Photo credit: Jennifer Goold, Betty Bird and Associates , 10/2002

Property Name: Hochschild, Kohn Belvedere and Hess Shoes
Date Listed: 12/18/2003
Inventory No.: B-1349
Location: Baltimore, Baltimore City

Description: Paired retail shops, Hochschild, Kohn Belvedere (1946-1948) and Hess Shoes (1948) comprise a two-building district that consists of the intact modern-style core of a c. 1948 commercial development. The district visually distinguishes itself through coupled display of iconic modern features such as signage as ornament, absence of cornice, emphasis on contrast of materials, and incorporation of innovative materials. Hochschild, Kohn Belvedere is a 45,000 square foot two-story plus basement modernist brick department store building designed by James R. Edmunds, Jr. that features a rounded corner with a glazed curtain wall facing the prominent intersection. The light-colored brick-faced building has two primary facades, facing York Road to the west and Belvedere Avenue to the north. Penthouses on the flat rooftop for the elevator and cooling tower, finished in metal panels and brick, are visible. Display windows function as the chief organizing feature of the primary facades. A 30-foot curved stainless steel-framed "vista window" wraps the rounded northwest corner of the building and reveals the goods on the interior, enticing passersby into the store. This strong vertical element at the corner marks the primary entrance and forms the axis of symmetry for the building's design. A flagpole that rises from the building at the corner reinforces the verticality of this feature. A revolving door with a rounded steel hood projects from the window at the first floor level. Two small rectangular showcase windows flank the corner show window. The blank expanse of the north and west facades is relieved by ribbon show windows at the sidewalk level, which are capped by shallow canvas awnings and steel bands that form the base for signage. A secondary entrance is recessed within the west facade. Located across Belvedere Avenue, Hess Shoes is a smaller one-story plus basement brick and stone veneered modernist specialty store designed by Tyler, Ketcham and Myers featuring a prominent pylon facing York Road. A stone retaining wall stands at the western boundary of the Hess Shoes lot. Balanced symmetry and contrast of materials are the keynotes of Hess Shoes, a projecting end unit that anchors a much altered shopping strip across Belvedere Avenue from Hochschild, Kohn Belvedere. While the store's design features also display the influence of European Modernism, Hess's modern design is flavored by the American Modernists' predilection for materials that show a regional influence. Asymmetrical and angled building features that are applied to the projecting storefront, such as the angled entrance, deep eaves, and tall vertical pylon, mask the building's conventional narrow rectangular form. The remainder of the building is a blank brick box. While Hochschild, Kohn Belvedere has lost elements of its signage and circulation, it still retains sufficient integrity to represent this important moment in the evolution of the suburban department store. Hess Shoes is remarkably intact and retains a high level of integrity.

Significance: Constructed between 1946 and 1948, Hochschild, Kohn Belvedere and Hess Shoes comprise a two-building district that is remarkable for its outstanding examples of post-World War II suburban branch stores, notable in Maryland for their modernist style. The district is significant architecturally because it embodies the distinctive characteristics of suburban store types during the transition from pre-war city-center development to later suburban regional center. Anchoring the corner of York Road and Belvedere Avenue in northern Baltimore City, the district illustrates the metamorphosis of shopping center and retail store types immediately following World War II. The district derives additional significance for its association with Hochschild, Kohn and Co., and Hess Shoes, top Baltimore retailers in the first half of the 20th century, who pioneered development of suburban branch stores in Maryland's retail hub.




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