Historic hotel's uncertain future Landmark: The stylish Francis Scott Key in Frederick was built in 1923, and for two decades has been a retirement community. But the owners plan to sell the building next year.

Urban Landscape

July 02, 1998|By Edward Gunts | Edward Gunts,SUN STAFF

FOR HALF A CENTURY, Frederick's historic Francis Scott Key Hotel was a stylish rest stop for travelers and a popular gathering spot for area residents.

For the past two decades, it has been a retirement community.

Now the building's fate is uncertain, with the disclosure that its owners plan to sell it and build a larger community for seniors elsewhere in the area.

Homewood Retirement Center of Williamsport, owner of the building since 1975, plans to vacate the former hotel at West Patrick and North Court streets by the middle of next year.

Homewood has engaged a Baltimore economic development firm, the Chesapeake Group, to help market the landmark property and select a buyer.

"We're conducting a search for the right idea, at the right price," said Howard Kohn, president of the Chesapeake Group. "It is important to the owners that the historic integrity of this property be maintained."

Built in 1923 at a cost of $1.1 million and renovated in 1976, the six-story brick building has been meticulously maintained.

It is in the heart of Frederick's business and government district, next to the Carroll Creek Riverwalk.

Kohn said his group is issuing a request for qualifications this week and will give prospective buyers until early September to respond. He said the building's location makes it a good candidate for any number of uses, including residences, offices, shops or conversion back to a hotel.

Named for the Frederick County native who wrote "The Star Spangled Banner," the property was the latest in a series of hotels at the center of Frederick.

The first was Mrs. Kimball's Inn, which opened in 1791. It was replaced by Talbot's Tavern, where President William Henry Harrison reportedly caught the cold that led to his death in 1830. In 1908, the City Hotel was constructed at the same intersection as the Key hotel.

With its elegant lobby, stately balconies and fine dining rooms, the Francis Scott Key was host to many rich and powerful visitors in the years that U.S. 40 was the region's most active east-west highway.

The construction of Interstate 70 as part of the nation's highway system made it easier for travelers to bypass Frederick, and the hotel's business declined. But Frederick has prospered in recent years, and Frederick County is one of Maryland's fastest growing jurisdictions.

Kohn said the sellers will choose a buyer based on their credentials and what they plan to do with the building.

"They want to see someone do a quality job that fits in with the revitalization efforts of Frederick," he said.

Lutheran Center to hold groundbreaking Monday

Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke will join representatives from Lutheran World Relief and Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service for the groundbreaking of an $8 million Lutheran Center in the 700 block of Light St. at 7: 30 p.m. Monday.

When complete late next year, the building will house Lutheran World Relief, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, the Delaware-Maryland Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod Foundation and the Eastern Region Office of Tressler Lutheran Services of Maryland.

Pub Date: 7/02/98

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.