Rounding out the set of the main department stores at Howard and Lexington Streets was the Hochschild-Kohn company.  This building figured prominently, occupying the Northwest corner of Howard and Lexington Streets.

Hochschild's, as it was often called, was the first of the Grand Dames to expand outward, opening it's landmark Edmondson Village store in 1947, followed by another at York and Belvedere in 1948.  The Hochschilds empire would eventually encompass stores at Towson, Perring Parkway, Harford Mall, Columbia, Security Square, Harundale, Reisterstown Plaza, Easton, and Bowie.  Despite a constant desire to expand, the chain began to contract in the midst of it's own expansion, closing the Columbia store in 1975.  Soon afterwards, it was decided to close the Downtown store, which closed its doors in June of 1977.

A scene familiar to many an aged Baltimorean is the Christmas parade in front of the old Hochschild Kohn building.  The Atrium building, as seen in the Hutzler's section above, now occupies this site.

The chain continued to push on, but would be affected by additional closures.  Finally, in the mid-1980's, the chain merged, and consolidated into a few locations known as "Hochschild's Value City."  Meanwhile, the old Neo-Classical Downtown store burnt down in February of 1983, to be replaced by the Atrium building that would be occupied for a time by the Hutzlers chain.  Despite wishes that at least a part of the front be saved, there are no traces of the original structure.



The Story On Stores

Gabe Levenson - Travel Writer

The philanthropic Cone sisters — Claribel, left, and Etta, right, with Gertrude Stein — gave Baltimore Art Museum major collection of modern works.    Courtesy of Cone ArchivesOn Dec. 16, 1773, the first permanent Jewish settler in Baltimore, a Sephardi named Benjamin Levy, took out a full-page ad in the Baltimore Advertiser promoting the merchandise in his wholesale and retail store on Market Street at the corner of Calvert.

There, “for ready money,” one could buy “… a large assortment of Corks for bottles … rubber for tables, tea, coffee, chocolate, buckets, pails … fine pickled Salmon, Irish beef, rose blankets, English cloth, rugs, felt hats, silk and cloth umbrellas and sundry other articles.”

Levy’s establishment was a precursor of the palatial department stores that immigrant Ashkenazim, largely from
Bavaria, would open a century later.

These stores and their merchant princes are being featured in an exhibit at The Jewish Museum in
Baltimore titled “Enterprising Emporiums: The Jewish Department Stores of Downtown Baltimore.”

Also featured on a weekend excursion here is “The Cone Collection” at the Baltimore Museum of Art, one of the world’s major collections of modern art donated to the museum by the city’s philanthropic Cone sisters.

Now, down the New Jersey Turnpike, across the Delaware Bridge and south on U.S. 95 directly to our hotel, the Hyatt Regency, overlooking the spectacular Inner Harbor, the very heart of Baltimore — hometown of the Cone Sisters, Gertrude Stein, Henrietta Szold and Babe Ruth.

And the new settlers who barely eked out a living as storekeepers. They mostly had little education, either general or Jewish. Theirs was a tradition of hard work, thrift and discipline. These storekeepers would keep open their modest shops from dawn to late night, and would travel from village to village peddling their wares.

Beginning in the 1830s, substantial numbers of Jewish immigrants from German-speaking areas of
Europe settled in East Baltimore on such tenement streets as Lloyd, site of The Jewish Museum. Many brought with them an Old World experience in buying, selling, trading and bartering.

It was from such beginnings that the merchant class of German Jewish immigrants would develop. The great department stores they would create a century after Levy’s buckets, blankets and beef were virtual fairylands for shoppers. As the museum exhibit shows, the emporiums would feature under a single roof an endless variety of merchandise, artful displays, enticing eateries and a stream of special events, entertainments and celebrations.

The excitement of the full-blown department store hit
Baltimore in 1886 when immigrant Joel Gutman opened his four-story, 30,000-square-foot emporium. The “artistic event of the season,” as it was advertised, attracted thousands of Baltimoreans who waited in a line three blocks long to enter the impressive building.

Gutman’s success was followed by other stores of the same grand stature — Hutzler’s, Hochschild Kohn’s and Hecht’s. The stories of these institutions illustrate the richness of the downtown experience at its peaks and the ways in which these Jewish businesses changed
Baltimore forever.

Window dressing was the art form created by the stores. Their windows became cultural showcases providing a canvas on which to depict historical events, express points of view, honor local achievements and celebrate community moments, not to mention their primary functions — to sell goods. By selecting, buying, selling and displaying stylish merchandise, the department stores became the educators and tastemakers in the complex world of American fashion.

For many second-generation German Jews with growing purchasing power, the department stores sold the clothing that would help form their American identity. The imaginative displays of party dresses, storefronts, high-button shoes, corsets and flowered hats show what a small museum with limited staff and budget can do to evoke the entire history of a community.

With the postwar flight of a new generation of Jews from the inner city to
Baltimore’s green outer reaches, the great stores that had shaped their parents and grandparents fell into decline. Eventually the stores, which had made the intersection of Howard and Lexington the lively center of the city’s commercial life, would give way to the shopping malls.

The city’s close-knit Jewish community of 90,000 is concentrated now in northwest
Baltimore and the adjoining suburbs. A Jewish presence is visible there, mainly on or near Reisterstown Avenue — as many as 50 synagogues, religious schools, Baltimore Hebrew University, mikvehs, kosher restaurants, butchers, bakeries, Judaica shops, a major weekly newspaper, a wide range of social and cultural activities.

But our main destination this weekend is the museum at the corner of Lloyd and Lombard, where the Jewish community had its beginnings and to which its members return on nostalgia trips to recall their own history, housed in Maryland’s oldest synagogue, dedicated in 1845; to worship next door at B’nai Israel, built in 1876, the oldest synagogue in continuous use; to eat Jewish-style food in one of the two surviving delis, around the corner on Lombard Street; and to meditate at the monumental Holocaust memorial, a short walk from the Inner Harbor.

Also downtown is the Baltimore Art Museum, a world-class institution, and the J.M.W. Turner show, whose permanent exhibit is based on the Cone Sisters Collection of modern art.

For a period of 50 years dating from the end of the 19th century, Claribel and Etta Cone, heirs to a great German Jewish fortune and friends of Gertrude and Leo Stein, their advisers, traveled to Europe, frequented Paris salons, met Matisse and Picasso among other struggling young artists, and wisely bought their works by the thousands.

The collection contains 500 works by Matisse, 100 by Picasso and numerous Courbets, Degas, Renoirs, Pissarros and other icons of 19th and 20th century art. Resisting the friendly persuasions of Alfred Barr, late head of MoMA, Etta, last of the sisters to survive, bequeathed the entire collection to her hometown museum, where it now occupies an entire wing.

 Descriptive Summary



MS. 2721


Maryland Historical Society


Baltimore MD 21201-4674



A partnership of Max Hochschild, Benno Kohn, and his brother Louis B. Kohn formed Hochschild-Kohn Company in 1897, in a store at Howard and Lexington Streets in downtown Baltimore. The company prospered, and in 1912 a building at 208 N. Howard Street was purchased. When incorporated in 1922, Hochschild-Kohn was Baltimore's largest department store. Space needs led to the purchase of most of the block at Howard, Franklin, Park and Centre Streets in 1923, but financial difficulties and Max Hochschild's retirement as president led to its abandonment. Benno Kohn died in 1929. Management then consisted of Irving Kohn (Louis' son) president; Walter Sondheim and Walter Kohn, vice-presidents. Although financed by corporate stock, Hochschild-Kohn was still run as a partnership. At that time plans for a new building at Howard and Franklin Streets were abandoned, and the Lexington Street building was leased, improved, and connected to the Howard and Lexington Street property.


During the Depression, Hochschild-Kohn lost more in sales percentages than the aggregate sales lost by other Baltimore--sales were down almost fifty percent from 1930 in the Depression's worst year. Management also suffered from discord between Irving and Walter Kohn, who retired in 1935. Management then consisted of Irving Kohn, Walter Sondheim, and Martin Kohn. After illness caused Walter Sondheim to be less active in 1943, and Irving Kohn's death in 1945, Martin B. Kohn became president of the store. Louis Kohn II and Walter Sondheim, Jr. were his vice-presidents.


Martin B. Kohn's management pioneered the suburban expansion of downtown department stores with the opening of Hochschild-Kohn's Edmonson Village store. Later expansion included stores at Belvedere Avenue in Baltimore and at Harundale Mall south of the city. The Hochschild-Kohn Company went out of business in 1983.