Silver Spring in Montgomery County, Maryland — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
The Silver Spring Shopping Center
The 1938 Silver Theatre and Silver Spring Shopping Center complex is a landmark of early 20th-century commercial architecture. It profoundly affected the development of suburban Silver Spring as well as helped shape the growth of the region. It also stands as an early example of a trend that would change the way in which Americans experience entertainment and shopping.
Eight years prior to opening of the theater and center, the first modern "shopping center" that combined a parking lot fronting a street with a planned mix of commercial tenants was opened on Connecticut Avenue in Washington's Cleveland Park. Known as the "Park-and-Shop," it was a spectacular success, inspiring the construction of a number of similar neighborhood shopping centers throughout the region.
In 1936, local realtors C.H. Hillegeist, Albert Small, and S.E. Godden optioned land on the corner of Georgia Avenue and Colesville Road for a new theater and shopping center. The following year, William Alexander Julian, a wealthy manufacturer and Treasurer of the United States, developed the site. Julian recruited his close friend, John Eberson of New
Eberson, known as the "Dean of American Theater Architects," designed over 40 movie theaters during his life as well as numerous other buildings. Born in Romania, he studied architecture in Vienna, Austria, before moving to the United States. This is one of only a few theaters he designed to be associated with a shopping center.
Construction began in March 1938 and was completed by September. For the formal opening on October 27, The Washington Post ran a special section that touted the shopping center as "Designed to Serve Needs of 50,000," as well as its planning for the future of Washington's urbanization. The event was attended by 6,000 people, including Washington Senators' baseball legend Walter Johnson who remarked that the scene "reminds me of Broadway."
However, by the 1970s downtown Silver Spring began to fall behind as new shopping and entertainment areas were created further out. The battle to preserve the Silver Theatre and Silver Spring Shopping Center complex was launched by the Art Deco Society of Washington in 1984. The Society was supported by Allied Civic Group, Montgomery Civic Federation, Silver Spring Historical Society, and many local neighborhood and civic organizations. A decade later, the Montgomery County Council voted unanimously to add the Silver Theatre-Silver Spring Shopping Center to the county's historic preservation master plan.
In 1966, Montgomery County acquired the theater and shopping center. In April 1998, PFA Silver Spring LLC agreed to develop the Silver Spring Shopping Center as part of extensive new development that included a multiplex cinema, shops, offices, and a hotel. As part of the preservation effort, the county entered into an agreement with the Maryland Historical Trust to protect the façade of the shopping center. The Silver Spring Shopping Center re-opened in May 2004.
Silver Spring's new downtown center reflects a strong public/private effort to preserve the past as a gift to the future, by once again setting the trend in how Americans experience entertainment and shopping.
Photographs courtesy of
American Film Institute | Curt Teich Postcard Archives | Beverly Fincham
Silver Spring Historical Society | Richard Striner Collection, The Historical Society of Washington, D.C.
Elsie M. Sullivan | The Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection, Florida International University
Curtain courtesy of Montgomery County
Displays designed by [ B ] Creative Group, Inc.
David H. Gleason Associates, Inc., Architects
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Architecture • Arts, Letters, Music • Industry & Commerce. In addition, it is included in the Art Deco series list.
Location. 38° 59.766′ N, 77° 1.628′ W. Marker is in Silver Spring, Maryland, in Montgomery County. Marker can be reached from Georgia Avenue (U.S. 29) south of Colesville Road (U.S. 29), on the right when traveling north. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 8727 Colesville Road, Silver Spring MD 20910, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. The Silver Theatre (a few steps from this marker); a different marker also named Silver Spring Shopping Center (within shouting distance of this marker); E. Brooke Lee III (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); Silver Opportunity (about 500 feet away); Building Blocks (about 500 feet away); Silver Spring Armory (about 600 feet away); Veterans Plaza (about 700 feet away); Springing Up (about 700 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Silver Spring.
Credits. This page was last revised on September 14, 2020. It was originally submitted on January 19, 2018, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia. This page has been viewed 95 times since then. Photos: 1, 2. submitted on January 19, 2018, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.