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Industry Department store
Fate locations re-branded as Marshall Field's in 2001
Successor Marshall Field's (2001–2006)
Macy's (2006–present)
Founded 1881
Defunct 2001
Headquarters Detroit, Michigan (1881–1969)
Minneapolis, Minnesota (1969–2001)
United States
Key people
Joseph L. Hudson
Parent Dayton–Hudson Corporation

Hudson's, or The J.L. Hudson Company, was a retail department store chain based in Detroit, Michigan. Hudson's flagship store, on Woodward Avenue in downtown Detroit (demolished October 24, 1998),[1] was the tallest department store in the world as of 1961,[2] and, at one time, claimed to be the second largest department store (next to Macy's) in the United States, in terms of square footage.[3]


Founded in 1881 by Joseph L. Hudson, the store thrived during the record growth of the city of Detroit and the auto industry during the first half of the 20th century. The family also founded the Hudson Motor Car Company, which eventually became part of the American Motors Corporation, and later Chrysler. Hudson operated the store until his death in 1912 when his four nephews, James, Joseph, Oscar and Richard Webber assumed control. The third generation of the family assumed control in 1961 when Joseph L. Hudson, Jr. became president of the company.[4]

Over time, the store grew from its beginnings in the Detroit Opera House to a 25-story building with 2,124,316 sq ft (197,355.4 m2) and occupying an entire city block. Hudson's was known for customer satisfaction and its liberal return policy and would even pick-up merchandise that customers purchased years earlier, but never used. In 1952, Hudson's total sales were $175 million; however, it issued refunds totaling $25 million. Store executives felt this was a small price to pay for customer loyalty.[3]

In addition to cultivating loyalty through sales policies, Hudson's was involved in the community. In 1924, two years prior to rival Macy's, it staged its first Thanksgiving Parade, which continues today.[5] In 1923, it unveiled the world's largest flag, which covered 3,700 sq ft (340 m2) of the Woodward facade of the building. The flag was displayed annually until it was replaced in 1949 by a larger flag. In 1959, the store began sponsorship of the annual fireworks display that was part of the International Freedom Festival.[2]

Hudson's Budget Store occupied the basement of the downtown store as well as several branches. It had an independent staff of buyers, carried its own line of merchandise and was considered the greatest competition to the big store.[4]

Hudson's expanded into suburban Detroit, starting with the anchor store at Northland Center in nearby Southfield, Michigan, the largest shopping center in the United States when it opened in 1954.[2] Similar suburban malls followed (Eastland Center in 1957 and Westland Center in 1965), as well as other locations throughout the tri-state region. The Dayton Co. of Minneapolis acquired The J.L. Hudson Co. in 1969 to form the Dayton–Hudson Corporation, although "The J.L. Hudson Co." continued to operate as a semi-autonomous entity. Dayton–Hudson eventually acquired and sold several other department store chains.[6]

Though customers flocked to the suburban locations, the downtown store still accounted for half of Hudson's business in 1961 but demographic changes continued to erode sales.[4] Store officials expressed an interest in closing the store as early as 1971, citing $9,000,000 in pilferage but remained, citing the potential backlash from city officials and customers,[7] but by 1978 agreed to construct a smaller store of 320,000 sq ft (30,000 m2) as part of a proposed downtown shopping center.[8]

Lack of interest from other retailers and funding problems shelved the center and after many years of declining sales and consolidating selling space, the flagship Hudson's store closed January 17, 1983 (at the nadir of downtown Detroit's decline).[9]

After closure, Hudson's maintained its headquarters staff of about 1,100 in the downtown store. In May 1984, The J.L. Hudson Co. formally merged into The Department Store Division of the Dayton Hudson Corp., although Hudson's stores continued to carry the Hudson's name. All executive and buying positions transferred to Minneapolis, and other staff moved to space at the Northland store in Southfield. The last corporate department in the downtown Detroit building, credit operations, moved in October 1986. Dayton Hudson sold the building in December 1989, and it was imploded on October 24, 1998.

Hudson's operated a large warehouse complex in an area bounded by Madison, Brush, Adams and Beacon Streets in downtown Detroit. The buildings were constructed between the 1920s and the 1950s and averaged between four and six floors. In the early 1980s, Building 3 was sold and renovated into Madison Center, home for the 36th District Court.[10] The remaining buildings in the complex closed in the late 1990s to make room for the new 65,000-seat stadium, Ford Field. Ford Field partially incorporated one of the warehouses into its design.

The vacant site in Detroit between Woodward and Farmer Street and between E. Grand River and Gratiot now sits atop an underground parking structure, with infrastructure already in place to have a building constructed above it. The address of the first Hudson's building on the lot was on Farmer, not at 1206 Woodward, the building's later and better-known address.

In 2000, Dayton–Hudson Corporation took the name of its most successful operation, becoming Target Corporation, and one year later re-branded all Hudson's and Dayton's locations with the Marshall Field's moniker, an operation purchased by Dayton–Hudson in 1990. After being briefly owned by May Department Stores, the former Hudson's stores were acquired by Federated Department Stores in 2006 and all Marshall Field's stores were incorporated into the Macy's chain.

See also


  1. "J.L. Hudson Department Store". Services: Buildings. Controlled Demolition, Inc. Retrieved 2006-09-16.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Baulch, Vivian M. "How J.L. Hudson changed the way we shop". The Detroit News. Retrieved 2006-09-16.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. 3.0 3.1 "Retail Trade: Store into Institution". Time. 23 March 1953. Retrieved 2011-05-24.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 "Retailing: No Embarrassed Customers". Time. 2 June 1961. Retrieved 2011-05-24.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Iver Peterson (23 December 1979). "Downtown Detroit Shops for a Future, but Not at Once-Grand Hudson's". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-05-26.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Isadore Barmash (7 March 1969). "Dayton's and Hudson's to Merge". The New York Times. p. 51. Retrieved 2011-05-26.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. "Business: Why Companies are Fleeing the Cities". Time. 26 April 1971. Retrieved 2011-05-24.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. "Dayton May Build New Detroit Store". The New York Times. 14 July 1978. Retrieved 2011-05-26.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. J. Madeline Nash, Maureen Dowd and Barbara B. Dolan (31 January 1983). "Tales off Ten Cities". Time. Retrieved 2011-02-24.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. "Madison Center Building". Retrieved 2011-05-26.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

Further reading

  • Hauser, Michael, and Marianne Weldon (2004). Hudson's: Detroit's Legendary Department Store. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing. ISBN 0-7385-3355-6.
  • Hauser, Michael, and Marianne Weldon (2010). Remembering Hudson's: The Grande Dame of Detroit Retailing. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing. ISBN 978-0-7385-8366-2. ISBN 0-7385-8366-9.

External links