Chronology: Baltimore’s Downtown Department Stores Part 4

Posted on May 20th, 2019 by

Compiled by K. Meghan Gross, former JMM curatorial assistant. Originally published in Generations – Winter 2001.


1956: Hecht’s opens a branch department store opposite the Edmondson Village Shopping Center.

The Hecht Company, feeling the need to expand its operation west of the city, built a large facility directly across from the already successful Edmonson Village Shopping Center. The parking area was built to accommodate 1,000 cars, and like its Northwood location, it was built as a “complete” store, with all departments represented. That same year Hutzler’s and Hochschild Kohn both open branches in Eastpoint.

1958: Hutzler’s opens in Westview.

Choosing a location father west than Hochschild Kohn and Hecht’s, Hutzler’s opened its second Baltimore branch location at Westview, which served as an anchor for the Westview Shopping Center. The department store and shopping center were situated at the junction of the newly opened (but not yet complete) Baltimore Beltway (I-695) and Route 40.

1959: Hochschild Kohn and Co. integrates its sales force.

Walter Sondheim, Jr. promotes stock clerk Mamie Collins to salesperson in the glove department.

1959: Hecht’s and the May Co. merge, closing The Hub store at Baltimore and Charles.

The Hecht Company made its appearance at the corner of Howard and Lexington Streets in 1959 when it merged with the May Company, which had occupied that corner since it bought Bernheimer-Leader in 1927. The store was then known as Hecht-May, and later, the Hecht Company. Hecht’s continued to operate its stores under its name at Baltimore and Pine Streets and at Howard and Franklin Streets, as well as its suburban stores in Northwood and Edmondson Village.

1959: Gutman’s and Brager’s merge.

Julius Gutman & Co. and Brager’s (formerly Brager-Eisenberg) shared the position of the “popular-price department store” until they merged in 1959. Brager’s vacated its location at Eutaw and Saratoga Streets to move into the Gutman location at Park and Lexington Street. Hochschild Kohn and Company then bought the former Brager building and moved its bargain shop there. Brager-Gutman’s, as it was called, continued to serve the bargain customer until it closed in 1984.

1960: Baltimore department stores integrate their lunch counters.

Responding to pressure from local college students at Morgan State University who protested department store segregation at Hecht’s Northwood branch and elsewhere, the department store managers made a joint decision to serve African Americans at lunch counters and provide equal credit and return policies.

1960: Hecht’s spends millions of dollars to renovate its Howard and Lexington Street store.

Hecht’s also expands its suburban store in Northwood.

1965: Hutzler’s Southdale opens.

The opening of Hutzler’s at the Southdale Shopping Center completed its chain of stores around the city. The shopping center was located at the intersection of Ritchie Highway and Mountain Road in Anne Arundel County. Hutzler’s also expanded its Eastpoint branch.

1968: Hochschild Kohn and Co. opens a new branch in the York Mall, York, PA.

The same year, the Hecht Company opened the largest complete department store on the Eastern Shore, located in the Salisbury Mall.

1977: Hochschild Kohn closes its downtown store.

Hochschild Kohn continued to expand its suburban stores, opening new branches in areas around the city. Despite growth in its suburban business, the downtown store gave way to economic difficulties caused by a declining urban population. In 1983, the former Hochschild Kohn building at Howard and Lexington was destroyed by fire.

1984: Downtown Hutzler’s moves to Atrium at Market Center.

Baltimore’s urban life declined in the late 1970s through the 1980s, causing many long-standing establishments to leave the former retail hub at Howard and Lexington Streets. Hutzler’s remained in the area but moved their operation to the Atrium at Market Center in 1984, only to reopen the Palace building in 1985. Hutzler’s then closed its downtown locations in 1989, making its Towson branch the flagship store. The Towson store and other branch locations closed in 1990.

1989: Hecht’s closes its downtown store.

The Hecht Company which still thrives today, remained at the corner of Howard and Lexington Streets until 1989. This company’s only surviving urban store is at Metro Center in Washington, DC. By 1993, Hecht’s was operating 45 stores in Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia with a total of 74 stores on the East Coast.

1990: Hutzler’s closes all locations and goes out of business.

Many of the department store palaces still stand in Baltimore’s historic shopping district. Some are used as office space, while others have been adapted for residential property.

2001: The Jewish Museum of Maryland presents Enterprising Emporiums, an exhibition and catalog celebrating the history of the Jewish-owned department stores of downtown Baltimore.

~The End~

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Chronology: Baltimore’s Downtown Department Stores Part 3

Posted on May 13th, 2019 by

Compiled by K. Meghan Gross, former JMM curatorial assistant. Originally published in Generations – Winter 2001.


1929: Brager of Baltimore and Eisenberg’s Underselling Store merge.

Albert Brager founded Brager of Baltimore on Eutaw Street after he dissolved his partnership with Ferdinand Bernheimer in 1888. In 1927, Brager’s was sold to American Department Stores, a chain, and merged with Eisenberg’s Underselling Store I n1929. Brager-Eisenberg became a well-known bargain store. It returned to the name “Brager’s” after World War II.

1929: “Hutzler’s Downstairs” opens.

1932: “The Greater Hutzler’s” opens on October 11.

This thoroughly modern building, erected next to the 1888 palace building on Howard Street, was called “the greatest triumph yet experienced by the Hutzler Brothers Company…[It] was felt that this unprecedented crowd [of at least 50,000 came to] express their respect for the institution which had gone ahead with its plans for expansion in the midst of a general business depression, thus giving evidence to the courageous faith of its management in the future of Baltimore.” “Baltimore’s only art deco ‘skyscraper’” was built to expand the already massive facility of the Hutzler Brothers’ Company.

1936: Hutzler’s begins use of Charg-A-Plate system.

While purchase of items on credit was not a new idea, the use of the Charg-A-Plate system made this service a more convenient and efficient way to record credit purchases. Filene’s in Boston was the first department store to use the service, which was launched by the Farrington Manufacturing Company of Massachusetts. Soon, the Charge-A-Plate system was used widely in Baltimore department stores and around the country. Later, as its technology improved, the Charg-A-Plate machines reportedly reduced customer waiting time by 40 percent.

1936: Hochschild Kohn and Co. stages the first Toytown Parade on Thanksgiving Day.

Watching this “annual parade of weird beasties, strange creatures, huge menagerie creations and painted performers, all accompanied by music, fanfare and pageantry,” became an annual tradition for many Baltimore families. The parade started at Charles and 31st Streets and marched for three miles through Baltimore City and the downtown retail district. The Toytown Parade was established to encourage buyers in the midst of the Great Depression. It continued for several generations as the kick-off for the annual Christmas shopping season.

1941-1942: Hutzler’s adds five stories to The Greater Hutzler’s.

The war-time boom in Baltimore’s economy led to expansion in several downtown stores. In 1942, Hochschild Kohn erected a new Furniture and Service Building on Howard Street between Center and Franklin Streets. Also in 1942, Hutzler’s opened its Quixie restaurant, which became a local landmark for generations of shoppers.

1942: War bonds are sold at Hutzler’s.

Between January 9, 1942 and December 8, 1945, Hutzler’s sold $18,720,000 in war bonds through special programs and at the Victory Window on Howard Street.

1947: Hochschild Kohn opens a branch in Edmondson Village.

After World War II many families established homes outside the city limits. To accommodate the suburban shopper, department stores established branch stores in suburban neighborhoods. These stores were originally built to serve as extensions of the downtown store with a limited number of departments. Hochschild Kohn & Co. was the first department store to open a branch store in the Baltimore area. The booming area west of downtown was chosen for this pioneering venture. The Edmondson Village branch was followed by Hochschild Kohn stores at Belvedere Avenue and York Road and in enclosed shopping malls in Baltimore County and York, PA.

1950: Hutzler’s takes steps to reduce returns.

“Because Baltimore has the questionable distinction of having the highest rate of returns in the country and because returns increase cost, the time has come to do something about it. The retail Merchants Association planned a series of ads to instruct our customers on the matter of returning merchandise. Mr. Albert D. Hutzler held two storewide meetings – at the warehouse and at the Main Building – to inform employees on their part in this important campaign. Follow up meetings were held weekly reminding salespeople to help the customer to be sure at the store, reminding wrappers to check merchandise with the salescheck before wrapping; reminding the people handling telephone and mail orders not to substitute without the customer’s approval. And on it goes…constant reminders of the need for reducing the returning of merchandise.” (Tips and Taps, November 1950.)

1952: Hutzler’s Towson opens at Dulaney Valley and Joppa Roads.

Hutzler’s, as the premier department store of Baltimore, pushed farther outside of the city to establish its first branch location in Towson. While the store’s location was not easily accessible (at one of the busiest intersections in the area), the architect decided to build the store underneath the road, allowing access to the store on two levels, one straight form the large parking area. Windows ran the length of the exterior and allowed customers an overview of the entire store, rather than specific displays, which were a staple of the downtown experience. Hutzler’s also opened branch locations in Westview and Eastpoint.

1954: O’Neill’s closes its downtown store.

Thomas O’Neill, an immigrant from Ireland, became involved in the dry goods business in 1882, when he opened a small store on the southwest corner of Charles and Lexington Streets. He, like other merchants, expanded his store and eventually occupied the entire corner of that intersection. O’Neill’s had a six-story building with two floors for retail and four floors for office space. After the department store closed, it was demolished for the construction of Charles Center.

1954: Hecht’s Northwood opens at Loch Raven Boulevard and Hillen Road.

To accommodate the suburban shopper and her automobile, Hecht’s opened its first Baltimore branch store north of the city I the growing suburb of Northwood. (The Hecht Company had already expanded its Washington, DC operation into the suburbs.) The Northwood branch featured roof-top parking above its vast facility, in addition to a regular parking lot, with a combined capacity for 1,200 cars.


Continue to Part 4, publishing on May 20, 2019.

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Chronology: Baltimore’s Downtown Department Stores Part 2

Posted on May 6th, 2019 by

Compiled by K. Meghan Gross, former JMM curatorial assistant. Originally published in Generations – Winter 2001.


1888: Hutzler’s department store opens on Howard Street.

Following the trend of acquiring property and expanding retail space, Hutzler’s razed its thee side-by-side buildings to erect an imposing and spacious modern structure on Howard Street. It featured three large bays and utilized cast-iron columns, skylights and crystal chandeliers to enhance the grandeur of its interior. The Sun called the new Hutzler Palace “one of the largest and best arranged buildings of its kind in the United States…a credit to Baltimore and her workmen and a monument to the enterprise and industry of its proprietors.”

1897: The Hochschild Kohn department store opens on November 15th, on the northwest corner of Howard and Lexington Streets just south of Hutzler’s.

Three young men joined forces in 1897 top establish one of the longest-lived enterprises in Baltimore’s retail history. Brothers Louis and Benno Kohn were eyeing the site at the northwest corner of Howard and Lexington to establish a department store, having grown up in their father’s retail dry goods business. Max Hochschild, too, was looking at that corner in the already well-established retail district of downtown Baltimore. The three men decided to enter the department store business together, establishing a new department store palace on Howard Street. Like many store owners, they continued to acquire property and add new departments and services to the business.

1897: The Hub department store opens on Baltimore and Light Streets.

Moses S. Hecht, son of Samuel Hecht, Jr., established The Hub in 1897. This store specialized in men’s and boys’ clothing with fine merchandise and personal service. The Hub building was destroyed in the great fire of 1904 but was rebuilt on Charles Street at the corner of Baltimore Street. The new Hub had four stories of retail space and expanded its stock to include women’s clothing departments. The Hub continued to acquire property along Charles Street and to add more departments.

1899: Posner Brothers erects a grand department store building opposite Hutzler Brothers on Howard Street.

Samuel and Elias Posner came to Baltimore in 1876 from New Jersey and established a store on Lexington Street near Eutaw, moving one block east by 1880. Elias Posner died in 1885, but the business continued to grow. Samuel Posner built his “Palace of Trade” in 1899 at the northeast corner of Howard and Lexington at a cost of $250,000.

1899: Hutzler’s purchases a power-driven truck for delivery service.

Hutzler’s and the other downtown department stores earned a well-deserved reputation for developing new forms of customer service. Testimony abounds about same-day delivery, even of small purchases.

1901-1902 – Posner’s is sold to the Associated Merchants Company of New York and re-named Stewart & Co.

The impressive building proved to be too ambitious for Samuel Posner, and he sold the business to the Associated Merchants Company in 1901. Louis Stewart became the owner and changed the name to Stewart & Co. in 1902. Stewart’s became a well-known Gentile-owned department store, but it was established by Jewish retailers Samuel and Elias Posner.

1904: The Great Baltimore Fire destroys much of the downtown area, coming within blocks of the retail district.

1908: Bernheimer’s opens a new department store annex on Fayette Street near Howard Street.

Among the new arrivals in the Howard and Lexington Street area, Bernheimer Brothers joined in the wave of expansion. Bernheimer Brothers erected an annex building on Fayette Street which featured several floors for selling dry goods, furnishings, and household items. The store also boasted a 300-seat theater and large restaurant. Other features of the building were a working dairy with machines for milking cows and the electric “Bernheimer Bros.” sign on the roof of the building.

1912: Hochschild Kohn expands its Howard Street store after acquiring 206 and 208 North Howard Street.

1916: Hutzler’s erects a new five-story building on Saratoga Street.

In 1924, the store added five additional stories to this building, greatly expanding its sales space.

1923: Bernheimer Brothers merges with The Leader.

After construction of their palace building on Fayette Street, Bernheimer’s continued to look for new opportunities in the downtown retail district. In 1923, the company merged with The Leader, a department store that occupied the southwest corner at Howard and Lexington Streets. The merger provided enough capital to build a new palace building at the corner of Howard and Lexington Streets in 1925. However, Bernheimer-Leader, as it was known, was a short-lived enterprise, and was purchased by the May Company in 1927.

1925: Hutzler’s offers parking lot for customers.

“We make the proud boast of being the first firm in Baltimore to provide parking space for our customers practically right at our doors.” (Tips and Taps, November 1925). The need for parking testifies to the growing influence of the automobile in American life.

1926: Max Hochschild sells his interest in Hochschild Kohn.

After serving for nearly 30 years as a senior partner, Max Hochschild left the management of the highly successful Hochschild Kohn & Co. to his partner’s sons, Walter and Irving Kohn. In later years, Mr. Hochschild remained active in the store’s operation and presided over many opening ceremonies of the branch stores.

1927: The May Company, a national chain, buys Bernheimer-Leader.

Only two years after Bernheimer-Leader built its new department store at Howard and Lexington, the May Co., a department store chain established by Jewish merchant David May, bought out the enterprise. After the May Co. purchased Hecht’s in 1959, this store became known first as Hecht-May and then as the Hecht Company.


Continue to Part 3, publishing on May 13, 2019.

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