In 1942, after taking a powerful loss during the early years of the Great Depression, the Hochschild Kohn & Co. Department Store was finally ready to expand. An anchor for this planned growth was their brand-new warehouse at 520 Park Avenue that housed all of the sundry items that the department store offered.
Founded in 1897 by Max Hochschild and brothers Benno and Louis Kohn, Hochschild Kohn was the first of Baltimore’s big department stores to expand beyond the downtown shopping district of Howard and Lexington Streets. The company established its first suburban store in Edmondson Village (1947), then another on York Road and E. Belvedere Avenue (1948). It eventually had stores in Towson, Harford Mall, and beyond.
The warehouse on Park Avenue is a massive building of reinforced concrete. More impressive than the building’s size is that it got built at all. In 1942, the United States had just entered World War II and the federal government strictly rationed building materials, including the concrete and steel the building needed. Company records indicate that it took vice president Walter Sondheim (who went on to lead the integration of Baltimore’s school system after Brown v. Board of Education in 1954 among many other civic contributions) pleading with the U.S. War Department that the building justified an allocation of construction materials as it would serve as a distribution center. Sondheim’s persuasion worked, and the building opened and operated as a warehouse and furniture showroom until 1983.
In 1983, the Bank of Baltimore purchased the building and converted it into offices. In 2014, the building underwent another conversion when Marks, Thomas Architects, Kinsley Construction, and The Time Group transformed the building into 171 apartment units with commercial space on the ground floor.
Today, the one-time furniture showroom and department store warehouse that defied war time rationing is now a hub of activity at the edge of the Mount Vernon neighborhood.