“This has been disappointing me all my life… there is no arcade there!”
“That ain’t no arcade.”
These are a couple quotes from people who commented on a picture of the Glenmont Arcade sign on when we posted it last week on Instagram.
Despite its name, this wasn’t a gaming arcade. Originally built in 1952, the Arcade was a mini mall inside a strip mall. 11 store fronts were open for “one-person businesses.”
A number of local businesses have opened and closed in the Glenmont Shopping Center. In 1957, a 24-lane bowling alley, Tuffy Leemans, first appeared at the strip mall located in the basement of the arcade and stayed open until 2002. There, you could find multiple pinball games, which many believed was the reason for the “arcade” name. Later on, arcade games were brought in, but that was long after the sign and name came about.
Some of the other businesses to first open in the mall were a hardware store, a dry cleaners, and a restaurant. By 1962, the shopping expanded to have a Chinese restaurant, hair styling and barber shops, a People’s Drug Store, a Grand Union Supermarket, and more.
A relic from the rapid and explosive development that came to Montgomery County after WWII, the Glenmont Arcade sign is a rare landmark now. Scott Whipple, a historic preservation planner at the county’s Planning Department, told Greater Greater Washington that “there aren’t many remaining examples of architecture from the 1950’s and 60’s.”
Right now, it’s unclear whether or not the County will keep the iconic sign. According to the Montgomery County Planning Department, there are plans to redevelop the Glenmont Shopping Center but no mention of what will happen to the Glenmont Arcade sign.
Photo courtesy of the Montgomery County Planning Department.