The Way It Was

1956, Hudson's Northland in Southfield


photograph courtesy of the Detroit Historical Society (Davis B. HilLmer Collection)


Long before the quick, convenient, and downright impersonal ability for consumers to shop online, brick-and-mortar stores did everything to lure customers into their shops, and to ensure the experience was as memorable as possible. Businesses went the extra mile during the Christmas season, and festive displays such as this above an entryway at Hudson’s Northland in Southfield were meant to enchant and delight shoppers, enticing them to linger and buy. The signage states: “Entrance No. 6, South Mall, Eight Mile Road Side.” Two tots climbing ladders trim a tree, already laden with decorations. No department store could rival downtown Hudson’s in choice of merchandise and customer service, but the Hudson’s corporate leadership couldn’t ignore the explosive growth of Detroit’s suburbs after World War II and decided to join the expansion by building Northland Center, at Greenfield Road and M-10. Ground broke in 1952, and, at the time of its opening in 1954, Northland was the largest regional shopping mall in the world. Of course, the cynosure of the center, which was designed by Victor Gruen, was the four-level Hudson’s, but the area was also adorned with attractive sculptures, landscaping, fountains, and many other attractive, albeit smaller, emporiums. The area maintained an open-air atmosphere for years, but the mall was enclosed in the 1970s. When this photo was taken shortly after opening, Northland was a major destination, swarming with shoppers. But gradually, it lost its luster. Soon, Hudson’s opened outposts at Eastland, Westland, and Southland. Then the population migration moved farther away from the inner-ring suburbs. Northland, so popular when it opened, waned precipitously, so much so that by 2015, it shuttered. At press time, the grand old place was being dismantled. But Christmas? It steadfastly endures.


Edit Module
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

Archive »Related Content

Web Exclusive: Meeting the Beatles

Fifty years ago, a Detroit-area teenager won a contest to meet The Beatles.

Rocking in Style

John Varvatos and Alice Cooper talk about their musical and fashion influences — and Detroit’s comeback

Well-Versed in Classics

DSO oboe player tools around town in a rare pair of turquoise 1962 Lincoln Continentals

All Dressed Up & Ready ...

Cobo Center is still a work in progress, but Auto Show visitors will notice a host of improvements

One Night Only: Steven Spielberg and John Williams at the DSO

Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Most Popular

  1. The Makings of the Shinola Hotel
    When the Detroit brand’s first foray into hospitality opens its doors, it’ll offer customers...
  2. My Two Christmases
    An Armenian-Iranian, Detroit-based writer reflects on transposing the holiday across continents
  3. New Year’s Eve, Brooklyn Style
    Tips for celebrating 2019 from the pros at Brooklyn Outdoor
  4. Main Review: SheWolf
    Born in Detroit but inspired by Rome, SheWolf takes diners on a culinary journey
  5. The Art of Gifting
    Metro Detroit tastemakers from all walks of life offer a glimpse of what’s on their holiday...
  6. Comeback Catering
    Dish, in Detroit, pushes through hard times with consistently delicious food
  7. Meet the Makers: Tait Design Co.
    How an after-work hobby ascended to a booming business
  8. Precious Metals
    Layering necklaces, stacking rings, and placing bangle upon glitzy bangle: a definitive guide to...
  9. Food Recipe: Braised Beef Brisket
    Chef Aaron Lowen, of Empire Kitchen & Cocktails, shares one of his favorite holiday recipes
  10. An Hour with ... Ricki Friedman
    Founder, Break the Weight