Iconic Detroit Buildings: Hudson's Department Store

Store demolished in 1998

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HistoricDetroit.Org/Burton

DETROIT - Hudson's Department Store still brings back memories for many who grew up in the Detroit area.

The famous store sat in the heart of downtown Detroit, on Woodward and Gratiot avenues from 1911 to 1998, when it was demolished.

It was eventually the tallest department store in the world.

The store opened in 1911, and by 1954, Hudson's had sales of more than $163 million ($1.28 billion today).

As Detroit's population began to decline, so did popular businesses around the city.

Hudson's closed its doors on Jan. 17, 1983, after more than 90 years.

The company's corporate offices remained in the building, with about 1,200 employees.

The store was sold in 1990 to Southwestern Associates of Windsor, Ontario.

“Various media sources wanted the public to believe that Hudson’s had been vacant for 15 years, when in actuality, it was eight years,” said historian Michael Hauser, “which, by Detroit standards, is a relatively short period of time, compared to many other large vacant structures in the city that have been idle for decades.”

The old Hudson's building was demolished (video below) on Oct. 24, 1998 at 5:45 p.m., and the ground that the building sat on remains undeveloped, with the exception of an underground parking garage.

Here are some facts about the building, courtesy HistoricDetroit.org and the Detroit Historical Society:

  • The store was 2,124,316 square feet, making it second in size among department stores to only Macy’s in New York. Even then, Macy’s is only 26,000 square feet bigger.
  • The store was spread out over 32 floors: 25 floors, two half-floors, a mezzanine and four basements.
  • At 410 feet, Hudson’s was the tallest department store in the world.
  • The building had 51 passenger elevators, 17 freight elevators, eight employee elevators and 48 escalators. Its largest freight elevator could accommodate a semi trailer.
  • Hudson’s had to have three transformer centers in the store: They generated enough juice to power a city of about 20,000.
  • The store had 39 men’s restrooms, 50 for women and 10 private ones for executives. The largest was a women’s lounge on the fourth floor that had a whopping 85 stalls.
  • It had 705 fitting rooms, a world record.
  • The dining rooms and cafeterias served an average of 10,000 meals a day - not counting the 6,000 meals a day served in the employee cafeteria on the 14th floor. The 13th floor dining room was renowned for its Maurice salad and Canadian cheese soup.
  • There were 49 large display windows facing Woodward, Gratiot, Farmer and Grand River Avenues, and there were an additional 50 interior display windows in areas — such as the elevator corridors and in the Woodward Shops on the seventh floor.
  • The store featured more than 200 departments across an incredible 49 acres of floor space, and it featured about 600,000 items from 16,000 vendors from 40 countries. The building had 51 elevators serving its 17 floors of retail.

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