Maybe it's a part of crossing the half-century age mark, but for the last few years I have been busy collecting memorabilia from my younger days in the Mayo, Maryland area (114 River Road, Holly Hill Harbor, to be exact). In the pre-smartphone era, very few pictures were taken because of the inconvenience of carrying cameras and the expense of developing and printing the photographs. Millennials, in contrast, will grow into old age with in some cases a day-by-day archiving of their lives thanks to parents, friends, and themselves taking thousands and maybe even millions of digitally recorded still shots and movie recordings from cradle to grave.
Not having come from a family that could afford taking lots of pictures, I can count on my fingers and toes the number of photos of my activities or places visited (we couldn't afford vacations, either). An extensive search on the Internet has turned up a few images of places I want to see again, like Parole Plaza before it got destroyed and eventually replaced.
In the days before fully enclosed megamalls, a shopping center like Parole Plaza was a relatively comfortable venue for shopping because the outdoor interconnecting walkways were covered with a roof so even in rain and snow you could pass from one store to another and remain dry. In fact, with all the concern about environmental friendliness and lifestyles, it is long past time that Parole Plaza type construction be implemented again. Strip mall layouts are very inconvenient since, especially with large complexes, a quarter mile or more separates the ends of the building. By arranging all the stores in a rectangle with an open air pedestrian space in the middle, a mall-like experience is achieved without the horrendous energy waste of heating and cooling tens or hundreds of thousands of cubic feet of air.
I vividly remember in the 1960s when Gayle and I (and later Tina) would scamper through and between the stores to look out the big plate glass windows (notice how today's stores have no windows?) at people going by. The smell of warm cashews coming from the candy counter at the entrance of Britts Department Store is something I'll never forget, either... oh and the chocolate stars were scrumdiddlyumptious! Our Aunt Bonnie and Uncle Brian, from West Seneca, NY, would buy us cherry Cokes at Read's Drug Store. The gentleman who owned the Hickory Farms was a friend of my father's and he would give us red shoestring licorice when we came in. The escalator in Sears was so narrow that many of today's extra-large-size citizens would never fit. At Christmastime, Santa set up shop in Britts, and the entire plaza was adorned with lights and tinsel and decorated trees. The ride home in our Rambler (with a pushbutton transmission) during the early winter nights were often done while laying on the package shelf in the back, looking up at the stars (no seat belts or child safety seats - yet we lived!).
The images to the right are not mine, so I will include hyperlinks to the originals if I can locate them. Let me know if you own the rights to any and want them removed. If you have or know of any photos of stores in Parole Plaza like Read's Drug Store, Britts Department Store, Sears & Roebuck, Hickory Farms, or any other of the original stores, please send me an e-mail so I can add them to this page. Both inside and outside shots would be appreciated, and full credit will be given.
The following is excerpted from the Parole Plaza page on the "Mall Hall of Fame" website. It is by far the most comprehensive accounting of Parole Plaza's history. I apologize for copying the content in its entirety, but I would hate to ever lose this excellent work if the Mall Hall of Fame page ever disappears. Thanks to everyone who contributed to it. The font size here is purposely so small as to be unreadable, but it will preserve the text. Please read the original story on the Mall Hall of Fame webpage. If that page does go away, please let me know and I will re-format the text below.
PAROLE PLAZA West Street and Riva Road Anne Arundel, County, Maryland
Maryland's first capital city shopping mall was developed by Camden County, New Jersey's Cy Freedman and constructed on a 33 acre plot situated 2.5 miles west of the Maryland State House. Construction commenced on the single-level PAROLE PLAZA in 1961. The mall site, in unincorporated Anne Arundel County, was part of an area known as Parole. It had been named after Camp Parole, a Civil War-era outpost. This is where Union soldiers were interned while awaiting an exchange with Confederate soldiers that took place after hostilities ceased. The land parcel had also been the site of the Parole Hunt Club, a half-mile horse racing track, that was in operation between 1940 and 1957. As a matter of fact, the first recorded horse race in Maryland had taken place at the Parole parcel, in May 1743. Originally encompassing 264,000 leasable square feet, the open-air PAROLE PLAZA began to open for business in the summer of 1962. Its first operational store was a 1-level (70,600 square foot) Sears, which included a freestanding Sears Auto Center. This was followed by a 1-level (81,000 square foot) New York City-based Britts, which began business October 3, 1962. Britts, a division of J.J. Newberry 5 & 10s, was the second store opened in the newly-created department store chain. The PAROLE PLAZA location had fifty-four departments and included a William Tally House Restaurant. Britts grand opening was accompanied by the beginning of business at Sherwin Williams Paints and the outparcel Annapolis Federal bank. By 1963, the full roster of twenty-six stores and services was in operation. These included Shoe Town, Read's Drug, Buster Brown Shoes, Rick's TV & Electronics, Kinney Shoes, the Lynn Gift Shop and a Food Fair supermarket. The first -and only- expansion of the center was done by DC-based Woodward & Lothrop, who opened a 1-level (90,000 square foot) store at PAROLE PLAZA September 30, 1964. The building was expanded with a second level in 1974, then encompassing 136,000 square feet. The mall now housed 400,000 leasable square feet. By the late 1970s, inline stores at PAROLE PLAZA included Docktor Pet Center, Hickory Farms of Ohio and a Pantry Pride Supermarket (that had assumed the Food Fair space). Britts was shuttered in January 1979, with Kmart leasing the store space. For its first 18 years of operation, PAROLE PLAZA had no mall-type retail rivals. This changed with the completion of ANNAPOLIS MALL, in 1980. This complex, a mere .3 of a mile northwest of PAROLE PLAZA, originated from a circa-1970 Montgomery Ward. The mall was expanded in 1983, 1994, 1998 and 2007. ANNAPOLIS MALL came under full Westfield (of Sydney, Australia) ownership in 1997 and was renamed WESTFIELD SHOPPINGTOWN ANNAPOLIS in 1998...which was shortened to WESTFIELD ANNAPOLIS in 2005. Following its 2007 expansion, it was Maryland's largest shopping mall, a distinction it holds to this day. By the mid-1980s, ANNAPOLIS MALL had drained the life out of the older and smaller PAROLE PLAZA. It gradually took on a dilapidated appearance, as more and more stores closed their doors and were not replaced. The first major defection involved Kmart, who pulled their proverbial plug in May 1995. This shuttering was followed by the closing of Magruder's supermarket (in the Food Fair / Pantry Pride space) and Woodward & Lothrop, which went dark November 10, 1995. When Sears relocated into a vacant Montgomery Ward at WESTFIELD SHOPPINGTOWN ANNAPOLIS, in March 2002, the writing was on the wall for PAROLE PLAZA. Although a redevelopment plan had been on the drawing board since 1991, no progress had been made. The open-air mall continued to deteriorate while county officials were embroiled in disagreements over a redevelopment plan. A proposal for a new WalMart at a PAROLE CENTRE was bitterly opposed for being too pedestrian unfriendly. Developers came and went. The tide turned when Owings Mills, Maryland's Greenberg Commercial Group bought the "abandoned dirty husk" in May 2004, in a joint venture with Annapolis-based Petrie Ross Ventures. They announced plans for a 400 million dollar lifestyle-type, mixed-use complex. ANNAPOLIS TOWNE CENTRE AT PAROLE would be situated on three retail levels and house 674,000 square feet of stores and services, 91,700 square feet of office space, a one hundred and fifty-unit luxury condominium complex and four parking garages. Demolition of PAROLE PLAZA got underway in July 2005. The groundbreaking for the new lifestyle center took place in December 2005. The first group of tenants opened October 12, 2008. These included a 1-level (140,000 square foot) Target, Coldwater Creek, Lucy Activewear, P.F. Chang's China Bistro and Great Gatherings. An official grand opening was held May 6, 2009. The festivities at the "Fun Around Towne" celebration included a free outdoor concert, retailer demonstrations, shopping and restaurant specials and prize giveaways. By this time, the tenant list included Bed, Bath & Beyond (42,500 square feet), Whole Foods Market (75,000 square feet), L.A. Fitness, Anthropologie, Brooks Brothers, J. Jill, Sur La Table, Gordon Biersch and Metro Silver Diner. Sources: Articles on Wikipedia www.bizjournals.com http://gba-architects.com (Gant-Brunnett Architects) www.ggcommercial.com (Greenberg Gibbons Commercial Group) www.sturbridgehomes.com www.hometownannapolis.com http:www.departmentstoremuseum.blogspot.com The Baltimore Sun
Another memory from the 1960s and 1970s was the Forest Plaza Shopping Center, which was west of Parole Plaza, across Forest Drive. It had an open-air drive-in movie theater, and a Hechinger's lumberyard. I remember when the Arlan's department store opened; it was probably one of the first Walmart-like stores in the Annapolis area. Our next-door-neighbor mother, Mrs. Pearson, loaded her four kids (the youngest hadn't been born yet) and Gayle and me into their station wagon and drove over for the grand opening. If my memory serves me correctly, the store was giving away free bags of popcorn.
Here are a few links to pages I have regarding my days of yore:
- My Southern Senior High School Yearbook (Harwood, Maryland)
- My neighborhood, Holly Hill Harbor
- My photos of earlier times
- Parole Plaza in Annapolis, Maryland
Posted December 12, 2015