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Harundale Mall

In one of its many lives, it was the cool place to be

Millersville resident Joe Campbell and his high school buddies have fond memories of the former Harundale Mall in Glen Burnie,
touted as the first enclosed mall on the East Coast.
    “It was the go-to place on the weekends,” says Campbell, now 66 and the owner of a driving school. “We’d head straight for the soda fountain at G.C. Murphy’s five and dime store for ice cream sodas and 50-cent subs.”
    In 1964, when the Campbell family moved to Glen Burnie, the Harundale Mall was enjoying its heyday. As the first air-conditioned mall in America, it was also one cool place to spend a hot summer afternoon.
    The creation of visionary developer James W. Rouse, who conceived the model city of Columbia in Howard County during the 1960s, the $10 million Harundale Mall set the standard for shopping malls for nearly 40 years. Its opening ceremony on October 1, 1958, clogged traffic on nearby Aquahart Road and Gov. Ritchie Highway for hours. Gov. Theodore Roosevelt McKeldin showed up. So did Massachusetts junior Sen. John Fitzgerald Kennedy, whose 100th birthday we honor this year.
    Hochschild Kohn’s Department Store and Food Fair anchored the new mall, with roughly 45 smaller retail stores and eateries.
    Scrolling through pictures on the Facebook site called I Remember Harundale When It Was a Mall, Campbell waxes nostalgic. “Oh, it had tropical plants, an indoor fountain and a huge birdcage of talking myna birds,” he says. He also remembers the mall’s signature rock marker, commemorating the history of the site and the founding of Harundale Mall.
    That rock is still there, even though Harundale Mall is long gone. During the 1980s, changing demographics, consumer tastes and competition from nearby malls such as Marley Station sent Harundale into a slow decline. In the late 1990s, Rouse sold the project. In 1999, most of the mall was then razed and converted to a strip mall named Harundale Plaza.
    Now enclosed malls such as Harundale are on the outs. Popping up in their place are strip malls and walkable, open-air mixed-use complexes with offices, stores and restaurants with a town center atmosphere.
    For a tract of land that has served as a church parish, a mining company headquarters, a rifle range and an Army camp, it’s apparent that the passage of time brings change.
    Yet every now and again, we need to see a few historic markers to remind us that any one spot has a deeper past.