In its heyday, the Westside of downtown was the nexus of shopping in Baltimore, with department stores such as Hochschild Kohn, Hecht’s and Stewart’s all lining Howard Street.
And of course there was Hutzler’s, whose palatial flagship store, built in the 19th century, remains an icon of that bygone era. According to Maryland Historical Trust, Hutzler’s, which started out as a dry goods store just before the Civil War, “is believed to hold the record for longevity in an original location among American department stores.”
Michael Lisicky, author of “Hutzler’s: Where Baltimore Shops,” told Baltimore magazine earlier this year that in the 1950s, the store had 1,500 employees, including salespeople, office workers and staff in its famed dining room.
These days, the Baltimore article detailed, the building, shuttered since 1989, is now home to computer servers operated by IT firm AiNET, which handles one-quarter of global internet traffic in the building’s basement.
A new Maryland Historical Society exhibit, fittingly titled “The Hutzler’s Experience,” seeks to revive parts of the department store’s glory years, displaying products, memorabilia, employee uniforms and other relics, the museum announced.
The museum will also pay homage to the displays the store would put in its front windows to attract shoppers, rotating the exhibit with the seasons.
Before closing for good in 1990, Hutzler’s operated 10 stores across the state, having first expanded to the suburbs in 1952, with the opening of a location in Towson, the museum said.
“Many Marylanders of a certain age remember with fondness visiting Hutzler’s and ‘The Hutzler’s Experience’ embraces this nostalgia for the past,” Mark Letzer, President and CEO of the Maryland Historical Society, said in a statement. “I remember shopping at Hutzler’s myself as a child and adolescent and the beauty of the Towson ‘Tea Room’ and the wonderful high-quality merchandise.”
The exhibit, which is fully titled “The Hutzler’s Experience: How a Small Dry Goods Store Became a Maryland Institution,” opens Dec. 11 and runs through December 2020. It will be on view during normal museum hours.
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