Zimmeth: Nostalgic Northland art illustrates a different era
Like many Detroiters, Debora Dragomer has good memories of J.L. Hudson Co. stores. Unlike many Detroiters, however, she also has a more personal connection with the former department store chain.
“I worked in the buying office when the downtown Hudson’s closed. In my office was a picture hanging on the wall. It was there when I got the position. Being one of the last ones to leave that building, I took it down on our last day of work, brought it down to the security guard and asked if I could have it. He obviously let me. Ironically, our Macy’s District Offices for Detroit were located at Northland (since relocated to Oakland), so I was able to bring it to my office there for all former Hudsonians, Marshall Fields and current Macy’s employees to see. Some remembered the open mall design, others had never seen it that way. It was such a different experience then, I love how it shows the shoppers so dressed up.”
Dragomer has memories of both downtown Hudson’s and the Northland Center store. She grew up in Clinton Township but spent a lot of time with her grandparents on the west side of Detroit. Her grandfather was the security guard at the Northland branch of Detroit Bank and Trust, which was on mall grounds. “We visited him often and I remember feeling so small in the huge bank building with its tall ceilings, marble floors and wood furniture.” She loved shopping at Northland and has fond memories of the dime store Kresge’s, the Sanders counter and the hot fudge sundaes, lunch at Stouffer’s, Woolworth, and “Hudson’s of course, with everything you could imagine.”
The artwork she saved from the downtown store depicts Northland Center mall in its early days before it was enclosed in 1974, and shows shoppers walking among the open-air stores. She was hoping it was an original rendering or architectural drawing, but Richard Fedorowicz of DuMouchelles Art Gallery told her that “unfortunately there is nothing original about it,” when he took a closer look during the recent appraisal session. “The bad news is that it’s a photomechanical print.”
Northland Center in Southfield was the world’s largest shopping center when it opened in 1954. The sprawling center included a four-level Hudson’s store, which was the retailer’s first suburban location. It even drew a visit from Michael Jackson in 1998. Like the downtown stores the mall replaced, the mall was eventually affected by shoppers changing tastes, a struggling economy and an aging facility. The stores gradually began to close, and the mall went into receivership in 2014 and closed for good in 2015. In October, The Detroit News reported that the city would buy the shuttered mall and tear it down to make way for new development.
Because the mall has been in the news lately and there are a lot of people who have fond memories of both the Hudson’s in Detroit and at Northland, Fedorowicz said there could be a local market for the print if she decided to sell. “It has no real value from an art standpoint, but anything with J.L. Hudson’s has local appeal and might find a market. It’s one of those cases where you could put it on the Internet and let the market decide. “
Dragomer said the market probably wouldn’t get the chance. The piece hangs in her new office in Troy and will probably stay there. Even if it doesn’t have great value it represents good memories for her. “I remember going to the mall when everyone would get dressed up to shop…I’m going to keep it.”
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About This Item
Item: Northland mall print
Owner: Deb Dragomer
Appraised by: Richard Fedorowicz, DuMouchelles
Estimated value: ?