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Odenton Shopping Center: What's Under the Asphalt

The Odenton Shopping Center has been a fixture for over 50 years. The land on which it was built has historical significance and the Odenton Heritage Society is piecing together that history.

The arrow head shaped piece of land that runs from the Odenton traffic circle up to what was once called Stoney Hill (the location of the present day Wheels Skate Center) and between Annapolis and Odenton Roads has always been a popular area for travelers and trade. The future site of the Odenton Shopping Center (OSC) has more history to it than just a vacant lot developed for modern commercial use. From the beginning, when Native American trails crossed in Odenton, the future site of the Odenton Shopping Center has been an area for trade and commerce that continues.

What we know as Annapolis and Odenton Roads began as Native American trails, which are documented in late 18th century maps of Maryland. These trails were used by Native Americans travelling north and south and later by settlers traveling between Annapolis and Frederick.

A possible, undocumented, reason for why the early trails intersected where they did [near the traffic circle] could be due to the location of a once bountiful spring. The eastern portion of the land on which the OSC now sits once contained a fresh water spring known as Picture Spring. The spring was a resting area for Native Americans traveling through the Odenton area. In her 1978 publication, Odenton, A Town The Railroad Built, Catherine O’Malley described the site as follows. 

“…,'Picture Spring' was located in Odenton, near the present day A&P, on Odenton Road, in a clump of sycamore and willow trees on which the Indians had carved pictures, totem pole style. It was a resting place for the Indians who came from the North and were on their way to make war with the Southern Maryland Piscataways and the Eastern Shore Maryland Nanticokes. The spring was a strong source of crystal clear water, which flowed into the Severn River. But alas, it was buried when the Odenton Shopping Center area was developed. A very large pile of stone chips, broken arrowheads and Indian artifacts located near the spring is also gone, being buried beneath approximately 20 feet of fill dirt.”

The 2003 Odenton Small Area Plan, Community History, paralleled Mrs. O’Malley’s research stating that the site was popular with Native American inhabitants who were in the area between 8000 B.C. to 1400 A.D. and used Picture Spring for stone tool manufacturing and campsites. As the area became populated with settlers, the Native Americans moved on or died from being exposed to disease. The site of the future OSC remained wooded.

Odenton continued to grow and became even more populated as the result of the opening of the Annapolis and Elkridge Railroad in 1840 and the Baltimore and Potomac Railroad crossing the Annapolis & Elkridge RR in 1869; 1869 being the year that the town of Odenton was officially founded. The Annapolis & Elkridge Railroad paralleled Annapolis Road on its way through Odenton and onto Gambrills. The closest stop to the future OSC was Sappington Station, a short walk from Picture Spring. Prior research conducted by the Odenton Heritage Society shows that Civil War Union Soldiers camped not far from Picture Spring near the intersection of Sappington Station Road and Burns Crossing Road, which would have been on the north side of the A&E RR Sappington Station.

Throughout the expansion of population in Odenton the future site of the OSC remained wooded and Picture Spring an active area for drawing water. Oral histories collected by the Odenton Heritage Society revealed that in the late 1800’s through the early 1900’s there was a small enclave of homes near Picture Spring. Families used the spring for water and maintained the access to the spring by protecting it from environmental damage. Residents of Odenton from the 1950’s remember the site to be a wooded area with a natural spring. Locals would draw water and kids would play in the spring in the hot summer days.

Several families owned the sections of land that would need to be purchased to build the OSC. David Eutsler purchased the wooded lots in the late 1950’s and later partnered with Stanley Yaffe to assemble the lots necessary to build the OSC. Research is ongoing into the dates the OSC opened and tenants filled the space. From what has been learned thus far, the Odenton Shopping Center opened in 1958.

The original shopping center spanned from the liquor store to the barbershop. The point where the addition was added can be seen outside of the barbershop. The curb line is straight up to the barbershop and then angles out to continue up the hill.  The angle in the curb is where the original OSC stopped. The addition created an angle in the design. At this point, the stores had recessed entry ways some twenty feet from the curb and the awning covering the sidewalk was wider. After the angle, the stores entrance ways became closer to the curb as they are today. Research is still being conducted as to when the addition was added. However, there were newspaper ads in 1967 announcing the arrival of W.T. Grants department store, which originally occupied the now vacant grocery store section.

An original tenant was Beacon’s Pharmacy, owned by Stanley Yaffe. Beacon Pharmacy, was documented in a Capital Gazette newspaper article as, “the centerpiece of the Odenton Shopping Center since each opened in 1958”. Beacon’s was sold to CVS in 1995.

Another of the original tenants, which remains to this day, is the Odenton Barbers, Tanning, and Fitness. The original owner, Bill Burroughs, opened a shop in Fort Meade in 1963. When the OSC was developed and opened, Mr. Burroughs moved the shop to the OSC in 1965 and has been there ever since. Oral histories recall a sandlot ball field at the western end of the property where barber customers awaiting service and local residents would play pickup baseball games.

In the mid 1970’s, the A&P grocery store moved from its original anchor spot at the east end of the OSC, to a larger separate facility that still sits perpendicular to the shopping center. The original out building was connected to the OSC by an awning covered walkway. The first major renovation took place in 1991, which straightened the angled sidewalk and modernized the façade.

An ad in the 1971 Arundel High School Panorama listed these stores as members of the OSC. *

Arnold's Shoes, Beacon Pharmacy, Citizen’s National Bank, Gordon’s Clothier’s, Launette Inc., Odenton Barbers, Odenton Liquors, Princess Shops, Salon on the Green, Schumann’s Bakery, Western Auto

* A&P grocery and W.T. Grants were part of the OSC at this time. It is not known why those businesses were not included in the ad.

The Odenton Shopping Center has always served its community well. Providing access to a centrally located business environment to serve basic consumer needs with a variety of locally owned as well as national chain stores.

The exact dates associated with the different phases of the Odenton Shopping Center are still being researched and work continues on this project. The completed work will be published in the December 2013 issue of the Odenton Heritage Society’s publication, with future plans for a display in the museum.

If you have information that would further this project’s research, photographs and/or objects to donate, please contact the Odenton Heritage Society at P.O. Box 282 Odenton, MD 21113 or email- odentonheritage@verizon.net .

The Odenton Heritage Society Historical Center is located at 1367 Odenton Road and is open to the public on the first Sunday of the month from 1 PM to 4 PM. The Odenton Heritage Society Museum takes visitors on a 100-year journey from the first steam railroad in this area in the 1840’s to the Nevamar plastics factory in the 1940’s. Permanent exhibits and AV programs show how Odenton grew from a railroad crossing to a thriving town that supported the movement of trains. For more information visit the Odenton Heritage Society website at www.odentonheritage.org.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Leigh Couture April 11, 2013 at 08:40 PM
Great historic info. thanks, Leigh
Greg Mazzella April 11, 2013 at 10:06 PM
Thank you.
Prasad April 13, 2013 at 01:04 PM
Wow! Spring should have been saved!
Susan Dunn Valentine April 14, 2013 at 12:52 AM
I remember an Ames Dept Store was located toward the end, which later became home to Superfresh.
Heidi Brotherton April 15, 2013 at 03:41 PM
Thanks Greg for a very informative article. I never knew the History of Odenton and I am learning more and more as I live here. The one thing my husband Joe and I always comment on is how friendly the people are in Odenton. I sure hope it doesn't lose that small town feeling. One thing Odenton needs is more full BREAKFAST restuarants. Come Sunday mornings.....YOU WILL BE WAITING IN LINES.
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