and photos courtesy of John J. Vallance, Windsor
today just isnt the same without the traditional visit to
Hudsons in downtown Detroit for a trip to the North Pole and
a seat on Santas knee. Windsors John Vallance takes
us back to that magical era.
The Hudsons store was made
up of six
different buildings built between 1891 and 1946.
Together, they covered an entire city block at
Woodward and Gratiot Avenues in downtown Detroit.
adventure always began with a bus ride through the tunnel from Windsor
to Detroit. Stepping from the warm bus into the frosty air of Cadillac
Square, the busy sidewalks crowded with throngs of holiday shoppers.
Snowflakes landed in your hair and the wind was cold, but you didnt
care. You were heading some place very special.
you drew near, the building stood tall against the cold, gray sky,
display windows filled with colours of the season. In contrast with
the dark red brickwork, several thousand white twinkling lights
formed a huge Christmas tree that stretched from the ground floor
window awnings clear to the tip of the tenth floor! You had arrived.
you pushed through the heavy revolving doors, the smell of bus fumes
quickly dissolved into the lovely scents coming from dozens of cosmetic
counters. Those who entered from Gratiot Avenue were greeted by
the aroma of candy and freshly baked chocolate chip cookies.
You made sure to hang on extra tight to Dads hand he
might never find you should you happen to get lost in this vast
crowd. Still a long way up to your destination: the North Pole.
As you wait for the elevator a group of Christmas carolers entertains
the crowd while noisy children take turns getting a sip of water
from one of the sleak brass drinking fountains. One of the 59 elevators
opens and you step inside.
A lady operates this elevator sharply dressed in a gray uniform
with white gloves. Floor after floor glide by until finally, you
arrive at the North Pole in reality, the large store auditorium
on the twelfth floor.
from the elevator, you stare in absolute wonder at an entire indoor
forest of trees decorated with more lights than you could ever count.
As you walk through the forest you see elves, reindeer and even
chipmunks hard at work helping Santa get ready for his big night.
Finally, to a long line of eager and restless children and you know
soon youll meet the famous jolly man himself.
Claus arrives at Hudson's;
Thanksgiving Day, 1968
your turn on Santas knee, you simply have to visit the spectacular
Toy Department conveniently located on the same floor. What a department
it is an entire jungle of stuffed animals, dolls from around
the wold, games of every description, and speeding slot-car races!
When you look up there are model airplanes hanging at crazy angles
some of them look as if they are about to crash into the
bridges, castles and other fabulous creations built with Lego Bricks
and Lincoln Logs.
You press your nose against the glass to watch several tiny trains
make their journey over what seems like miles and miles of miniature
electric track. You dont want to ever leave!
This was the special childhood magic of a visit to Hudsons
on one cold December Saturday in 1964.
Hudsons was more than a store. It was a unique part of Detroit
and Windsors way of life for nearly a century. It was not
just a place to buy things, but a place to be amazed! Hudsons
seemed to have an unmatched sense of style and a one-of-a-kind flare
for display. A trip to Hudsons was never just a shopping trip
it was an adventure!
the time Hudsons reached its final Christmas season in 1982,
the huge store was only a shadow of its former glorious self. Thirteen
floors of merchandise had dwindled down to only seven. Only one
restaurant was still serving meals. Although the fabulous Christmas
decorations remained inside the store, the incredible animated window
displays and giant tree of lights were gone from Woodward Avenue.
a gigantic January liquidation sale that nearly emptied the huge
building of merchandise and fixtures, the lovely old department
store turned out the lights and locked the doors for the last time
on Monday, January 17th, 1983.
demise of the store (1983), the building (1998), and the Hudsons
name (2001) have left quite a vacancy in the downtown Detroit scene.
At present, a brand new office and retail shopping development is
under construction on the large site where the former red brick
giant once stood.
one thing most certainly is for sure it will never be the
(look for more on Hudsons in a future issue)