atre that activists saved the movie palace
from the wrecking ball in the 1990s, and
in 2003 it became the American Film
Institute’s screening center.
In 1947, the Hecht Co. opened its
With the opening of the county’s first
first department store outside of Wash-
ington, D.C., at the intersection of Fen-
ton Street and Ellsworth Drive. Other
stores followed, including J.C. Penney
and Sears, Roebuck & Co., making the
downtown a pleasant, walkable destina-
tion for many. Restaurants and specialty
establishments completed the mix.
Meanwhile, Montgomery Blair High
School gained a certain mystique thanks
to high academic achievement, athletic
victories and standout graduates includ-
ing Goldie Hawn, Ben Stein, Connie
Chung and Carl Bernstein (the last of
whom nearly flunked out).
As with many communities, the good
times began to fade in the 1970s. Whea-
ton Plaza and the Beltway had opened,
shifting traffic and business away from
Georgia, Colesville and other main
streets. Crime became a major concern.
Metro station in 1978, however, the scene
was set for a downtown revival. There
were a few missteps, notably a proposed
mega mall to be named, with no sense
of irony, the “American Dream.” But in
1999, county leaders broke ground for a
redevelopment plan that created pedes-
trian streets and brought major busi-
nesses to the area.
“For a while, it looked like downtown
Silver Spring would remain a ghost town
forever,” Gottlieb, the filmmaker, says.
“Now there’s foot traffic again, a sense of
life on the streets—like we used to have in
the old days, but in an updated setting.” n
People in the neighborhood are really
involved in their kids’ schools, in the local
community, in environmental issues. You
see a lot of that grassroots involvement.
Many of us know our elected official. If we
need a stop sign or a sidewalk, we know
who to call. Everyone is very engaged.
Director of public affairs and communications,
Purple Line Transit Partners