The J.L. Hudson Company, known more commonly as Hudson’s, was a chain of department stores based in Detroit. Founded in 1881 by Joseph Lowthian Hudson (yes, that Hudson), the company grew in the city’s boom years, and by 1961, the flagship store on Woodward Avenue occupied an entire city block. By the 1980s, the downtown flagship store was in decline, and it was demolished in 1998. The Hudson’s chain merged with former rival Dayton’s (which also acquired another Midwestern icon, Marshall Field’s department stores), and after a series of corporate rebrandings and transactions, the remaining locations emerged as Macy’s stores.
Here is an excerpt from the Hudson’s company newsletter, less than a decade before the city of Detroit would be torn apart by the riots and corruption from which it has still not fully recovered:
“Nearly 7,000 are regularly employed in Hudson’s Downtown Store, with another 3,000 joining the ranks during the Christmas season.
The Downtown Store rises 25 stories above the street, including the tower, and four stories beneath it. 17 of these floors are devoted to merchandise and customer service.
Our telephone rings on one of the world’s largest private switchboards, handling up to 32,000 calls a day.
The Downtown Store has fur storage vaults for more than 55,000 garments; has 18 public entrances on street level; 51 large display windows and 50 small display windows.
The electrical system in the Downtown Store is comparable to that of the City of Ypsilanti.
The Downtown Store is headquarters for Hudson’s Bridal Registry which enters ten thousand brides a year.
Since 1928, air conditioning facilities have been gradually enlarged so that they now take in every floor from the fourth basement up. The combined system is one of the largest in the world.” (From “The Hudsonian” by The J.L. Hudson Company, 1969)