“Boss” John S. (Frank) Kelly, the leader of the West Baltimore Democratic Club, controlled all things political in West Baltimore in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He moved into the house in the 1860s and lived here for the rest of his life. Kelly ran the political machine of West Baltimore that elected several mayors, senators, judges, and state representatives. He was also the inspiration of Dashiell Hammett’s character Shad O’Rory in the novel (and later movie) The Glass Key.
The Boss Kelly House at 1106 West Saratoga Street is part of a row of houses that were built between 1830 and 1845. Architecturally, the building is a prime example of the cumulative development of row house design in Baltimore, and is featured in the 1981 book, Those Old Placid Rows, by Natalie Shivers. The house and the others in the row are unusual, possibly unique in Baltimore, for their single second-story tripartite windows and gabled roofs. This row has been attributed to the work of architect Robert Cary Long, Jr., whose father designed a similar row in the unit block of Mulberry Street in Mt. Vernon.
*In 2021, Baltimore City razed this row of homes, including the Boss Kelly house.