There it sat, the polished former Hochschild Kohn terrazzo floor I recalled from my youth.
The restored floor, holding the tables and racks of the Daedalus Books & Music due to open this morning, is a component of this building's underrated sleek modern design. We've overlooked this Govans landmark's finer points for too long.
As I walked in the other night, through the big glass door at York and Belvedere, I thought that for all the talk about midcentury design, this is a splendid version - a progressive, unencumbered modern design, with steel, glass and curving atrium walls. What about that wonderful ramp heading up, with stairs down to the ground floor, where they used to sell the mothballs - not so far from the old Coffee Cup lunchroom counter?
Hochschild's Belvedere (we call it Belvedere Square today) could not have been more different, lighter and more casual than its downtown mother-ship department store at Howard and Lexington, a heavy building with numerous sales floors on diffferent levels, topped by a formal sixth-floor tea room and toy department.
I spoke to Walter Sondheim Jr., the retired Hochschild's executive and civic leader, who was put in charge of setting up the store's suburban empire after his World War II discharge from the Navy.
His firm's Edmondson Village store opened in 1947. Belvedere followed and opened its stainless steel doors Sept. 28, 1948. Max Hochschild, the store's then 93-year-old co-owner, cut the ribbon.
"It was a great success from the day it opened," Sondheim said yesterday. "It was so busy that we had other people from out-of-town stores coming in to look at it. From the day it opened, the parking lot was too small, and we got complaints from the people on Orkney Road about their spaces being taken."
He recalled how Baltimore architect James R. Edmunds designed Belvedere with the nationally ranked retail designer Victor Gruen.
"Belvedere's circular entrance was really quite elegant," said Liz Kohn Moser, granddaughter of the store's founder, who now lives in the Inner Harbor. "I think it was as close as we got to the carriage trade."
This week, I discussed the store's personality with Rodgers Forge and former Northwood resident Douglas W. Campbell, who frequently shopped here in the H-K era.
"It was a cozy store," he said. "But the thing I remember is the slight smell of peat moss from the garden department in the basement toward the parking lot. The soda fountain and lunch area was always busy, and it seemed to me there was often a line waiting there."
My own take on old Hochschild's Belvedere is one of personal delight. I love to read, and Hochschild's book department was the best of all the city's contenders. Its phonograph record department was also a knockout. Many a time I left the place with little more than carfare home. So, in its newest life as a bookstore, I can only say: How fitting.