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Maryland's National Register Properties

Photo credit: Betty Bird, 02/1999
Hotel Kernan
Inventory No.: B-2250
Date Listed: 9/3/1999
Location: 306-312 W. Franklin Street, Baltimore, Baltimore City
Category: Building
Period/Date of Construction: 1903; 1912; 1932
Architect/Builder: Architects: J.D. Allen Co.; Builder: D.W. & G.H. Thomas
Description: The six story plus mansard, French Renaissance Revival-style Hotel Kernan is detailed in brick and terra cotta. The hotel, which faces south onto Franklin Street, is of steel and reinforced concrete construction and is U-shaped in plan. The principal (south) façade, the only detailed façade, is finished with a stone base, brick walls, and highly ornate terra cotta detailing. The interior plan of the building consists of public rooms to either side of a central entry on the ground floor and basement level, and hotel rooms disposed about a double-loaded U-shaped corridor on the upper floors. Significance: The Hotel Kernan, designed in 1903 by Philadelphia architect John Allen for theatrical impresario James Lawrence Kernan, originally comprised one of three elements of Kernan’s "Million Dollar Triple Enterprise." The other two components were the Auditorium Theater (now called Mayfair Theater, in severely deteriorated condition) and the Maryland Theater (demolished 1951). The one-story base of a recessed hyphen (now gone) that connected the Hotel Kernan with the Maryland Theater survives as a vestigial entrance, connected to the west end of the primary façade of the hotel. James Lawrence Kernan, a noted Baltimore philanthropist who founded the J.L. Kernan Hospital and Industrial School at Radnor Park, lived at the hotel until his death in 1912. The Kernan interests sold the hotel in the 1920s. The establishment, which was renamed the Congress Hotel in 1932, was owned and operated by the Firey family from 1938 to 1977. The building was altered in 1930 and again in the late 1940s and early 1950s, when owner Milton Firey undertook an extensive modernization campaign. By the 1970s, Kernan’s deluxe establishment had declined to a single-room-occupancy hotel. Although the building, which has been vacant since 1986, has been stripped of all its decorative metal exterior trim and much of its interior fixtures and furnishings, a considerable amount of the elaborate plaster detailing in the first floor public spaces as well as the renowned marble bar in the basement still remain. The Hotel Kernan is one of the few surviving examples of a property type for which Baltimore was once noted.


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