12.12.2010

J L HUDSON'S 12TH FLOOR: CHRISTMAS IN DETROIT


If you were a kid in Michigan during the 1960s you knew the coolest place to go Christmas shopping with your Mom was Downtown Hudson's. It was the most magnificent store to see with all the fabulous decorations and lights.

 
I only got to travel to Detroit one time at Christmas. It was around 1962 I think. Though I am not sure of the year, I remember the elevator door opening and then walking into all the wonderland around me. It is a memory that I share with countless others...

Hudson's Department Store was the centerpiece of the downtown shopping district. As such, it's Christmas displays are the most remembered.


Timeless Images Santa at Hudson's

In fact, Hudson's Department Store served as the temporary, holiday-season residence of Santa after he made the trip to the 12th floor Toyland of the store from the sleigh in the J.L. Hudson's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Many Detroiters also remember a nine-story-high, Christmas-Tree-of-Lights Display on the outside of the building.


Santa Line 1968

Detroit News Story
In 1961, the 25 story JL Hudson's building was the world's tallest department store. It had five basements, 51 passenger elevators, 17 freight elevators, 51 display windows, 706 fitting rooms, 2 million square feet, and 5,000 drafty windows. And the customers loved it. YEAH!!


In 1960 the nine-story Christmas tree of lights went up the side ot the building. It was 125 feet tall with 72,000 starburst lights that invited shoppers to join the Christmas spirit inside.

For most Detroiters who grew up in that era, the 'real' Santa was at Hudson's. The store's Christmas decorations sparkled and delighted everyone. The outside windows featured animated displays from fairy tales to outer space.


In honor of the dawn of the space age in the 1960s, Santa's helpers put on space suits. The 12th floor fantasy area entertained the long lines of excited children and their parents, who received photo keepsakes of their tots on Santa's lap. Little did they know that there were several Santas working together to keep the lines moving.


Perfection was never good enough at Hudson's. The Christmas decorations were new each year. Out of sight from the customers, the old decorations were smashed at the end of each season. It was cheaper to destroy them than to store them. CRAZY!!!
While the Thanksgiving parade still exists, it is now known as America's Thanksgiving Parade and operated by a non-profit organization, the Parade Company, made up of Detroit businesses. From 1924 to 1983, however, Detroit's beloved J.L. Hudson's was directly responsible for the Thanksgiving celebration and the beginning of the holiday season. Thank you JL and family!
JL Hudson's Implosion 10/24/1998
Now unfortunately the implosion of the mammoth JL Hudson's building is what is most remembered. I guess the reason is because it was so dramatic that more people want to watch the destruction. This video really shows the implosion from every angle.

Read More On RK 

Christmas and The Ford Rotunda Charlie Brown Christmas Premiere DETROIT'S RETRO CHRISTMAS FANTASY: HUDSON'S TOY DEPT AND THE ROTUNDA   Resources: The Detroit News Timeless Images Michigan Michigan Pics Department Store Museum Viewliner Ltd Automotive Mile Posts

19 comments:

Jeff Bailey said...

I used to work there. 68-69 or so.

Margo Kempinski said...

Look at all those people. Wish the streets downtown were that busy now days.

cheryl sinclair said...

I remember visiting Hudson's in the 60's at Christmas time. I fell backwards on an escalator, knocked my mom down behind me and my dad caught both of us. My mom and I couldn't get on an escalator for years!

Jean Morgan Compton said...

I remember my parents taking me to downtown Hudsons and buying me an exquisite red, winter coat for Christmas. ♥...Wow, look at the bustling place. Wouldn't it be great to see it like that again??

it was a little like going to OZ...

Paul Nagel said...

I used to work at the downtown store...in the early 70's. The 12th floor was incredible. miss those downtown days!

Geri Gillespie said...

use to skip school and go downtown

Kathleen Tootell said...

It is so sad that the old Hudson's is gone

Anonymous said...

And who would have thought that once we hit the teen year's that we would be seeing the Rationals play there.
Anyone remember them playing there? It was packed. lol

Fran Doman said...

Wonderful post, Kim. That brings back such memories. I used to go to
Hudson's with my Grandma Jean (who lived on Jefferson St. at the Alden
Park Manor) and my great aunt Nan. We dressed up just like the people on
the line waiting for Santa!

BIG Rich said...

K,
Cool Story, Hudsons was the place. My Dad was a Traffic Cop in Downtown D-Town. His corner was Farmer & Monroe by Crowleys, I'd take the Fenkel Bus Downtown alone, meet him and get some new shoes, no Malls back then......

Cathy Przybylski Stoner said...

"Loved going there as a kid! My Grandmother worked in the fabric department for decades and got transferred to Fairlane Town Center when that opened, and retired from there. They gave her a 15% discount card good for life! I also remember going to see Santa as a kid at the downtown location, getting to go on the spiral slide inside the big snowman."

EYE GEE said...

oh man. i'm wallowing in nostalgia of the JL Hudson's kind. Toyland was a dream come true to an 11 year old.

Anonymous said...

worked there in the late 60's. it was a ball. the freight elevators were lounges with all the libations and smokes required for a relaxing day. Working the toy department at Christmas was surreal. and the parade? wow

Gillian Swart said...

We used to go to Hudson's at Christmas. It was like nowhere else in the world (in my mind, anyway). Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

I'm in my golden years because my age says so.. Little did I know that THOSE WERE THE GOLDEN YEARS!

j schmitt said...

It was a fantasy land for all kids and grown up alikes. It's too bad it is gone. Places like that no longer exist and will never again unfortunately. If it was November or December you had to visit Hudsons!!!

Lois Wright said...

I remember going to Hudson's with my Mom, but many more times with my big brother, who ordered many of his books through Hudson's. I felt like a big shot when my brother had to wait for me in a little adult corral area while us kids were allowed to go shopping in an area designated for us, only (no adults allowed). Hudson's only had that set up during Christmas time. It was a magic store, full of wonder.

Robert Cipriano said...

Awsome

Mary said...

I began working at Hudson's in 1977 at Christmas time in the Christmas wonderland department. I worked the candy and gingerbread counter and went on to work in the market place until 1980. What a wonderful time and a great atmosphere for all! It was my first job and a wonderful learning experience.

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