The Hudson Hotel was a rather modest hotel, one of dozens upon dozens built in the 1920s to cater to all the factory workers coming to Detroit during its industrial boom times.
The Hudson was built on the north side of East Jefferson, mid-block between Lycaste and Hart streets, with the aim of renting rooms to factory workers staffing many of the auto plants dotting Detroit’s east side in the early 20th century. In the end, the Hudson would be demolished to make way for a new one.
Though it is not clear from where the Hudson Hotel took its name, it wouldn’t be unthinkable that it was because among those many east side car factories was Hudson Motor Car Co.’s factory just to the east, at 11719 E. Jefferson, between Conner and Algonquin.
The Hudson Hotel had three storefronts and 80 rooms, but it was not a fancy hotel for vacationers or honeymooners. This was a working man’s hotel.
Perhaps for that reason, the hotel led a fairly uneventful life, save for the suicide of a World War II veteran, a couple of stick-ups and a few other petty crimes. But there was one rather notable news nugget worth sharing.
In April 1934, 15-year-old Elinore Fiorello drank poison in the Hudson Hotel room of her fiancé, Bernard Leydon. She said, “I just wanted to scare my parents into letting me get married. … I didn’t drink much of the stuff – most of it dribbled down my chin.” She was taken to Receiving Hospital for observation
The couple had been “keeping company for over a year.” She told police that they had gone to the city clerk’s office a few days later and gave false info about their ages. Her parents forbid they marry, so she slipped out of the house at 2583 Beniteau and went to the hotel. “When I saw the poison, I decided it would be a good idea to drink a little to scare my folks,” Elinore told police.
But the famed Henry Hudson Hotel in New York got as much ink in the Detroit papers as the Motor City’s own Hudson Hotel.
In the 1950s, ads boasted a “homelike atmosphere,” all yours for between $10 and $12 a week (about $111 to $133 in 2022 dollars, when adjusted for inflation). Basement rooms were $8 a week (about $89). "Your well-behaved pets welcome," another ad in the June 29, 1958, edition of The Detroit News noted, continuing, "A good, pleasant home for pensioners, ladies or gentlemen." An advertising postcard declared that "a warm home-like feeling always has and always will exist at the Hotel Hudson." There was even a TV in the lobby.
Hard times on the east side
Detroit’s fortunes had changed a lot by the 1980s. Most of the auto factories that had dotted the east side were gone. (The potential namesake Hudson plant had been razed in 1959-60.) The suburbs had drained the city of much of its population, leaving blight and abandonment.
But the Hudson Hotel kept going. In January 1983, rooms were $20 a week (about $60, when adjusted for inflation). Ladies, classified ads noted, were welcome.
In April 1983, a 6-foot-8 thirtysomething started buying up much of the blocks on East Jefferson around the Hudson, including the hotel itself. New owner Marc Allan tried to spruce the place up with a makeover. All the old furniture – which classified ads listed was from the 1920s – was put up for sale. Yet not even rates of $35 a week got enough folks to take him up on that dare. A little less than a year after he bought it, the Hudson Hotel closed in March 1984.
But the failed hotel venture didn’t deter Allan, who grew up in the neighborhood. He had also bought a building across from the fire station on Hart and East Jefferson, the old Detroit Bank & Trust building on the corner of Hillger, the gas station next to the Hudson, and a block of structures at Lycaste. Even after the closure of the Hudson, Allan told the Detroit Free Press’ Neal Shine that he was angling to buy 49 more pieces of property, which would effectively give him all of the real estate from Jefferson to Kercheval Street between Hart and St. Jean.
“As far as I’m concerned, this is the best neighborhood in the city of Detroit. The one with the most potential. It’s still solid,” Allan said. “This is the frontier. Like California a hundred years ago. People came and claimed it and made it work. I’m going to do that here. This place will be world-famous in less than a year.”
The auctioneer-turned-car dealer-turned real estate developer’s optimism included plans to reopen the Hudson, which Shine noted was always “less than a formidable Detroit hostelry.” But five months later, in August 1984, the hotel was listed for sale. The 80-room hotel with all furnishings included, plus a used car lot, hit the market. Finding no takers, the price was dropped to $395,000 in January 1985.
As it turned out, Allan wasn’t the only one who had eyes on this stretch of East Jefferson. When it was announced that Chrysler was going to clear-cut the neighborhood for a new plant, “an industrial complex that the city needs more than it ever needed the Hudson Hotel,” Shine wrote May 31, 1987.
Demolished in 1987 for the Chrysler Jefferson Avenue plant redevelopment. Today, the facility is known as the Stellantis Jefferson North Assembly Plant.
Shine, the legendary Free Press publisher and editor, had grown up in the neighborhood. As he watched the buildings of his childhood fall to the wrecking ball, he wrote an obit for the Hudson in the May 31, 1987, edition. Shine called it "an architectural anchor that held together the north side of Jefferson between Lycaste and Hart. … Near the end, new owners painted her up like a tired dance hall girl and put up a fancy new sign that proclaimed, ‘From Dusk till Dawn We’ve Got it All. Dare You to Come on Down.’
“But all that came down was the Hudson Hotel."