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!

Georgia Remington February 26, 2013 at 12:43 AM
It was a great shopping mall even before it was enclosed. I loved The Hecht Co. and all the many shoe stores the mall offered back then. On friday nights I attended the Hyattsville Teen Club that was held downstairs of the glass enclosure near the Hot Shoppe and Murphys. After teen club some of us always walked down the sidewalk to the Big Boy Restaurant to have a burger and fries, then our parents would pick us up. Those I truly believe were the good old days. We all had so much fun and never worried about crime or violence back then. I feel sorry for the young people growing up today because they are missing out on so much enjoyment due to the problems in this world today. I was blessed to grow up when I did and will keep all those wondeful memories of Prince Georges Plaza and all the many places I was fortunate to enjoy growing up. Thanks for listening as I strolled down memory lane! Georgia Remington, Riverdale Park, Maryland
Carol Cron February 26, 2013 at 02:20 PM
These photos really brought back a lot of childhood memories! Prince George's Plaza was the place to shop and go when I was growing up. Looking at the two maps, though, I don't recall that Grand Union was in the space where J.C. Penny's is now. I recall the J.C. Penny space as being Woodward & Lothrop and Grand Union being in the space that has changed over from Kids R Us to Office Depot to whatever it is now. Am I wrong? Carol (Parker) Cron, University Park
Peggy Anne February 26, 2013 at 03:25 PM
I loved Baracini's, the sewing store, and Murphy's. It was better as an open mall. It seems like ancient history. There were more non franchised shops. None of it seemed as chaotic as today. I do not recall road rage, or parking lot hell.
Michael Theis February 26, 2013 at 07:50 PM
I think young people today are doing just fine. I spent my youth enjoying time with my friends while hanging out at Beltway Plaza and Prince George's Plaza (enclosed) and never felt threatened by crime or violence. Beltway had the theaters, PG had better stores. Now we got both the theater and the shops in Hyattsville.


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