The Glenmont Arcade

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November 20, 2020
Amy Lusignan

“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.

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10 Comments

  1. Larry Guggenheim on November 20, 2020 at 10:36 am

    There used to be an arcade full of cool coin-operated games back in the 80’s, somewhere in the vicinity of where the barber shop is in the above pic. There used to be a Victor Litz music store in the back corner on the same side as well.

  2. David on November 20, 2020 at 10:37 am

    I used to frequent the bowling alley every weekend – DUCKPINS! But I believe the reason it was named Glenmont Arcade is because the definition of an arcade is an arched covered passageway or avenue (as between shops).

  3. Nile Doyle on November 20, 2020 at 11:15 am

    I’d always heard that the owners of the “arcade” refused to update the building or make repairs as they didn’t have to and they managed to get tenants and who cares if it’s ugly. Now it’s an iconic piece of history? Not to me, and I remember it from the 60’s too. I loved the aquarium shop, and it’s very nice and helpful owner. What I do still like about it is the free for all parking lot, I hope they never put up dividers and medians, like the rat maze that most lots have become. It’s nice to cut through there, kind of like an arcade game in itself. (seriously, don’t change the parking lot).

  4. Tina on November 20, 2020 at 11:34 am

    This was a great post Amy 😄. Thanks. I always thought the Arcade was a “kids hangout” so I never actually went in there 🙃.
    Love the history posts/lessons !!!

  5. Hamilton Quant on November 20, 2020 at 12:56 pm

    Two of the stores that I used to frequent back in the 70’s and 80’s were a High’s convenience store and a hobby shop (I forget the name of it). I would buy my school supplies at the People’s Drug store. There used to be a Fotomat “island” in the parking lot somewhere there, too!

    • John on November 20, 2020 at 4:37 pm

      The hobby shop was called The Squadron Shop

  6. David Esperanza on November 20, 2020 at 9:17 pm

    I grew up in the Glenmont silver spring area and in the 80’s and early 90’s and seeing this Arcade sign brings me back all the memories. Shopping at the People’s drug store and visiting the aquarium shop. There was also a used furniture shop right across the barber shop.
    There was also a Kodak or fotomat island right where the bank that’s close to McDonald’s is situated at and I also remember sitting down to eat the most delicious pizza at the Pizza Hutt that use to exist there once upon a time.
    So many memories and even a tv comercial came to mind from a store across the Shopping center and it sold TVs, and electronics called Belmont.

  7. Sandra Batterden on November 21, 2020 at 9:39 am

    Unfortunately the adjacent shopping center owner bullied the SHA and County to use the jug handle exit from east bound Georgia Ave into the shopping center. This effectively rendered the Fourth District Police Station unsafe and difficult to access. Now the tenant, Shoppers, is gone and the police are stuck with a very bad design for a long time. Greedy!

    • Eman on November 21, 2020 at 1:08 pm

      The Shoppers is currently being replaced by another grocery store, so not much loss from Shoppers going under. The rest of the shopping center still needs a re-fresh. Too bad the multi owners of the stores can’t all agree to renovate.

  8. Guyman on November 25, 2020 at 3:04 pm

    Also there was a Pool Hall hidden all the way in the back to the right. Next to Tony Aponte’s Shoe repair.

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