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.
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 10/24/1998Now 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.
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