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When Prince George's Plaza Was Topless

Historic photographs bring back the days when Prince George's Plaza was an open air mall.

If you've walked through a the Mall at Prince George's, you've probably had to deal with one particular architectural annoyance unique to the shopping center: the vertical support columns which line the main hall. 

For an unaware shopper, the columns can become an unwelcome surprise if you happen to walk into one while distracted by conversation or an idle glance at your smartphone. 

But it wasn't always this way. When the mall first opened in 1959 as Prince George's Plaza, shoppers had a lot more room to maneuver because the mall didn't have a roof. 

For the first 18 years the mall was in existence, it operated as an open-air shopping center. It wasn't until 1977 that the mall was enclosed. With the roof, came the support columns, necessary to reinforce a structure which wasn't designed to be enclosed, at least not gracefully.

Photographs from the archives of the Library of Congress show how the mall looked back then. 

The photographs, shot on 4-by-5-inch negatives, were produced by the Grottscho-Schleisner photography company, which did a lot of architectural and interior design photography from the 1930s through the 1960s. These images, taken in the months after the mall opened to the public in March, 1959, show what has and has not changed at the mall. 

Note how the vertical and horizontal features of the mall are rendered in perfect parallel to the frames of the photograph. This indicates the use of perspective control lenses favored by true architectural photographers for the lenses' ability to eliminate fisheye distortion of the image.

To get a sense of how much has changed, you can compare this map of the mall as it would have looked on opening day, with a more current map of the now-expanded mall.

Do you have memories of old Prince George's Plaza? Share them in the comments, below!

Doris Welch February 26, 2013 at 01:40 PM
I remember watching PG Plaza being built. Then when I went to high school got my first job G C Murphy's and later worked at Mary Jane Shoes.
Bonnie March 01, 2013 at 01:22 AM
I remember it well. spent many a saturday shopping at pg plaza.
Susan Merson March 02, 2013 at 02:58 PM
I remember the open air concerts by Northwestern High School Band that were on the patio back yby Hechts with the spiral steps going down to the parking lot. Listened as a kid, was in the band in high school. Good times,
Michael Theis March 02, 2013 at 05:33 PM
That sounds cool. They still have the patio, but it's certainly not a centerpiece of the mall, anymore. The spiral steps are gone, too. I can't remember if they were there when I was a child, but I want to remember them being there.
Joe March 02, 2013 at 10:45 PM
I remember it well & spent alot of time there Joe St. Petersburg, Fla
James Speorl June 16, 2013 at 02:41 AM
Oh yeah! I grew up going to PeeGee Plaza. I loved going in GC Murphys and Woolworths. We always took the bus over and ate several times a week at Hot Shoppes and Big Boy. I recall my Mom buying dresses at Hechts, Woodies, Lerners and Joseph R. Harris. We even got groceries at the old Grand Union market. Whenever I get down there for a visit, I feel at home again. Things have changed so much at the plaza and stores we once knew are long gone. I miss all the faces of yesteryear, .....but sometimes I still run into an old friend at the plaza. Its neat to be with someone else who was there with me back in the day. Part of me will always be at that special place. :-) ---- James Speorl - Frederick, Md

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