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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!

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