Historical society to transplant old creamery's board room


Hendler's Ice Cream, a Baltimore favorite for generations, could easily have melted from memory after the much-larger Borden conglomerate bought out the local owners.

But part of the once-thriving creamery soon will have more exposure than ever, even though the Hendler brand name is gone.

Over the past week, the Jewish Historical Society of Maryland has been removing the mahogany wall panels, mantel and trim from the board room of the historic Hendler building at 1100 E. Baltimore St.

Using each piece, workers will reconstruct the 22-foot-square room as part of a $3.5 million expansion of the society, one block away at 15 Lloyd St. When the addition opens in 1997, L. Manuel Hendler's board room will become the society's board room.

This may be the first time that a Jewish museum anywhere has salvaged a large remnant of a business and made it part of an expansion, said Bernard Fishman, executive director of the historical society.

He said the transplant was worthwhile because Hendler's was representative of the many businesses in the area when it was a bustling Jewish neighborhood -- roughly from 1900 to 1930. Another reason is the Hendler family's prominence in Jewish affairs.

Beyond that, Mr. Fishman said, the paneled room represents a level of craftsmanship seldom found in new construction and will add dignity to the society's new structure. "It was an opportunity we couldn't pass up," he said. "Hendler's was apparently very popular here in Baltimore. The older people I've spoken to all seem to have fond memories of it."

The room was one of the most refined spaces at Hendler's, a Richardsonian Romanesque structure built in 1892 as a railway switching station and converted in 1912 to an ice cream factory.

The paneling is the gift of Samuel Boltansky, a developer who bought the building in 1977 and is renovating it for new tenants.

A longtime supporter of the Jewish Historical Society, he was intrigued by the room-relocation project because he grew up in the area and, besides Hendler's, owns the old B'rith Shalom Hall nearby.

When the museum was planning an expansion, he said, Mr. Fishman asked about reusing the panels from the Hendler building.

Mr. Boltansky agreed, reasoning that Hendler's handiwork finally would get the exposure it deserved. He also arranged to pay for the dismantling and storage of the paneling until the addition is ready.

"My only condition was that they reuse the entire room," not just pieces, he said. "It turned out to be a perfect fit for their new building.

"I was born in the neighborhood," he added. "This is a small contribution."

The Hendler Creamery Co. was founded in 1905, and its ice cream was known as "The Velvet Kind." L. Manuel Hendler first opened on Lloyd Street and moved to the Baltimore Street building in 1912.

After he sold the plant to Borden in 1929, the company remained under local management and the products retained the Hendler's label for many years. In 1975, though, Borden decided the plant was obsolete, closed the business and put the building up for sale.

Founded in 1960 to document and celebrate Jewish life in Maryland the society is planning a 13,000-square-foot addition that will double the present amount of library and museum space. Designed by Richter Cornbrooks Gribble, the addition will provide a new orientation and exhibit space as well as archival space -- and the transplanted board room.

Part of The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore, the society has raised nearly $2.6 million of the project's $3.5 million goal.

Besides its link to a Jewish business and a prominent Jewish family, Mr. Fishman said, the board room epitomizes an era when owners' work spaces expressed how they felt about their endeavors.

"In the early 20th century, there was a feeling that significant enterprises should represent themselves in a dignified way," he said. "Hendler didn't need this quality of paneling, but it said something about the pride he took in his business."

Mr. Fishman said he hopes the room and its paneling will convey the Jewish Historical Society's pride about its expansion.

"I have some of the same pride and excitement that Hendler must have had," said Mr. Fishman. "I want visitors to sense the pride and respect we have in our organization, through the materials and craftsmanship of this room."

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