At 5:47 PM on October 24, 1998, the iconic J.L. Hudson’s flagship department store in downtown Detroit was imploded. As I recall, there was much controversy surrounding former Mayor Dennis Archer’s decision to bring down this _______ (eyesore; historically significant structure; reminder of better days in a tired city; etc.). Sadly, to this day, nothing has been built upon this massive footprint in the city. Almost twelve years have passed and I can’t help but wonder what could have happened had that magnificent building been restored, rehabilitated and/or adaptively reused.
As a young art student with a love for the city – most of my creative work focused on Detroit – I made a point of attending the destruction of this icon. In hindsight, it probably wasn’t the smartest move I’ve made in my life. Who knows what I inhaled in the plume that engulfed the city following the implosion that day (I’m sure I lost a couple years of my life). I remember feeling both exhilarated and depressed, simultaneously. I documented the destruction I saw with my 35mm SLR camera. My goal was to eventually do something with the series of images.
Originally, I planned to print a series of nine images showing the collapse of the structure. However, after further thought this didn’t seem appropriate. Later, I thought about screenprinting the series on Hudson’s store bags. The name of the series was to be 13 Hour Sale! (yeah, it’s satire for those familiar with Hudson’s). In the end, my ambivalence and personal confusion over the building prohibited me from finishing the series.
Today, I’m snowed in and feeling a bit nostalgic. I recently located some scans of the images on an old Zip disk (yes, the quality of the scans is poor). I thought I’d share them here with you today. Only a handful of friends and family have ever seen these images. If you have recollections of the building or old Detroit, please do share your thoughts in the comment section below (or email me if you prefer to be private).
- Here is a video of the implosion.
- The Detroit News: How J.L. Hudson changed the way we shop
- Check out the book Hudson’s: Detroit’s Legendary Department Store (Images of America)
- And, if you can find a copy, check out Gary Glaser’s documentary The Hudson’s Building
– Devon Akmon