When retailer J.L. Hudson first opened his department store on Woodward Avenue in Detroit in 1911, people predicted imminent failure because it was too far from downtown. However, the area around the store soon became the new heart of the city. The first non-industrial place in the U.S. to install air conditioning, it became the place to go at Christmas time, with a holiday light display comparable to those of Macy’s in New York.
On Armistice Day in 1923, Hudson’s unfurled the world’s largest U.S. flag along the building’s face. The flag covering 3,700 square feet had stripes eight feet deep and each star five and a half feet high. It was draped across the Woodward façade of the J.L. Hudson department store every June on Flag Day, as well as on other patriotic holidays.
This photo was taken on June 27, 1934. A replacement flag made in 1949 weighed 1,600 pounds required 55 handlers; in 1960, six seamstresses added two new stars for Alaska and Hawaii. The flag, attached to the building with a mile of strong rope, was the world’s largest; it was retired in 1975 and last displayed in 1976, to commemorate the nation’s bicentennial. It was then donated to American Flag Foundation at the Smithsonian Institution.