Customers line up at the grand opening of a new Penney's store. At the time of this 1922 rendering, there were 371 "busy" stores.
Drawing from the J.C. Penney Company



"The Penney Company," as J.C. himself referred to it, weathered an anti-chain store movement, which was underway by 1925. In certain circles, it was opined that chain stores were "ruining small communities." Fortunately for Penney's, Sears and Wards, a Congressional anti-chain store bill failed to pass in 1940, putting an end to said movement.


Penney's first suburban shopping center stores opened in Whitehall, Ohio's TOWN & COUNTRY DRIVE-IN CENTER (1950) and Greater New York City's LEVITTOWN CENTER (1951). At the time, all stores were so-called dry goods only operations. Unlike Sears and Montgomery Ward, who operated some full-line stores, Penney's carried only apparel, shoes, linens and other "soft lines."

The "J.C. Penney Co." store that anchored Greater New Orleans' LAKESIDE CENTER mall opened in March 1960. It encompassed approximately 43,200 square feet and typified the standard "dry-goods-only" Penney's store.


*LOS ALTOS CENTER, Long Beach, CA (1955)
*163rd STREET CENTER, Dade County, FL (1956)

A promotion for the new J.C. Penney at WHITTIER DOWNS MALL, in today's Santa Fe Springs, California. The store -and mall- opened in August 1955. The ad lists all of the departments found in a "dry-goods-only" Penney's store.
Advert from the J.C. Penney Company 

In November 1961, "Penney's Audobon" opened in Camden County, New Jersey. Encompassing approximately 80,000 square feet, it epitomized the larger Penney's stores that had begun to appear in the late 1950s. It was followed by the company's first full-line store, the 152,000 square foot "J.C. Penney Co." unit at Greater Philadelphia's KING OF PRUSSIA PLAZA. The KOPP store was dedicated, on August 15, 1962, as the largest store in the chain.

"Penney's Audobon," which was an anchor of Camden County, New Jersey's BLACK HORSE PIKE CENTER. It, and the subsequent KING OF PRUSSIA PLAZA store, were stepping stones. They bridged the gap between early "dry goods only" mercantiles and newer full-line "Penneys" locations.
Drawing from the J.C. Penney Company

Circa 1962

A new corporate identity and logo were unveiled in November 1962. Greater Philadelphia's KING OF PRUSSIA PLAZA store, while featuring expanded lines of merchandise and new departments, was still branded as a (quote-unquote) "J.C. Penney Co." unit. 

Subsequent full-line -or "New Generation"- stores would include most -or all- of the expanded departments and be branded with the new (sans-apostrophe) Penneys logo. The first such store, anchoring Central Florida's WINTER PARK MALL, welcomed shoppers on August 20, 1964.


*WHITE LAKES MALL, Topeka, KS (1964)
*SOUTHLAND CENTER, Hayward, CA (1964)
*SHEPHERD MALL, Oklahoma City, OK (1964)
The New Generation store featured greatly-expanded lines of merchandise. There were now departments carrying lawn & garden items, sporting goods, housewares, home furnishings, large appliances and electronics. A standard-size Penneys, which opened at Melbourne, Florida's BREVARD MALL in August 1963, included the very first "Penneys Auto Center."

A typical New Generation Penneys store would feature these departments. 
Graphic from the J.C. Penney Company

A standard Penneys Auto Center sold and installed the Penneys house brand of tires, batteries and auto accessories. Note: A full-line Sears store would have included an attached or freestanding Sears Auto Center. After 1958, full-line Montgomery Ward stores also featured an attached or freestanding Wards Auto Center.  
Graphic from the J.C. Penney Company

Most New Generation Penneys stores included a Penneys Beauty Salon. The store might also have a cafeteria or coffee shop, photo studio and outdoor lawn & garden center.
Graphic from the J.C. Penney Company

By the late '60s, the J.C. Penney chain was building new full-line stores at a rapid clip. The example depicted here anchored South Florida's PALM BEACH MALL. Encompassing 220,000 square feet, the store commenced operation in October 1967.

1956 was a banner year for the American shopping mall! Major mall-type centers were dedicated from coast-to-coast. These included Baltimore's MONDAWMIN CENTER, Long Island's ROOSEVELT FIELD CENTER, Chicago's OLD ORCHARD CENTER, San Jose's VALLEY FAIR CENTER, Miami's 163rd STREET CENTER and Houston's GULFGATE SHOPPING CITY.

Greater Minneapolis' SOUTHDALE CENTER -the first regional-class, fully-enclosed complex in the nation- was the most noteworthy 1956 opening of all.

Along with the proliferation of new retail complexes came the first shopping mall built in the Greater Washington, DC; Fairfax County, Virginia's 7 CORNERS CENTER. It opened for business in October. By the close of the decade, the region's second mall -which the first in the Maryland Metro- had opened for business. PRINCE GEORGES PLAZA was officially dedicated in March 1959.

A map of the DC region dates to late 1968. The first seven shopping malls in the area are indicated with black squares. Highways and byways are also indicated with the names they were known by at the time. The first segment of the Henry G. Shirley Highway, which was the very first controlled-access expressway in -or around- DC, is indicated in blue.
-Click on image for a larger view-

The suburbanization of our nation's capital was given much impetus by the construction and completion of its ring road expressway, the Capital Beltway. This 63.8-mile loop was originally built between 1957 and 1964.

A 1.6 mile segment, extending between MD 355 (Wisconsin Avenue) and MD Route 185 (Connecticut Avenue) opened to traffic on October 25, 1957. The final section, comprising 24.7 miles and stretching between MD Route 355 (Wisconsin Avenue) and MD Route 4 (Pennsylvania Avenue), was dedicated on August 17, 1964.

With the Beltway now in place, the malling of the District and its environs proceeded at a rapid clip. A third shopping venue, Maryland's WHEATON PLAZA, welcomed first patrons in February 1960. This dedication was followed by one for Virginia's LANDMARK CENTER, which began business in August 1965.

1968 brought the first Beltway-adjacent retail hubs; Maryland's MONTGOMERY MALL and Virginia's TYSONS CORNER CENTER. By the close of the 1970s, the Virginia-Maryland metro featured fifteen shopping malls, with six of these being freeway-friendly.

Looking back, it could be said that the DC region was slow in the development of its first fully-enclosed shopping center. It took until late 1967 for the the first -Maryland's IVERSON MALL- to be completed.

DC had been behind the times. Minneapolis had had an enclosed mall for nearly 11 years. Baltimore had dedicated its first 9 years before. Dallas went indoors -mall-wise- 8 years previously and Chicagoland's RANDHURST CENTER was nearly 6 years old.

Over the past four decades, DC's Metro system has grown exponentially. A 4.6 mile -seven station- starter line opened in March 1976. In mid-2023, the network stretched for 129 route miles, with ninety-eight station stops. The 23 mile -twelve station- Silver Line Extension to TYSONS CORNER CENTER and Dulles International Airport was completed in November 2022.
-Click on image for a larger view-

Arlington, Virginia's subterranean CRYSTAL CITY complexes became the first Metro-adjacent shopping malls, in 1977. The next came along in 1984, when the struggling ROCKVILLE MALL, in Maryland, was reinvented as ROCKVILLE METRO CENTER.

The Metro system was extended to Arlington, Virginia's BALLSTON COMMON (1986) and FASHION CENTRE AT PENTAGON CITY (1989). Subway routes soon reached Maryland's WHEATON PLAZA (1990) and PRINCE GEORGES PLAZA (1993). Other malls indicated on the diagram above were located near, but still a distance away from, a Metro stop.

In the 21 century, two lifestyle centers have been built at Metro stations; Virginia's MARKET COMMON AT CLARENDON (2001) [not indicated on map] and Maryland's THE BOULEVARD AT THE CAPITAL CENTER (2003). In 2014, Virginia's TYSONS CORNER CENTER became a Metro-adjacent shopping mall.
Virginia's Seven Corners Center

The distinctive 7 CORNERS sign. Its "7" was a weather indicator. If lit in red, rain or snow was on the way. Green forecast pleasant conditions, with white predicting cloudy skies. If a light strip along the left was flashing upward, the temperature was rising. If flashing downward, the temperature would be dropping. 
Graphic from the Kass-Berger Organization

DC-based Woodward & Lothrop anchored the southeast end of SEVEN CORNERS CENTER. The store, which was dedicated in September 1956,  had 4 levels; 3 were used for retail, with the fourth housing corporate offices. This was the chain's fourth branch.

On the northwest end of the complex was another DC-based retailer; Julius Garfinckel & Company, a.k.a. Garfinckel's. The store, encompassing 3 levels, was the chain's second branch.
Drawing from Julius Garfinckel & Company

In the northern periphery of SEVEN CORNERS CENTER was a freestanding Food Lane supermarket. This chain, which was a branch of Philadelphia-based Food Fair, was rebranded by that company in September 1960.
Graphic from Food Fair Stores, Incorporated

Cars on Leesburg Pike rush by SEVEN CORNERS CENTER. Stores visible in this view of the mall's Upper Promenade are F.W. Woolworth, Hahn Shoes, Joseph R. Harris and "Woodies."
Photo from Library of Congress / Warren K. Leffler

Washington, DC's very first shopping mall was a split-level venue comprised of 2 retail levels. Its Lower Promenade was accessed from a lower parking level, with the Upper Promenade entered from an upper level lot. There were originally forty stores and free parking for 2,500 autos.


WOODWARD & LOTHROP (with the Fort Buffalo Room restaurant) / JULIUS GARFINCKEL & COMPANY (with Tea Room and Beauty Salon) / FOOD LANE supermarket (outparcel) / F. W. WOOLWORTH 5 & 10 (with Woolworth Restaurant) / Alexander's, Incorporated Gift Shop / Arcade Sunshine Valet Shop / Barber & Ross Hardware / Bond Clothes / Brentano's Books / Camiler & Buckley / Chandler's Shoes / Charles of the Ritz / Edmonds Opticians / Edwards Shoes / Fairfax County National Bank (outparcel) / Fannie May Candies / Farnsworth-Reed, Limited / Franklin Simon / Hahn Shoes / Holiday-Flagg  Shoes / Joseph R. Harris ladies' wear / L. Frank Company ladies' wear / Karin's Florist / Knitting Corner / Lerner Shops ladies' wear / Russell Stover Candies / Martini's Barber Shop / Mayer & Company Furniture / Mill End Shop / Music Time / Palace Laundry / Peck & Peck ladies' wear / 
Peoples Drug (with streamlined soda fountain) S & W Cafeteria / Singer Sewing Center / Thom McAn Shoes / Toy Fair / Van Durand Studio / Western Auto (outparcel) / Wilson's Men's Store / Winthrop, Incorporated Jewelers

In a cut-away view of the 25 million dollar facility, we see how its two open-air concourses were configured. The "Upper Promenade" ran parallel to Leesburg Pike, with the "Lower Promenade" facing Arlington Boulevard. The mall included a small lower level, which housed basements for some Lower Promenade stores and a service truck tunnel. 

By the early 1970s, the open-air SEVEN CORNERS CENTER was being outpositioned by more trendy retail venues in its trade area. Its British owner started an enclosing renovation, that was underway by July 1971. The roofing reno was completed in 1972.
Drawing from the Westminster Investing Corporation 

By the early 1990s, SEVEN CORNERS CENTER was in a downward spiral. Between early 1995 and late 1997, the complex was given a major remodeling. The mall proper and Garfinckel's were gutted and renovated, with a vacant Woodward & Lothrop being razed. It was replaced by a vertically-stacked Shopper's Club and Home Depot (in medium gray).

Barnes & Noble was part of the Phase I renovation of SEVEN CORNERS CENTER. The store, which was one of the first to open in the renovated shopping hub, began business in late 1995.
Photo from 

Ross Dress For Less was also brought into SEVEN CORNERS as part of the Phase I renovation. It, too, opened for business in late 1995.
Photo from 

The vertically-stacked Shopper's Club-Home Depot, and an adjacent parking garage, were the only newly-built structures at the new & improved SEVEN CORNERS CENTER. Part of the Phase II renovation, these stores opened for business in late 1997.
Photo from

Chipotle Mexican Grill, an outparcel of the shopping center, opened for business in 2008.
Photo from

In 2010, newer tenants include Syms apparel and The Room Store. Two sit-down restaurants have also been built in the periphery of the shopping center; Red Robin Gourmet Burgers and the aforementioned Chipotle Mexican Grill.

SEVEN CORNERS CENTER celebrated its 60th anniversary in late 2016. In a contemporary site plan, we see that Burlington (Coat Factory) has moved into a vacant Syms space. Likewise, Home Depot has expanded into area previously filled by The RoomStore (and later by RoomStyle).

We conclude our SEVEN CORNERS section with a contemporary view of the northern Virginia shopping hub.
Photo from Wikipedia / "Mdy66"
Arlington Boulevard / US 50 and Leesburg Pike
Fairfax County, Virginia

Construction commenced on Washington, DC's first suburban shopping mall in June 1955. The complex was built on a 32-acre tract, located 6 miles southwest of the United States Capitol, in an unincorporated section of Fairfax County, Virginia known as Seven Corners. The parcel was once occupied by the farm of Frederick Foote, Senior.

The area was named for its junction of five roads; Arlington Boulevard, Leesburg Pike, Wilson Boulevard, Sleepy Hollow Road and Hillwood Avenue. These merged at a point northwest of the shopping center tract and form "Seven Corners."

SEVEN CORNERS CENTER was designed and developed by the DC-based Kass-Berger Organization. The first three operational tenants held grand openings on September 20, 1956. These stores were Joseph R. Harris, Franklin Simon and a 4-level (128,000 square foot) Woodward & Lothrop ["Low-thrup"]. The second anchor department store, a 3-level (71,000 square foot) Julius Garfinckel & Company, was dedicated, along with the rest of the mall, on October 4, 1956.

Open-air in format, the split-level shopping hub encompassed 600,000 leasable square feet and consisted of two covered concourses; one accessed from the southern (upper level) parking area, the second from the northern (lower level) lot. Beneath lower level stores was a basement, which connected with two service tunnels.

Charter inline stores included L. Frank Company, Peck & Peck, Chandler's Shoes and Mayer & Company Furniture. An F.W. Woolworth 5 & 10 and Peoples Drug had 2 levels. Woolworth's had an escalator between its floors; the levels of Peoples Drug were connected via a staircase. A Western Auto store and Fairfax County National Bank main office were outparcels of the mall proper. 

In addition, there was a freestanding Food Lane supermarket. Operated as a subsidiary of Philadelphia-based Food Fair, the (32,000 square foot) grocery opened on November 28, 1956 and was rebranded as a Food Fair on September 15, 1960.

SEVEN CORNERS CENTER was the preeminent shopping destination in northern Virginia until the malling of the area gained impetus in the 1960s. Alexandria's LANDMARK CENTER {4 miles southeast, in Alexandria} was dedicated in 1965. TYSONS CORNER CENTER {5 miles northwest, in Fairfax County} opened in 1968.

Great Britain's Westminster Investing Corporation had acquired the SEVEN CORNERS complex in 1963. They performed an enclosing renovation between 1971 and 1972. At this time, they also proposed a major expansion that would have extended the mall onto an adjacent 11.6-acre parcel. Before the expansion could begin, the zoning of the land had to be changed from residential to commercial. Arlington County refused to approve the zoning change in September 1972. The expansion project was eventually abandoned.

Another more modest mall renovation was conducted in 1977. To make SEVEN CORNERS CENTER more competitive, it was deemed necessary to attract  a younger clientele. Interior spaces were spruced up with new carpeting and fixtures. Sixteen new stores were also signed. These included Susie's Casuals, Pants Corral, Tiffany's Bakery, The Orange Bowl and Naturally Yogurt.   

As the face lift renovation was being carried out, the malling of Washington and its environs continued unabated. By 1988, there were twenty regional shopping venues in the SEVEN CORNERS trade area. The days of SEVEN CORNERS CENTER as a major shopping center were coming to an end. This was exacerbated by the closing of its Garfinckel's, in June 1990. The building was leased to F & M Distributors, a discount drug store.

A prospective demalling of the property had been on the drawing board for some years. Phase I of the project got underway in the mid-1990s, under the auspices of Maryland-based Saul Centers. Smaller inline tenants were moved to an adjacent strip center in June 1995. The existing mall, excluding the Woodward & Lothrop structure, was gutted and reconfigured with exterior-entranced store spaces.

Woodward & Lothrop shut down in November 1995. Its building was demolished in October 1996. By this time, new Phase I stores had opened. These included Barnes & Noble, Ross Dress For Less, Best Buy and Bob's Store (a Connecticut-based discount apparel retailer). Two outparcel restaurants, Wendy's and Pizzaria Uno, opened for business in March and September 1996.

Phase II of the renovation involved the construction of a vertically-stacked (72,300 square foot) Shopper's Club Food & Pharmacy and (124,400 square foot) Home Depot. These were built on the old Woodward & Lothrop spot and opened for business in late 1997. A multilevel parking garage had also been constructed. With the dedication of these structures, the renewed SEVEN CORNERS CENTER encompassed approximately 561,000 leasable square feet and contained around thirty stores and services.

Over the ensuing years, tenants came and went. Bob's Store closed in the summer of 1997. Best Buy shut down in 2003. New Jersey's Syms apparel was in operation between August 2009 and December 2011. The Texas-based RoomStore, a home furnishings retailer, was shuttered in July 2012.

A (47,400 square foot) Burlington Coat Factory assumed space vacated by Syms, and opened its doors on October 26, 2012. Home Depot expanded into a 55,000 square foot space, which had been occupied by The RoomStore (and later by RoomStyle). The expanded (180,400 square foot) Home Depot was dedicated in September 2016.


The Washington Post
The Evening Star (Washington, DC)
The Falls Church News-Free Press
The Northern Virginia Sun (Arlington, Virginia) Branch Store.doc / Fairfax County Chamber Of Commerce website / Saul Centers
Maryland's Prince Georges Plaza

PRINCE GEORGES PLAZA (a.k.a. P G PLAZA) was located in the District's northeast Maryland suburbs. Upon its completion in 1959, the open-air mall was  heralded as "a commercial city as modern as voyages to the moon."
Graphics from Eastern Shopping Centers

Twenty-eight tenants opened for business in March 1959 (a Hecht Company department store and Grand Union grocery had been inaugurated in the fall of 1958). G.C. Murphy became one of the final charter tenants, when it opened its doors in August of 1959.
Advert from Eastern Shopping Centers   

A view of the original mall's Main Entrance. This was flanked by several flag poles, which created a "Court of Flags." This feature was used in other malls of the period, such as Boston's NORTHSHORE CENTER and Philly's KING OF PRUSSIA PLAZA.
Photo from Library of Congress 

Behind the Court of Flags was a large porte cochere.
Photo from Library of Congress

A high definition image shows the mall's open Center Court area. Hahn Shoes is seen on the left, along with Hecht's. Far in the distance is A.S. Beck Shoes.
Photo from / Shorpy The American Historical Photo Archive

A circa-1959 site plan shows the original configuration of P G PLAZA. At the time, there was only one anchor department store in the complex. In its original state, the mall encompassed approximately 690,000 leasable square feet and had parking provisions for 4,500 autos. 


THE HECHT COMPANY (with the Maryland Room restaurant, Beauty Salon and outdoor Exhibit Patio) / F. W. WOOLWORTH 5 & 10 (with luncheonette) / G.C. MURPHY 5 & 10 (with luncheonette) / GRAND UNION supermarket / A.S. Beck Shoes / AAA Cab Company / Baker's Shoes / Barricini Candy / Becker's Leather Goods / Bond Clothes / Citizens Bank of Maryland / Doctor Stanley Tempchin, Optometrist / Edwards Shoes / Farnes, Conrad & Painter Insurance Agency / Financial Planning Company / Flagg Brothers Shoes / Hahn Shoes / Halper Millinery / Hechinger / Hi-Boy Donut Shop / High's Dairy Store / Hot Shoppes Cafeteria / Household Finance Corporation / Joseph R. Harris ladies' wear / Jules "Custom"  Hairstylist / Kay-Franc-Ross Jewelers / L. Frank Company ladies' wear / Lerner Shops ladies' wear / Loft's Candies / Maternity Modes / Mary Jane Shoes / Miles Shoes / Mill End Shop / Music Time / Ormond Shop / Peoples Drug (with luncheonette) / P G P Barber Shop / Paris Hats / Plaza Bootery / Plaza Liquors / Plaza Stride-Rite Bootery / Quality & Savings Laundry / Roger's Toys / Theodore Nye Jewelers / Wilson's Men's Shop 

Bethesda-based Hot Shoppes opened a cafeteria-style restaurant at P G PLAZA in July 1959. At the time, a "family dinner" could be bought for just $1.15!   
Advert from Hot Shoppes, Incorporated

A P G PLAZA logo montage features trademarks of eight charter tenants. The original mall included two 5 & 10-type stores (F.W. Woolworth and G.C. Murphy), as well as a Grand Union grocery, Peoples Drug and Bond Clothes.

Here we see a breezeway that was on the west side of the Hecht's anchor store.
Photo from Library of Congress

The same area, but viewed from the northwest.
Photo from Library of Congress

A stairway, connecting the lower parking lot at the rear of the complex with the main ("Mall") level. At the top of the staircase was an open "Exhibit Patio." This was used for fashion shows, concerts and other public functions.
Photo from Library of Congress

A view of the rear of the mall and Hecht's store; this taken from the lower level parking lot.
Photo from Library of Congress

From this vantage point, we see the west end of Center Court, with Barricini Candy in the foreground. Hahn Shoes and Hecht's stores are across the mallway.
Photo from Library of Congress 

Proceeding farther west, we have a Wilson's men's wear store on the left side of the mallway.
Photo from Library of Congress

Well into the West Wing, we see Bond Clothes on the left and Edwards Shoes on the right.
Photo from Library of Congress

The Grand Union supermarket at PRINCE GEORGES PLAZA operated in two different locations. Here we see the first, which opened for business in  December 1958. It anchored the mall's northwest corner.
Photo from Library of Congress

The original Grand Union was replaced by this building, which housed a 149,000 square foot Woodward & Lothrop. This store opened in August 1966. Grand Union had moved into a new store on the southwest corner of the complex.
Drawing from Woodward & Lothrop, Incorporated