The J.L. Hudson Department Store Collection

J.L. Hudson’s downtown Detroit department store was, in a word: gargantuan. The store had more than 2 million square feet spread out over 32 floors and in addition to everything one would expect from a department store, downtown Hudson’s featured 705 fitting rooms, 76 elevators, three of its own electrical transformers (said to be able to power a city the size of Ferndale) and an auditorium on its 12th floor large enough for fashion shows and a three story “living dollhouse.”  


An unintended consequence of an operation of that size what that it produced a lot of historical artifacts, almost 4,000 of which are preserved in the Society’s permanent collection. 


While the Society’s Hudson’s collection contains everything from a nail from the steeple of the church that was demolished to make way for store construction to shopping bags and credit cards, designer clothing and pieces of the iconic building itself, what follows is a cross-section of this uniquely Detroit collection.  Explore selections from the collection below, or check out the collection available online at 


Hudson's Holidays at the Detroit Historical Museum 

The sheer fact that so many artifacts, so varied in both subject matter and date, and gifted to the museum by hundreds of individual donors is a testament to the enormous place Hudson’s held in Detroit’s heart. 

Visit the Detroit Historical Museum this holiday season to see Hudson's Holidays, an immersive, Museum-wide exhibition celebration the legacy of Hudson's. Plan your visit to the museum at