Relive ‘Hudson’s Holidays’ at the Detroit Historical Museum

Historical photo of the former Hudson's flagship store in Downtown Detroit. (Gloria Rzucidlo/AmericaJR)

Detroit — The “Hudson’s Holidays” exhibit is featured at the Detroit Historical Museum now through January 30, 2022 located at 5401 Woodward Ave.  Shopping at downtown Hudson’s during the holidays was by far the most exciting tradition for Detroit residents and everyone alike.

The J.L. Hudson department store was located at 1206 Woodward Avenue in downtown Detroit and was built in 1911 with construction additions during the years after until completed in 1946.  There were 423 departments from fashions to fabrics, home furnishings and toys.  More than 7,000 people were employed with an additional 3,000 extra during the holidays. 

There were 25 stores and four stories below ground covering a total of 49 acres of floor space.  There were 2,647 windows.  All 50 ground level display windows featured holiday merchandise and themes while holiday music was piped onto the sidewalk from above the windows.

There were 60 telephone operators which handled 30,000 calls per day on one of the largest switchboards in the world.  Hudson’s had a basement store called the Budget Store and later called the Rainbow Store which featured over 60 departments spread out on two floors.

Guests usually spent all day shopping when they came downtown.  Hudson’s had seven restaurants during the year and 10 during the holidays.  On the 13th floor was the Riverview Room where you can have breakfast with Santa which included a visit from Christmas Carol, a magic show, games and other family activities.  Also on the 13th floor was the Pine Room which was decorated in a holiday theme. 

The Buffeteria and Ice Cream Parlor was on the mezzanine level.  The Breadstick was located on the second basement while the Snack Bar was on the first basement level.  Thirteen thousand people ate lunch and/or dinner in these restaurants each day.  More than 100 gallons of the famous Maurice salad dressing and over 200 chicken pot pies were served each day.

Hudson’s had a total of 51 passenger elevators with each one taking 96 trips during an eight hour day.  One elevator was 10 foot by 2 feet, big enough to hold a trailer truck.

The downtown store ordered 590,770 shopping bags per year.  Hudson’s downtown averaged 344,147 transactions per week and 58,483 per day.  From selling merchandise, if you laid all the sales checks per day end to end, they would reach over 30 miles.  There were 767 delivery trucks which serviced the community each day.

Hudson’s women’s apparel consisted of leading designers from the United States and Europe located on the 5th, 6th and 7th floors.  Over 400 fitting rooms were available to customers for suits, coats, dresses, furs, shoes and millinery.  However, in total there were 705 fitting rooms in all the upstairs floors and the downtown Budget store.

A beloved Hudson’s tradition occurred on Flag day where the huge 105 foot by 235 foot flag was unfurled on the side of the building above Woodward Avenue.  The installation required a crew of 55 men to handle the seven-story flag.  It weighed 1,500 pounds.  The flag was acclaimed to be the “World’s Largest Flag” in the Guinness Book of World Records.

Toyland was another holiday tradition located on the 12th floor.  A staff of 30 Santa’s helpers known as “Pixies” guided the children visitors to see Santa.  The 12th floor auditorium featured a different theme each year.  Children walked through the enchanted forest on their way to see Santa.  There was also an indoor carnival complete with live ponies.  I loved to go there at Christmastime.  Also on the 12th floor was a children’s restaurant and a shop for children only.

The Hudson Motor Car Company was financed by J.L. Hudson.  The smaller-sized version of the car was displayed in the museum.

Every Sunday in December,  the museum is offering free admission to showcase the Hudson’s Holidays exhibit from 1-5 p.m.  The exhibit is open now until January 30, 2022. 

However, the Detroit Historical Museum is open from Thursday through Saturday 10-5 p.m., Sundays 1-5 p.m. normally.  Admission is $10 for adults, $8 Seniors, students and active military and $6 for children and free for Detroit Historical Society members.  It is a wonderful exhibit and surely will bring back memories.  I greatly enjoyed it. 

For more information about “Hudson’s Holidays”, visit

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