was not completely abandoned as a personal residence for anyone. From July 1927 to March 1933, for instance, a company called the Automatic Heat Corporation was in the building, and the company was involved with selling oil-based heating units made by, for instance, the Petroleum Heat and Power Company (of Connecticut), which had existed since 1903 and which made the Automatic Heat Corporation a subsidiary in March 1933, and the Petroleum Heat and Power Company was soon out of the building after buying the Automatic Heat Corporation [Note: I found the Petroleum Heat and Power Company--the new name of the subsidiary--at 4606 Cass, Detroit, in 1934.]. From at least 1934 to October 1936, Charles Brushaber was living at 5840 Second and advertising that he was selling good furniture from the location; Charles Brushaber had gotten into selling furniture by following in his father's profession, and his father--John Brushaber--had started up "John Brushaber" (a company selling furniture) at a location on Gratiot Avenue in 1870, and J. Brushaber Sons Co. (headed by William and Charles Brushaber, the sons of John Brushaber) had been created soon after John Brushaber had died in February 1911, and J. Brushaber Sons Co. had been liquidated in 1931. Starting in January 1937, Ford-Aire Sales, which was involved with selling heating units and air-conditioning units, began to use the building as a headquarters, and the company was only in the building for a very short time, and, by the way, a company called Polytechnical Laboratories (which was involved with making, for instance, camera equipment) would be in the building for a while around 1949. James Siracuse was born in 1906 in South Africa, and James Siracuse is credited with creating United Sound Systems Company, which, it seems, showed up as an existing company at 5840 Second Avenue in 1939 or at least in 1940; James Siracuse had started out in the entertainment business as a guitarist, and it seems James Siracuse had gotten the roots of United Sound Systems started in the 1920s. Incidentally, the 1940 U.S. Census, the house-to-house-survey portion of which began being done in April 1940 in Detroit, shows that James V. Siracuse was living at 5840 Second Avenue at the time of the census taking and living at the place with Esther Siracuse. One of the early big-deal records recorded at 5840 Second was a tune called Bomb Tokyo, which was written James Siracuse and Amherst Turner, and Bomb Tokyo had Paul Davis and the McColl Twins doing the singing and had Frank Sidney's band (called the Music Operator Band on the record label) providing the music, and the early 1942 release was designed to be a fund-raiser for the war effort during World War II [Note: When the tune was released, it was offered through some 5,000 juke boxes (coined-operated record-playing machines set up in businesses, such as restaurants) owned by United Music Operators of Michigan, and the song was played to the public in public by roaming sound trucks (with speakers on them) [Note: Bomb Tokyo is available through YouTube.]. Between about 1939 and the 1960s, numerous now-famous performers did recording at United Sound Systems, and it was used for other entertainment-related purposes, such as, in January 1957 and January 1958, as a place used to find people to become announcers [Note: In January 1957 and January 1958, professional broadcasters did auditions and interviews of people who wanted to get into the announcing field.]. By the way, around 1945, James Siracuse Jr. was helping out at United Sound Studios. Before Berry Gordy Jr. would set up Motown Records at what is now known as the Motown Museum (or Hitsville U.S.A.) in 1959, he was involved in making recordings at United Sound Systems, and, for example, Berry Gordy Jr. worked with Jackie Wilson on Jackie Wilson's To Be Loved. James Siracuse, who had headed United Sound Systems at 5840 Second as the president from about 1939 to 1971, died at 85 years of age on December 3, 1988. In the last thirty years of the 1900s, the studios at United Sound Systems continued to be used, such as when it was under the control of a man named Don Davis in the 1970s or so (whose business was United Sound Systems Inc. and a different company from the original United Sound Systems Company), and in the 1970s, Don Davis worked with such performers as The Dramatics, Eddie Kendricks, and Johnnie Taylor [Note: Around the time that Johnny Taylor's song entitled Disco Lady was a hit song in 1976, I was given a tour of United Sound Systems, and I met Don Davis (and a business associate of Don Davis's named Brian).]. My research shows that, between 1939 and 2018, some of the performers or groups who used the studios of United Sound Systems (whatever the company) were Clifford Binns, Paul Stuart Davies, The Dells, Duke Ellington, Arthea Franklin, The Funk Brothers, Marvin Gaye, Dizzy Gillespie, Albert King, Gladys Knight, Little Willie John, Ted Lloyd (as "Sagebrush Shorty," a well-known Detroit television character of the late 1950s and early 1960s, singing Sagebrush Shorty Song and Be Kind to Each Other), The MC5, Dick Moore and the Keytones (George Bishop, Harry Uren, Earl Bolle, and Ray Austin) (performing Prairie Queen and Yankee Doodle), Charlie Parker, The Rockets, Yvan Silva, The Rolling Stones, Bob Seger, Barbra Streisand, Robin Trower, Muddy Waters, Jackie Wilson, and the singing team of Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis (who made up a husband-and-wife team). It seems to me a big reason United Sound Systems became a passé place to do recordings is a software product for computers know as Pro Tools, the history of which began in the 1980s, and Pro Tools is a recording and sound-editing system used with a computer, and it allows a person to, in essence, make good recordings anywhere [Note: The 2013 documentary entitled Sound City, which had such performers in it as Stevie Nicks and Paul McCartney, was about the history of the Sound City studio of Van Nuys, California, and it was reported in the documentary that Pro Tools was instrumental in leading to the close of recording studios all over the country. I note that I am aware the house at 5840 Second seems to have been tied to people involved in illegal-drug dealings at some time between 2000 and 2018, and a little before the house would be bought by the Michigan Department of Transportation, it was about to be confiscation by the federal government from the owners.]. In 2009, a woman named Danielle Scott bought the 1916 property, and in 2014, the house was opened up to the public, and it began to be used for recordings again, and it became a limited-type of museum (being open by appointment). In June 2017, a Michigan historical marker was set up at the property, and instrumental in getting the marker set up had been the Detroit Sound Conservancy. It looks as if what I now call "The Historic United Sound Systems House of 1916" will become a more prominent museum some time after it has been moved a very short distance, and, today, "The Historic United Sound Systems House of 1916" can still been seen at 5840 Second Avenue, Detroit, Michigan.
Note: This document was originally posted on the Internet on February 10, 2019.
Note: This document is known on the Internet as www.hologlobepress.com/uss-home.htm.
For further reading, you should see WAYN-AM
860 RADIO of Wayne State University,
which also has history of "The Historic Owen
Stanley Fawcett House of 1894," the most
important house related to entertainment
history in Detroit, and which can be reached
through this WAYN link.
Really, you are urged to go to the Site-Summary
Page for The Hologlobe Press to see all the
other documents that are available at the Web
site for The Hologlobe Press and reach the
links to all those other documents, and the link
to the Site-Summary Page is this link: Summary.