Amy and I moved to the National Capital Region in 1981, settling into a condo unit in the Virginia Square region of Arlington, Virginia.
The metro area in and around Washington in 1981 was a little over three million, a large area when compared to our home in Alton, Illinois (just north of St. Louis) but still a hell of a lot smaller than what it became by the time we left in 2004.
We often at dinner at The Magic Pan in nearby Seven Corners, shopped at Garfinkels and Lord & Taylor, two of the premier stores of the region in those days. Olympus Gym became my spot for workouts.
Came across a story in The Washington Post from last year about attempts to revive Seven Corners after too many years of a decline that began before we left. Garfinkels closed om 1990 after filing for bankruptcy. Lord & Taylor, considered the “oldest luxury department store in North America,” became just another mid-range outlet after May Company acquired it 1986. Empty stores appeared at the mall.
Woodward and Lothrop, another once thriving department store chain, closed in Seven Corners and later went out of business completely. Same for Raleighs.
A Home Depot took over one side of the mall and became one of the locations hit by the “Washington sniper” in 2002.
The Magic Pan enjoyed some notoriety in as the last location of the once thriving restaurant chain to close.
Seven Corners was, and still is, a traffic nightmare in an area where bottlenecks and bad traffic catastrophes are legendary.
Writes The Post:
Motorists can spend long, agonizing minutes trying to get in or out of the oddly shaped, multipronged intersection that gives Seven Corners its name. It’s a maze of roadways, where Route 50 suddenly ducks beneath ramps connecting to cross streets and a wrong move can mean trying for a U-turn against a seemingly unending river of cars.
“We call that ‘The Monster,’ ” said Jane Martin, one of the residents concerned about increased density who gestured one afternoon toward a growing cluster of cars blocking the intersection while someone tried to turn left.
Seven Corner sits just outside Falls Church, once one of the trendiest places in Northern Virginia. Police drove Volvos as their cruisers in Falls Church when we arrived in 1981 because local businessman and politician Don Beyer owned a Volvo dealership in town and won the the contract to provide the cars.
Seven Corners are not the only Washington-area malls that are struggling or have closed. Landmark Mall in Alexandria, Owings Mills in Maryland, White Flint in Rockville, MD are just a few of the many.
Many local chains are gone too. Hechts either closed or became Macy’s outlets when Federated acquired The May Company. Amy worked for a while as a buyer for Hechts.
The times, they are a changing.