Bel Air, Maryland
Bel Air, Maryland is the county seat of Harford County, Maryland, a fast growing suburban county in the Baltimore region. Years ago, this was't all good for downtown Bel Air. Strip shopping centers and even Harford Mall all built up around the outskirts of town. What was once a vibrant shopping district began to die on the vine as small retailers closed up shop. But in recent years, things have begun to turn around. Restaurants and unique shops have opened in downtown Bel Air and now the area has become vibrant once again.
Bel Air is located in central Harford County. The town is about 30 miles northeast of Baltimore, Maryland and within the Baltimore metropolitan area. Bel Air's Main Street is, in fact, Main Street. Most businesses are on Main Street but a few others can be found on the side streets, including some on Bond Street, which runs parallel to Main Street. Also, Main Street is Maryland Route 924, which in downtown Bel Air, is northbound 924. Bond Street, is southbound 924. Other nearby Main Street areas include Havre de Grace also in Harford County, and North East and Chesapeake City, in nearby Cecil County.
We'll start our tour of Bel Air's downtown at the south end and work our way north. Bel Air is the County Seat of Harford County, Maryland and goes by the nickname, the Heart of Harford County.
Along the east side of Main Street are a row of shops and restaurants.
Here's a better look at those murals on the side of the Main Street Oyster House walls.
Some more shops along the west side of Main Street. There's a height limit in Bel Air, but that water tower looms large over Main Street.
More shops on the east side of Main Street and a large office building in the distance. Since Bel Air is the County Seat, you'll find not only shops and restaurants but other businesses that congretate around a county seat.
Here's a closer view of that office building. A large fire had broken out in 1972, wiping out many structures on the east side of Main Street, so you'll find many newer structures in downtown Bel Air as opposed to historic ones. Notice the heart on the shop on the right side of the photo? You see the heart symbol a lot in Bel Air.
Across the street are some older buildings, housing a salon and a barber shop. There's even a bailbondsman. You know you're not far from the County Courthouse.
And right next door is the Harford County Courthouse just like I promised.
Next door, along Office Street are some historic buildings housing various offices. The name of the street is appropriate.
Directly across the street from the County Courthouse is another office building. On the side wall is a mural celebrating Bel Air, Maryland.
Next door, heading northbound is a two story restaurant. If you enjoy eating outside, you can sit up on the roof. The parking sign points to a large public parking garage.
Here's a view of that public parking garage. You'll find plenty of parking there and it's just a block east of Bel Air's Main Street.
This is a view of the west side of Main Street looking northbound. Main Street in downtown Bel Air is a one way street heading northbound. It's also Maryland Route 924.
Here's another view of the same stretch of businesses, looking northbound. These photos were shot in October, which explains the banners advertising Pinktober.
Across the street is a drug store with a traditional look to it.
At the southeast corner of the intersection of Main Street and Kimmie Way is a pizza shop and an architectural firm. Notice the pink ribbons. Again, this was in October.
At the northwest corner of the same intersection (Kimmie Way turns into Pennsylvania Avenue) is a more modern looking building with some shops, including an Italian delicatessen, selling cheese and wine.
Lutz's Appliances was a longtime retailer in downtown Bel Air for many years. Like in other Main Street communities, retailers in downtown Bel Air fought hard against suburban strip shopping centers and malls on the outskirts of town that competed against the retailers in its traditional core.
Across the street, is a Chinese restaurant and another retailer who is using that heart imagery. If you look in the window's reflection in the bottom left-hand corner of the picture, you can see me taking the photo.
As the more traditional retailers moved out of Bel Air over the years, they were replaced with unique boutiques and funkier shops like the ones you see here, including this comic book shop. It gives people a great excuse to go out of their way and come to Main Street.
Across the street are a row of well-preserved historic buildings, being used for a wide variety of purposes.
And across the street from that is an inviting and relaxing park for people visiting the area.
Just north of the park, is the Bel Air Armory. Built in 1915, the Armory was designed to look like a castle and was home to a Maryland National Guard unit. In front of the Armory, is a work of art designed to look like a heart.
Here's another view of the Bel Air Armory. Today, it can be rented out for events. It is also home to the area's Visitor Center. You can also find public restrooms inside.
Across the street is another row of shops and businesses. Notice how this block of buildings curve around with the curve in the road?
At the northeast corner of Main Street and Lee Street is another more modern building. It's good to see that the newer buildings were built with the scale and size of downtown Bel Air in mind so as to maintain the walkable nature of the area. Again the banners hanging from the walls, reflect that Pinktober theme.
Here's another view of that same building, this time from a southbound angle. In the background, you can see the Bel Air Armory, and in the far right, you can even see Bel Air's large parking garage, rising in the distance.
Across the street is the Bel Air Business Center. This building has a mid-century feel to it with its cut stone exterior. It may be a Business Center, but that business also includes surfing and snowboarding, if those storefronts are any indication.
One last collection of shops on the northern end of Main Street. But our tour isn't quite over yet.
A block over to the west you'll find a few more shops and businesses. Bond Street parallels Main Street. It's also Maryland Route 924 but runs one way southbound whereas Main Street runs the northbound side of 924.
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For More Information
Bel Air Downtown Alliance
Town of Bel Air
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