T. Raymond Burch SEPTEMBER 2. 1965
In considering the history and development of the areas now known as College Park, Berwyn Heights, Greenbelt, and adjacent section of Prince Georges County, Maryland, we must go back to the period before the founding of the Maryland Colony when the various Indian Tribes, the original inhabitants, possessed the land. The first recorded history relates that great interest was attracted to the region when Captain John Smith, the famed explorer, sailed up the Potomac River (then known as Patowmack) in the year 1608. He made a map of the region which was quite accurate considering the information then available. His map showed many Indian villages, the largest of which was located on Piscataway Creek in the southern part of what is now Prince Georges County.
In 1632, Charles 1 of England granted a Charter to Cecil Calvert, son of George Calvert, the first Lord Baltimore, of all the lands later known as the State of Maryland. It was a liberal charter granting the largest estate in the world ever made by a monarch to a single one of his subjects. The consideration or cost, was only two Indian arrows to be delivered annually at Windsor Castle and one-fifth of all the gold and silver mined. Cecil Calvert was authorized to grant lands to new settlers under such terms as he saw fit subject, however, to allegiance to the Crown.
In 1633, two ships, the Ark and the Dove, sailed from England, with more than two hundred persons, for the shores of the new Maryland Colony where religious toleration could prevail, under the guidance of Leonard Calvert, brother of Cecil, who became the first Governor of the Colony.
Father Andrew White, the early missionary and historian, relates that Leonard Calvert and his colonists arrived at St. Clement's Island, in the Chesapeake Bay, in the Spring of 1634. History relates their first move was to set up an altar where religious services were held in thanksgiving to Almighty God for their safe landing and symbolic of the religious freedom they had come to establish. Catholic and Protestant; the savage of the new world, and settlers from the old world, clasped hands around that first altar of the new world's freedom and received together the blessings of one common Father. This was the first move in the history of the Christian world to seek religious security, freedom and peace by justice and not be exercise of power.
The Indians were astounded by the arrival of the boats filled with white men. Leonard Calvert, Father White, and a few men continued up the Potomac River to seek a friendly interview with the Piscataway Indian "Emperor Opechancanough," who had succeeded his brother "Powhatan" as Chief of the "Indian Confederacy." He was most powerful in his domain with many tribes and sachems, such as the "Conoys", "Algonquins", "Patuxents", and "Potopacs", subject to him. The Indian tribes living along the Potomac and Patuxent Rivers were hostile and Calvert deemed it unwise to settle so far up the river so returned to the lower Potomac area, where he established his Colony and made St. Mary's City its capital. A fort and garrison was built for the defense of the Colony on the Potomac River. The Colonists endeavored to maintain friendly relations with the Indians and Father White and other Jesuits did missionary work among them and, it is said, lived for awhile in the "palace" of the "Emperor."
These early years presented many problems to the Colonists who had to cope not only with raids from the Indian tribes but also from unfriendly white settlers from across the river in Virginia, who had been previously trading with the Indians and did not welcome the new Maryland settlers. Troubles with the Virginia neighbors were finally settled and gradually, through treaty agreements with the Indians, life was more peaceful and settlement soon developed to the north. An "Act of Religious Toleration" was passed in 1649 which was instrumental in bringing peace to the new land and a fundamental understanding between all religious denominations that set a pattern for our State and Nation which was continued throughout the years and exists today. Thus this Maryland soil became known as "The Land of Sanctuary" because of its freedom of worship.
The earliest manors created in the Colony comprised a minimum of 1,000 acres and many of these grants were created. In time the sizes of the estates were decreased to induce settlement and development.
From St. Mary's settlement spread to the north. This was the beginning of the area we now know as Prince Georges County and the section covered by this story, which then began to be gradually settled by many families from the old country seeking a new life in the new land with freedom from religious persecution and opportunity to pursue life according to their own dictates.
Old records of the writer's own ancestry substantiate the fact of the migration of some of the families of these early settlers into the area discussed in this story as they reveal the Burch family as residents there in the 17th century. These sturdy pioneers first settled on the beautiful and fertile lands along the Patuxent and Potomac Rivers and gradually fought their way back into the woodlands to hew out log cabins for their families. It is said they sometimes found hostile Indians and evidence of the early occupation by the Indian tribes - the original settlers - throughout this area has been discovered over the years.
This led in more recent years to the use of many Indian names, such as Indian Creek and Paint Branch. Many colored clays are still to be found along the banks of the Paint Branch which the Indians are believed to have used for their war paints and handicrafts. Many years later the local boys used these same clays near the old swimming hole to paint their bodies and play Indians. There was great competition among the boys as to who could accumulate the most arrowheads found in the vicinity left from the deadly arrows made and used by the Indians.
Recently when the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission understood the job of renaming all the streets and highways in this area it was decided to use Indian names in keeping with past history. In the old College Park section names of Colleges and Universities were continued as such names had, quite appropriately, been previously given to the streets in that section.
These early settlers were hunters and fishermen as well as farmers and planters. Wild game was plentiful in the forests and the waters afforded an abundance of fish. Travel was mainly by water or by horseback through the woodland trails. It is said that wild horses were so numerous that at times they became a nuisance. The only news from the outside world was obtained from seamen on voyages from England and across the seas.
On May 22, 1695, the Colonial Assembly of Maryland ordained that a new County should be set apart to be known as "Prince Georges County" , and it was decreed that the origin of the new County should date from April 23, 1696.
The boundaries of the new County were: the Patuxent River on the east, Mattawoman Creek on the south, Pennsylvania on the north, and westward along the Potomac River to the Blue Ridge Mountains! Believe it or not, this included most of the present southern Maryland, the District of Columbia, our present neighboring County of Montgomery, and all of western Maryland. In 1791 the part which now forms the District of Columbia was severed from Prince Georges.
In these early days the Colonists lived on large plantations, owned and occupied by the same families from colonial times, some holding the original grants under Lord Baltimore. There were only a few villages, or cross-roads hamlets, then. One of the earliest historical records of the pre-revolutionary period was of a land-grant about the year 1745 to Col. Isaac Walker of a large parcel which appears to have included most of the area that today is known as Branchville, Greenbelt and Berwyn Heights. This was known as "Toaping Castle", named after his old nome in England. The ruins of one of the old Walker homes still remain on what is now Greenbelt Road.
As was the custom in those days the family cemetery was near the house, and here many of the early settlers were buried. Several of these cemeteries remain today in the Green-belt area, marked with the old grave stones, although names and dates have been worn by the passage of time and are barely legible. (Further comments regarding these old burial grounds appear in the Greenbelt section of this story.)
It appears that the portion of the area south of Paint Branch was included in the Calvert family land holdings designated "Riversdale". Other early settlers recorded in old land records and maps of the area appear to have been several branches of the families of Calvert, Turner, Campbell, Beall, Hall, Duvall, Smith, Brashears, Walls, Pumphrey and Walker. As early as 1747 an iron furnace industry was established at Muirkirk, a few miles north of College Park. The large deposits of clay there have been used over the years for the manufacturing of bricks, sewer pipes, and building products. These operations are still carried on there by the Washington Brick Company.
Due to its favorable geographical position and fertility of soil the whole area was quite well settled before the time of the Revolution. Roads were built through the forests and villages gradually began developing. During the 18th century nearly every plantation produced tobacco and this commodity was used as legal tender almost down to the time of the Revolution. It was an unstable currency, fluctuating according to the production and price on the market. There was always a ready market, however, and quantities were shipped to England and other countries overseas. Today tobacco is still one of the principal industries of our County and large quantities are being sold abroad.
In our struggle for independence, culminating in the American Revolution, this area furnished many men as distinguished soldiers and statesmen who aided materially in the winning of our independence. After the Revolution Prince Georges began to grow more rapidly and the need for more and better means Df travel and communication became more essential.
Turnpike roads, constructed under Acts of the General Assembly, afforded the first highways (such as they were) in those days. Many toll-roads were built, with the "gatekeeper" lowering and raising the pole, or "pike" as it was called, across the road as one paid required toll. Thus "turnpike" and later "pike" came into usage as names for these roads. Travel was, of course, by horse-drawn wagons or "buggy with the fringe on top", with an occasional ox-team and cart.
The Washington-Baltimore Turnpike (now U. S. Route 1, Baltimore Boulevard), incorporated December 17, 1812, was the old stage coach route between the North and South and was also a toll road at that time. The stage coach maintained a service for travelers wishing to go north to Baltimore or south to Georgetown (Washington). This coach, drawn by four stalwart horses, required about five hours between Washington and Baltimore. The road was a rough and dusty dirt highway; travel was arduous and tiresome. The horsedrawn vehicles had to be changed at frequent intervals so many Roadhouses and Inns were established along the route.
Among those located in the College Park and nearby areas was the "Rossborough Inn", which was built in 1798 on a site now part of the University of Maryland grounds. This Inn was the center of social life of Southern Maryland and many historic characters stopped under its roof. Others were "Rhodes Tavern", later known as "White House Tavern" (now Del Haven Motel) just above the northern boundary of the City of College Park, and "Vansville Inn", formerly on top of "Vansville Hill" on the old original road to Baltimore.
There were also famous "Roadhouses" in old Bladensburg. It is authoritatively said that General George Washington, General Lafayette and many other distinguished patriots visited these Inns in their travels to Philadelphia.
The movement of produce and merchandise to markets became necessary and long wagon-trains or "drays" were utilized for this purpose, but were frequently bogged down in the soft surfaces of the dirt roads. Some better mode of transport was needed and the railroads came into existence. On February 28, 1827, the General Assembly granted the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Company the first railroad charter granted in the United States. Construction was begun in 1828 and was completed in 1832. Mr. Truman Belt granted B & 0 Railroad a right-of-way for construction of the railroad through the area just north of College Park and a railroad station was built there which became known as "Beltsville." The "Belt Plantation" was called "Locust Grove" and embraced all the land north of the present Hollywood Subdivision, including the section where the Lust Drive-in-Theater is now located. Over the new tracks in 1857 passed the first standard-gauge locomotive, reaching a speed of 19 miles per hour, believe it or not.
Two of the first stations on this railroad were "College Station" at Calvert road (later known as College Park) and "Scaggs Crossing" at Branchville road (later known as Branchville, but now abandoned and closed.) Along this railroad Samuel F. B. Morse's first telegraph line was installed and in 1844 over these wires through this area the first telegraph message in the United States, "What Hath God Wrought", was transmitted. An historical plaque recording this great achievement stands today beside the railroad near Beltsville, just north of College Park. These were two most historical events occurring that brought wide attention to this section of Maryland.
There were two "gristmills" operating, one established by the Scofield brothers dating back to about 1800, and known as "Adelphi Mill", which was situated on Riggs Road at Northwest Branch. The other was located on Brier Creek at Eastern Branch on the west side of Edmonston Road near Calvert Road in the old College Park section. This mill was run by John Mowatt, one of the earliest settlers who came from Scotland in 1880, some of whose descendants still live in this vicinity. Adelphi Mill was later operated by the Riggs family for many years. It was then known as "Riggs Mill" and is so remembered by many old-timers in this area. While the location is not within present boundary lines of the area covered by this story, it was a very important industry to the farmers of that day who carried their grains there to be ground into meal. Today this mill property has been acquired by the National Capital Park and Planning Commission for a recreation park and to retain this historical site in our midst. The old mill and building have been restored and are now used as a community center and playground, known as "Adelphi Mill Community Building and Recreation Park." Many good citizens worked to accomplish this endeavor, especially Mrs. Zella Saylor and the Adelphi Citizens Association. The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission has been highly praised for restoring this old landmark and providing this recreational park.
The "Mowatt Mill", above referred to, also operated as a sawmill. This, too, was a very busy industry, especially during the harvest seasons. As this old method of grinding our grains was succeeded by more modern machinery it was abandoned and permitted to fall into such bad condition in later years that it was completely abandoned and no trace of it can be found today.
The building of the railroad, of course, provided another means of transportation and the "stop" at "Scaggs Crossing" (later known as Branchville) became an important shipping point. In February 1867, a postoffice was established here which was named "Branchville" with Alva M. Parker as first Postmaster. He served only one year and was succeeded by William McKnew. In 1875 Pinkney A. Scaggs was appointed and he and his wife, Cora L. Scaggs, served for years.
Mr. Scaggs operated a general store which he had built in 1888 and was one of the early developers of the area. At one time Walter Whalin, an old-time resident of the Beltsville area, was a partner in this the movement of produce and merchandise to markets became necessary and long wagon-trains or "drays" were utilized for this purpose, but were frequently bogged down in the soft surfaces of the dirt roads. Some better mode of transport was needed and the railroads came into existence. On February 28, 1827, the General Assembly granted the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Company the first railroad charter granted in the United States. Construction was begun in 1828 and was completed in 1832. Mr. Truman Belt granted B & 0 Railroad a right-of-way for construction of the railroad through the area just north of College Park and a railroad station was built there which became known as "Beltsville." The "Belt Plantation" was called "Locust Grove" and embraced all the land north of the present Hollywood Subdivision, including the section where the Lust Drive-in-Theater is now located. Over the new tracks in 1857 passed the first standard-gauge locomotive, reaching a speed of 19 miles per hour, believe it or not.
Mr. Scaggs operated a general store which he had built in 1888 and was one of the early developers of the area. At one time Walter Whalin, an old-time resident of the Beltsville area, was a partner in this business.
Other Postmasters serving at Branchville were; Perry Boswell, appointed in 1906, who then operated the general store and later became a real estate developer in the Mt. Rainier section. Walter R. Harr was appointed in 1917 and also ran the general store, assisted by his wife, Elinor Scaggs Harr, until 1928, when Mrs. Florence Hazard was made Postmistress and the postoffice moved to Branchville Road. She served until 1959. Mrs. Mae Duvall served until 1963, when Postmaster Richard H. Bates was appointed. The Branchville Post-office was discontinued April 24, 1964, and service to the Branchville area placed under the College Park office. A branch of the College Park postoffice has recently been built on Branchville Road near the B&O Railroad.
In 1890 the B&0 Railroad built a station at Branchville as this location had developed into a sizable shipping point. Quantities of iron ore mined in the vicinity were brought to this station for shipment, as well as much fine timber which was taken from nearby woodlands and shipped from this location.
This area figured quite prominently in the Civil War period. While no major conflicts actually occurred in the immediate area, military forces of both sides traveled and camped here. There was a confrontation near old Rhodes Inn, or White House Tavern, but the Southerners retreated down to the campus of the Maryland Agricultural College (predecessor of Maryland University). So ended the nearest approach to actual battle in this area. There were mixed feelings among the people here, but such feelings were healed with the close of the war and left no permanent division between the residents.
After the Civil War period the area gained more population and the following families were among the early settlers: Scaggs, Parker, Carson, Higgins, Shannabrook, Beall, Hall, Duvall, Smith, Riddle, Haker, Linthicum, Lamers, Boileau, Bibb, Cox, Stuart, Bewley, whitely, Daley, Dr. Reyburn, Viles, Middleton, Werber, Metzerott, Brown, Baker, Graves, Carrington, Joyners, Lester, Walker, Schrom, Clarke, Keech, Dr. Eversfield, Tucker, Wallace, Engle, Manning, Mowatt, Reed, Roby, Adley, Shipley, Frost, Burch, Gahan, Dooley, McNamee, Sanford and many other good folks not coming to attention in my research work. While these couple dozen families were scattered over a wide area of most rural character their settlement nevertheless was the beginning of one of the first suburban communities.
The establishment of the Methodist Church on Branchville Road in 1874 and the activities of this religious organization aided greatly in the development of this section. In fact, the work of the various churches in all of the area covered in this story was a very important factor in the sound development of the excellent communities of today, as will be shown under the chapter devoted to "Churches."
Outside of the mining and shipping of iron ore and timber there was no supporting industry at that time. Of course, there was farming and the village blacksmith shops, one operated by John Frost on Branchville Road near the B&0 Railroad, and later another run by Ivey Taylor on Baltimore Pike at Metzerott Road, Mr. Frost was the father of Fred C. Frost, life-long resident of Berwyn Heights, who has been active in school and civic work over many years. A thrill missed by the youngsters of today was that enjoyed by the boys when they watched the sparks fly in these old blacksmith shops.
Among the early settlers who had a great deal to do with the development of this area was the family of John and Jane Bewley, who came here from Wales with their nine children in 1876. They bought about 300 acres of the "Higgins Farm" at a price of approximately S40 per acre. (Wouldn't you like to buy at that price today?!) This was largely the area that later developed as the community of Berwyn.
Part of this land was known as "Redhouse Farm" and the old home which stood on Baltimore Pike about where the present Safeway Supermarket stands today was their home until the building of "Lochinvar" near the present "Holiday Inn".
Mr. John Bewley, Sr., died in 1880, and his widow and the children carried on the farm and dairy operations. The area was heavily timbered and the sons, George and John Bewley, known to all old residents, built a sawmill on the west side of Paint Branch, where the playfields and recreation park are today. A large quantity of the lumber used in building homes in the area came from "Bewley Mill".
Much of this lumber was shipped to distant points and it was quite an industry. If your writer may indulge again in personal memories, I so well remember with great delight the many hours spent at the old sawmill watching the sawdust fly from the huge logs rolled into the saws. As years progressed George Bewley and Edward Daniels, who married Miss Annie Bewley, constructed many of the original homes in this area.
Mr. Daniels developed the "Autoville Subdivision" (named such because of the automobiles then coming into use) and later the large "Daniels Park Subdivision," all now a part of the City of College Park. The road connecting the Baltimore Pike and Riggs Road was opened through the Metzerott and Bewley properties and called "Metzerott Road", the name still in use today.
Another of the early families settling in the old Branchville section was that of John and Mary Burch, parents of the writer, who came out from Washington in 1888 for a summer visit and liked the area so well they remained the balance of their lives. Mr. Burch was appointed Justice of the Peace, which office in those days carried much more authority than today. Judge Burch served as magistrate until his death in 1908 and settled many a civil and domestic case with justice to all.
A close and friendly community spirit prevailed among these staunch and solid old residents. Many of the men folks belonged to an old organization known as "The Fraternal Order of Redmen", who built a community hall on Branchville Road near the railroad station which was the center of many community activities. The ladies, of course, had their quilting parties, socials, etc.
One of the joys of that era was gathering the Christmas greens. The old "Branchville Swamp", as it was then called, where the large industrial operations of the A. H. Smith Company are now located, contained plenty of beautiful holly, crowsfoot, standing cedar and mistletoe, and was the favorite place for this pre-Christmas activity. Much holly and many of the Christmas trees also came out of the "Hollywood Subdivision" which was named because of the beautiful holly trees in that area. Every one cut their own tree and greens and this was one of the thrills of the Christmas season for the youngsters.
The growth of the Branchville community continued slowly but steadily, which led to the eventual consolidation with adjoining communities to form the present City of College Park.
The area of the present City of College Park lying south of Paint Branch started to develop in 1856 when the Maryland Agricultural College was established there. When the "Calvert Estate of Riversdale" was divided among the heirs, 125 acres surrounding the "College Station" of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, embracing most of the land south of Paint Branch to Calvert Road, was given Mrs. Ellie Campbell. Her brother, Charles B. Calvert - one-time president of the Board of Trustees of Maryland Agricultural College -received "MacAlpine" and the acreage to the south. This was an old mansion located on what is now the southern boundary of the City of College Park. Eugene Calvert farmed a large part of this area.
Calvert Road which runs from Baltimore Boulevard to Edraonston Road (now Kenilworth Avenue) was the original country road and is still in use in the same location today. About 1889, Johnson and Curriden, real estate developers, bought the 125 acres from Mrs. Campbell and began to construct homes and a store building. The store, operated by Charles Calvert, was built on the west of the B&O Railroad Station on Calvert Road, and across the road from the original farm house occupied by Mrs. Ellie Campbell. A few large houses in the area near the railroad were soon built and many are still in use today.
There was an old tobacco barn on this land which was later used as St. Andrew's Episcopal Church and now by the Women's Progress Club of College Park. Early settlers found relics of an Indian settlement while digging irrigation ditches along Eastern Branch.
The first public school was built at the corner of what is now Princeton Avenue and Hartwick Road about 1900. Water supply was very limited. A windmill supplied water and the citizens were cautioned to use water sparingly. (Baths only on Saturday nights.)
Dr. W. O. Eversfield, the first resident physician, built on the hill in what is now the "College Heights Estates" section, where some of this pioneer family still reside. (Miss Mary Eversfield was the school teacher at the little school then on Branchville Road.) The Dix residence on what is now Knox Road, where the new "College Park Towers" apartments have recently been built, the "Rossburg" building and several other buildings on the land of the Agricultural College and a large colonial house built by Robert Clark in 1840, known as "Ash Hill" - later called "Hitching Post Hill", on a tract of land containing 999 acres, more or less, just west of the Calvert farm, later to be the Agricultural College land, constituted this College Park area in those early days.
The "Heurich Farm" where the large "Prince Georges Plaza Regional Shopping Center" is now located, and the "Riggs Farm", adjoined this area where extensive residential and commercial development has taken place over the years.
In 1856 the Maryland Agricultural College was established and the growth of the old College Park section was greatly influenced by the activities and development of this new institution. More homes and business establishments were built to provide for the needs of the rapidly growing community and the educational institution. Many faculty members built and settled in the community. Later Elmore Power and his brother, Monroe Power, built many homes in the area south of Calvert Road. The land which today forms the location for the "College Park Homes" and "Calvert Hills" subdivisions was developed, and more homes built by Robert M. Watkins. These subdivisions are among the best sections in the entire area today, which is now solidly built with attractive homes, fraternity and sorority houses, shopping center, restaurants, motels, apartments, office buildings, church, school and many commercial establishments.
The Municipal Building for the City of College Park was built and dedicated in 1959, at the corner of Yale Avenue and Knox Road. This is known as the "Municipal Center" because it houses not only the College Park City offices and chambers but a community library, a community auditorium, a kitchen, and facilities for many types of community events. Elaborate plans are projected to a most modern business and cultural development in the present business section, which will make this a showplace of municipal planning and land usage.
The first planned suburban settlement was the area east of the B&O Railroad, which was developed in 1880, as the "Town of Charlton Heights", by a group of men including Messrs. Chariton Graves, Samuel Waugh and Col. Campbell Carrington, who built a colonial home on the hilltop near Edmonston Road. It was originally known as "Carrington Farm". The developers subdivided the land, sold many lots and built a number of the large houses, many still in use here today.
Great credit should be given to the engineer who originally subdivided the land for the "Charlton Heights Subdivision", who had foresight to provide a 50 ft. width for all streets and a 70 ft. width for the main street from the B&O railroad station into the subdivision, then known as Waugh Avenue (now Berwyn Road). Edmonston Road was then a "toll road" with a toll gate where Berwyn Road now enters it. A Mr. Keliher was sales agent and some lots were sold for $10 each, according to gossip of the day.
It is said that more lots were sold than actually existed and business difficulties developed. In 1896, residents of the "Town" decided to incorporate the area and changed the name to "Berwyn Heights" as the area west of the B&O Railroad had developed to some extent by that time and was known as "Berwyn". The original "Act to Incorporate the Town of Berwyn Heights in Prince Georges County" was enacted by the Genera) Assembly of Maryland and approved April 2, 1896. It provided that all male (please note that the ladies were excluded in those days) citizens were qualified to vote and elect three (3) "Commissioners" to administer the affairs of the town.
The first election was designated to be held on the first Monday in May in the year 1896. Dr. Adelbert H. Lee, Archie Thompson and Elijah G. Gate were named as judges of election. There seems to be no record of this election being held nor of any commissioners being named. It appears the "Town" failed to function under this charter. However, the creation of the incorporated "Town of Berwyn Heights" in 1396, makes this one of the oldest in the State of Maryland. With development beginning on the west side of the railroad, arrangements were made with the B&O Railroad for a railroad stop and it appears commutation tickets were sold at $11.85 for ISO round trips to Washington. (Happy Days!) Twenty-eight (28) train? stopped here rendering really excellent commuter service to the residents. This was the only means of public transportation to Washington and Baltimore. However, the B&O would not construct a railroad station building so the citizens financed such building at a cost of $7,000, with the understanding they would be reimbursed if it paid. Records on this are not definite but it must have been successful as the station building still stands today and is still doing business - that is principally freight and express, as other modes of transportation have supplanted the local "choo-choo cars."
Shortly after the turn of the century an electric carline was built through the area running from northeast Washington and Bladensburg into Berwyn Heights. It was in operation only a few years and discontinued as most commuters to Washington were still using the B&O Railroad or another new electric carline that had been built through the Berwyn area near the Baltimore Boulevard which ran into the downtown section of Washington. The outline and the grading of this old abandoned carline can still be seen in the woodlands south of Berwyn Heights.
About 1900 the Catholic Sisters of Charity acquired some ten acres of land on the top of the hill near Edmonston Road where this religious organization built a large Sumner home for orphan children, named "St. Ann's Orphanage". Each Summer they brought hundreds of children out of the City of Washington to this country establishment which was an outstanding feature of old Berwyn Heights for many years. The property was sold to the Prince Georges County Board of Education several years ago and a fine, modern, public elementary school was built on the grounds, replacing the small, frame, two-room school which was built in 1925 on Ruatan Street. This building is now used as a "Cooperative Kindergarten".
About 1910, a group of citizens and property owners formed the "Berwyn Heights Citizens Association" to promote the welfare and advancement of the "Town". Messrs. Donaldson, Benson, Gardner, Stein, Taylor, Moyer, McNitt, Frost, Gupton, Breisford, Kleiner, Johnstone and other early residents devoted much time and energy to obtaining improvements. Through the efforts of this organization streets were improved and electricity, and eventually Washington Suburban Sanitary District water were installed.
Finally, in 1924, it was decided to re-enact the Charter of Incorporation and the "Town of Berwyn Heights" began to function officially. The first town election was held May 15, 1924, and Edward Donaldson, Charles Stein, Ernest Corkhill, Fred C. Frost and Harry Anderson were elected Town Commissioners to serve for two years. The first official meeting of the Board was held on May 21, 1924, at the home of Edward Donaldson, who was chosen chairman of the board and Dr. M. L. Turner, health officer; Leo Loveless, bailiff; W. H. Willard, J. C. Loveless and Fred Worden, assessors. Ordinance No. 1 was approved under which a license was granted J. O. Waters for a boxing arena on his property then known as "Sportland Heights". (This arena was soon discontinued.)
The second meeting was held on May 24, 1924, at the home of Fred C. Frost when John W. Hall was appointed town treasurer and clerk. In June, 1924, the Berwyn Heights Citizens Association (Samuel Moyer, president, and Jean R. Brelsford, treasurer) disbanded and turned over to the Town $500 and all its belongings. This group had for years rendered great services for the advancement of the Town. In 1924, the property assessment for the Town was $187,913 with 306 taxpayers. The present property assessment totals $8,700,000 based on 1,000 properties; indicating the substantial development of the Town. In 1928, Ewing Gupton was appointed town treasurer and clerk and served for many years. When the various sections of this area were considering the incorporation of the entire area into the City of College Park in 1945 the residents of Berwyn Heights decided to retain their own incorporation and not join the other sections in forming the new town. They have retained the commissioner form of government and over the years the Town has been conservatively and soundly guided by a Board of Town Commissioners with Messrs. Edward Donaldson, Charles Stein, Samuel Moyer, Fred Worden, Robert Burnett, Charles Durbin, John Wintermoyer, Dale Smith, Kenneth Aurich, Philip LaMacchia, Clinton Walker and George E. Lauterback, who is now capably serving as chairman of the board. Mrs. Alice E. 0'Dea, the first woman to serve on this Board held office from May, 1960 to May, 1964. Mrs. Claire C. Hoggard is now a member of the present Board, serving with Chairman Lauterback and Messrs. Lawrence A. Lee, Verdan P. Wiedel, and Donald E. Gourley.
The progress and growth in Berwyn Heights has been remarkable, especially in recent years. The extension of Kenilworth Avenue from Washington has provided another means of rapid transportation to the City which has aided in the recent growth of this section. Today there are very few building sites available and the Town now has a population of more than 3,000.
A large regional shopping center, known as "Beltway Plaza", including a department store and other commercial enterprises, has developed on Greenbelt Road. Berwyn Heights is today one of our finest residential areas in Prince Georges County.
Just before the turn of the century Francis Shannabrook came here from Pennsylvania and purchased the remainder of the "Higgins Farm". This land, the Bewley lands, and properties of Dr. Robert Reyburn, were the area later to be known as Berwyn. Mr. Shannabrook subdivided his land, erected a store building near the railroad, and built about 15 houses, all on the west side of the railroad. Most of these old homes are still in use today. He named the subdivision "Central Heights".
In 1896 the name of this area was changed to "Berwyn". This name was adopted from that of the new Presbyterian Church that had been erected and named "Berwyn Chapel" in honor of a party who had aided in the building of the church. At the same time a number of residents of the area and of "Charlton Heights" requested the B&O Railroad to change the name of the railroad station from Charlton Heights to "Berwyn" and this change was made.
A postoffice was first established in this community on November 17, 1890, and was first known as "Charlton Heights". Its name was also changed to "Berwyn" on April 2, 1896, when this name was adopted by the residents of the area. Records of the Post Office Department show the first Postmaster was Marshall E. Carrier. He served only one year at which time Francis Shannabrook was appointed. Mr. Shannabrook was succeeded in March, 1893, by Hezekier Waple, who served until November 1897, when J. Fred Keefauver was named to the office and established it in his general store, on the north side of Central Avenue (later and now known as Berwyn Road).
Mr. Keefauver had the position 17 years, or until May, 1914, when Miss Nellie Smith assumed the office and moved it across the road to her father's general store, the S. F. Smith General Store, where the Berwyn Fuel & Feed Co. now operates. She held the office until February, 1918, when Mrs. Minnie E. Keefauver (wife of Mr. J. Fred) was appointed. Mrs. Keefauver had the position for 16 years until poor health caused her to relinquish it.
T. Raymond Burch, the writer of this history, was named Postmaster on June 1, 1934, and moved the postoffice to a building on Berwyn Road at the electric carline, a more central location. After 12 years in the position, Mr. Burch resigned and John Haggerty, Jr., was assigned to the office in April, 1946. He only served until July, 1947, being succeeded by "Mrs. Josephine Harding, who served until the office was discontinued and its status changed to a branch of the College Park Post Office.
Mrs. Harding was made Supervisor of this Berwyn Branch and was later succeeded by T. R. Richards, Jr., Charles Hall and the present supervisor, John Novick. A new building for this branch office has recently been built on Branchville Road, known as "Berwyn Station" of the College Park Post Office.
In 1900, an electric carline, known as "Washington and Suburban Railway", later called "City and Suburban Railway", and finally merged with "D.C. Transit Company", was built from downtown Washington, with its terminus at Berwyn Road. Later it extended on to Branchville Road and finally was extended to Laurel. It maintained regularly scheduled service for many years. The north end (from Branchville to Laurel and to Beltsville) was discontinued some years ago and recently all service was completely discontinued and bus service installed. This electric carline was highly instrumental in the building and developing of the entire area, as before this service we had only the local trains on the B&O Railroad. 'Tis the trend of the times and we'll soon have other means of rapid transit (the monorail and the helicopter).
Also, in 1900, a local newspaper began publication which carried much neighborhood news and State and National items of interest. It was known as the "Berwyn News" and was edited by Judge John T. Burch. Publication was discontinued in 1908 upon the death of Judge Burch.
Library service has been available for the residents of the area from the early days of the Berwyn Presbyterian Church, as that church established a library in part of the church building which was open to the general public regardless of creed or color.
Several of our other churches also had library services down through the years and a few years ago the "Paint Branch Library" was established, which is now housed in the College Park Municipal Building. Also the new Prince Georges County Regional Library is on Adelphi Road nearby.
In the world of sports and recreation there has always been much activity. A well-equipped gymnasium was operated in one of the buildings of the Presbyterian Church in the early 1900's where the young people of the community enjoyed the privilege of healthy recreation and physical training. The Berwyn Baseball Club was a leader in the old "Suburban League" and developed many outstanding ballplayers of those days, one of whom, Bill Werber, made the grade into professional ball and the major leagues.
Sandlot baseball flourished, in fact was the principal recreational activity enjoyed by all. The baseball team was at one period managed by Dr. A. O. Etienne.
In recent years the Boys' Club organization has been accomplishing great work with our youngsters and the teams in all of the sports are holding their own in all competition. The men devoting their time and talents in this Boys' Club work today are doing a fine job and this work deserves the helpful support of all citizens. Supervised recreation means better youngsters and better citizens, and this is one reason many outstanding citizens have developed in this area.
Doctor Robert Reyburn operated the first pharmacy in the area in a building on Berwyn Road near the electric carline. This building was later bought by J. T. VanValkenburg and used as "Van's Variety Store". Quite a commercial center built up along Berwyn Road with the addition of McNamee's general store, Well's Pharmacy, Attick's Barber Shop, a bakery, and other community stores. With the closing of the grade crossing on Berwyn Road over the B&O Railroad when Greenbelt Road and the bridge over the B&O Railroad were built, and the later abandonment of the electric carline, this commercial area suffered. Some of the stores are still in business there today, though -- in fact the Berwyn Fuel and Feed Company, operated by A. A. Mothershead and Sons, has expanded to one of the largest industries in the County.
We have been most fortunate over the years in being blessed with good medical doctors. The first physician resident in the area was Dr. W. O. Eversfield, a pioneer settler in the old College Park section. Drs. Chas. A. Fox and Marine Hume, of the Beltsville area, and Dr. Charles Wells, of Hyattsville, also rendered medical services, as did Dr. A. H. Lee and Dr. G. Bonnett in Berwyn Heights. Later Drs. A. O. Etienne and W. Allen Griffith moved intD the Berwyn section and served for many years. Dr. Etienne's son, Dr. Walcott Etienne, in recent years has been carrying on the medical work performed so well by his father. There is also a medical clinic now in the Hollywood section, operated by Dr. William Gunther and a number of other local physicians in all branches of the medical profession maintaining offices and rendering excellent services to the people of the area.
The Berwyn District Civic Association was organized about 1920 which aided materially in the orderly development of the entire area. Early workers in this community group were Herbert Smith, Walter Mulligan, Arthur Gahan, William Duvall, Raymond Burch, Charles Sayre, Harry McNaraee, F. Wiser, and many other good civic-minded citizens willing to devote their time and energies to the advancement and improvement of the area.
There was also close cooperation with the Branchville Improvement Association and the Commissioners of the Town of Berwyn Heights. Considerable money for community betterment was raised through the joint effort of these groups each summer by the never-to-be-forgotten annual "carnivals". "Old Berwyn" was a wonderful place to live, with good neighbors and all one could ask in the early days. Time and the population growth soon required more planning and services to the people which finally led to the joining of the surrounding sections in the formation of the City of College Park. More about this later in this historical record.
The area known as "Lakeland" was laid out in 1892 by Mr. Edward Newman, who is reputed to have spent more than $175,000 in subdividing and developing the section. He built streets, installed manufactured gas lights, built a Town Hall with a large auditorium on the second floor, and erected a number of fine homes and a general store. This was operated by E. Van Valkenburg, father of J. T. Van Valkenburg who also conducted a store in Berwyn for many years.
In 1893 the Knights of Pythias organization began using the hall there which was the largest in the entire area. This group held County Fairs and the revenue from this source largely paid for the building.
About the turn of the century an interesting industry operated in the Lakeland section along the B&O Railroad. The Baltimore Gold Fish Company built a number of lakes, where great quantities of beautiful gold fish and species of rare fish were propagated and shipped far and wide. This was a flourishing business for a long time but was abandoned years ago. Ice skating was permitted on certain lakes and they served as excellent safe skating rinks enjoyed by many residents, especially the youngsters. The dikes and walls of these lakes still remain and can be seen along the B&O tracks in Lakeland.
This Lakeland subdivision did not progress as anticipated and very little further development took place after the first elaborate preparations. The Knights of Pythias Hall burned in 1917 and the organization built a new hall on Central Avenue in the Berwyn section. The Lakeland section, while slow to progress in the earlier days, has shown good development in more recent years and has been for some time one of the leading Negro settlements in the County, with nice homes, churches, elementary and high schools and modern facilities. It is, of course, now a part of the City of College Park, known as District No. 3, elects its own Councilman, and is making most excellent progress. The first elected Councilman from this District was Mr. J. H. C. Mack, one of the old-timers of the section who has been very instrumental in its progress. He was succeeded by Dervey A. Lomax who served several terms as Councilman. Leonard J. Smith was elected in May, 1965, and represents this District No. 3 on the City Council.
In 1935, under the administration of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the Federal Government purchased about 12,000 acres of rural land in the area east of Berwyn Heights and a Federal Housing Project called "Greenbelt" was created. It was under the supervision of the Federal Resettlement Administration. The cost of this land was about $97 per acre. (Today what acreage can be purchased in this vicinity is selling for more than $5,000 per acre.)
This was during the dark days of the depression years and the "project" was planned to create useful work for men on unemployment relief and to provide much needed low-rent housing for families of modest incomes. Several similar projects were also built in other parts of the Nation. By September, 1937, the first tenants began moving to these well-planned homes. More than 9,000 people had been given gainful employment and the estimated cost was approximately $13,450,000, including utilities, roadways, shopping center, municipal services and the cost of 3,371 acres of land involved in this original project. It was recognized as one of the world's foremost experiments in community planning.
On June 1, 1937, a town charter enacted by the Maryland State Legislature became effective. The Town then consisted of 885 dwelling units, with all community facilities, on about 217 acres. Monthly rentals ranged from $18 to $41, with additional charges for electricity and water. The original tenant requirement was for families with an annual income of less than $2,000.
In November, 1937, 96 per cent of the registered voters elected their first Town Council, naming Louis Bessemer as Mayor and Roy S. Braden as Town Manager. Mr. Braden was also at that time Community Manager for the Farm Security Administration which had taken over ownership and operation of the project from the Resettlement Administration. Greenbelt was the first in Maryland to have a "City Manager".
The functions of the Town government and the Federal Government were closely interrelated and such dual relationship caused an extent of overlapping of official responsibilities and jurisdictions. To provide the necessary community stores and services the "Greenbelt Consumer Services, Inc.", was established. This was a "cooperative organization" which still operates as a "co-op" there, in fact, has expanded into other communities. Another unique local cooperative, the "Greenbelt Health Association", was organized. Other cooperative organizations soon followed and among the more distinctive features of Greenbelt was the presence of the many such groups there.
As new residents continued to move in, the number of organizations and clubs increased. In fact, we are told there were not enough nights in the week to attend meetings. We understand someone asked a Greenbelt resident how he spent his time and was told "we join".
Another local organization to secure a home at this time was the Greenbelt National Guard unit organized in January 1948. The Federal Government dedicated 8 acres of land to the State of Maryland for an armory in October 1949. On the site at the juncture of Glenn Dale Road and Southway was constructed a $300,000 building containing a drill hall, which doubled as an auditorium, three attractively furnished lounges, an equipped kitchen, indoor rifle range, seven classrooms, and a suite of offices. The building was completed in May 1955, and is now the headquarters of Battery B, 2nd Howitzer Battalion, 110th Artillery.
Churches of most denominations were organized and have grown substantially. In recent years more have been created and this subject will be fully covered under the chapter on "Churches".
This planned community was placed around a lake covering 28 acres. It was dedicated by President Roosevelt personally, at which time he also placed a stock of various fish in the lovely lake. The new town of Greenbelt attracted public attention, was visited by many people and was the subject of many stories in newspapers and magazines. Many visitors from foreign countries came to see and study this new venture in public housing.
When the "Town of Greenbelt" was under construction a number of private cemeteries were located within the area, including the burial grounds of the Isaac Walker family, one of the original settlers under a grant from Lord Baltimore, and another owned by the Thomas Turner family, one of the area's first settlers, which was acquired by the Federal Government and established as the "Greenbelt Cemetery". It appears very few "Greenbelters" have been buried there and, in fact, it seems very few know of its existence.
The years of World War II brought a major change to Greenbelt. In February, 1941, the Federal Government announced that a thousand new homes for defense workers were to be built. Construction was started in July, 1941, and more families started moving in by December. The cost of these homes, excluding land which had previously been obtained in the original land purchases, was about $4,000,000. The addition of these defense homes brought many problems -- such as more school facilities, shopping requirements and other demands incident to such an expanded population. The North End Elementary School was built and the Greenbelt Junior High School enlarged. The Greenbelt Consumer Services expanded its facilities and established a travel-market -- a store on wheels.
The big event of Greenbelt's post-war history was the withdrawal of the Federal Government from the scene. As early as August, 1940, reports had circulated that the Federal Government was considering the transfer of Greenbelt to a non-profit local housing corporation or authority. After the war, reports of such a transfer persisted, and finally were verified. Since the Federal Government owned practically everything in Greenbelt, the problem of disposing of the project was not restricted just to the homes. There were also the commercial and municipal buildings, the recreation and park areas, the swimming pool, the roadways, the public utilities, and the vacant land. In July, 1946, about 400 residents of Greenbelt formed a mutual housing cooperative to negotiate with the government for the purchase of the entire project.
The Federal Public Housing Administration (PHA) at first contended that the sale of original Greenbelt could not be negotiated but must be made as the result of advertising and competitive bidding. This impasse was resolved by an act of Congress (Public Law 65), approved May 19, 1949, which authorized PHA to sell the "greenbelt" towns without regard to provisions of existing law requiring competitive bidding or public advertising and at a fair market value as determined on the basis of an appraisal by an independent real estate expert.
The Act further provided that first preference in purchasing be given to veterans' groups organized on a non-profit basis, provided -they accepted as members with full privileges, any tenant occupying a dwelling unit in the particular project at the time of his application, A down payment of at least 10 per cent of the purchase price was specified, the remaining balance to be amortized over a period of not more than 25 years and to bear interest of four per cent per annum. To meet the veteran requirement, the local housing cooperative reorganized itself into the Greenbelt Veterans Housing Corporation (GVHC). (The name was later changed to Greenbelt Homes, Inc., in July 1957). In June, 1950, PHA announced the terms and price for the City's sale. It offered all of the housing units, the commercial facilities, and that part of the undeveloped land not otherwise earmarked for $8,522,350.
Excluded from the sale were 1,148 acres of land south of Greenbelt Road, which were later dedicated to the National Capital Planning Commission for a recreation area.
Also excluded was the land west of Edmonston Road and east of the proposed Ba1timore-Washington Parkway. GVHC accepted the proposal to negotiate, but the outbreak of the Korean conflict and the possible need for emergency housing led to a placing of a general freeze on all government property. Negotiations were not resumed until two years later and finally, on September 26, 1952, GVHC, which had previously been designated as the preferred negotiator, executed a preliminary contract of purchase for the 1,575 dwelling units at a price of $6,285,450. Title was transferred on December 30, 1952, when GVHC president Michael Salzman handed PHA Commissioner John Taylor Egan certified checks for the required 10 per cent down payment.
Remaining for later disposition by the Federal Government were some 300 apartment units and approximately 850 acres of undeveloped land. Some of these apartment buildings were sold to the Greenbelt Development Corp. in 1953, and the following year the remaining undeveloped acreage west of Edmonston Road and east of the Baltimore-Washington Parkway was sold at open competitive bids to private individuals.
Finally, in 1954, the last piece of government-owned property was sold, involving the commercial center, which completed the Federal Government's complete withdrawal from ownership of the Greenbelt lands and properties. This left the City entirely on its own resources and presented serious financial problems. However, under the capable guidance of the Mayor and Council the town assumed this responsibility, absorbed the rapid growth, and carried on.
Frank J. Lastner (former chairman and present member of the Board of County Commissioners of Prince Georges County) was Mayor in 1953, succeeded by Thomas J. Canning in December that year. Many dedicated men and women have served the City as Mayors and Councilmen, and their cooperation with the men who have served as "City Managers" --Messrs. Roy S. Bradon, James T. Gobbel and Charles T. McDonald -- have resulted in the fine City of today. George Panagoulis, the first Greenbelt Chief of Police is now Police Chief of Prince Georges County. The present Mayor .is Edgar L. Smith and the City Manager James K. Giese.
The first fire equipment was furnished by the Federal Government in 1936 with Nobel V, Rushe the first fire chief. Complete information concerning the Greenbelt Fire and Rescue Squad appears in the section under "Volunteer Fire and Rescue Companies".
In recent years the lovely "Lakeside Subdivision" was developed and the "Woodland Hills" and "Lakewood" sections have been built. One of the largest apartment communities on the East Coast known as "Springhill Lake" is now developing on the west side of old Edmonston Road and other development plans will bring a further large increase in the population. "Lakeside North" and "Charlestowne Village" , apartment and town developments, recently built, and further developments know and "Lakecrest" and "Boxwood Village" are providing new housing in the area.
The U. S. Agricultural Research Center adjoins Greenbelt on the north and the Goddard Space Flight Center (NASA), located on the east, was established in 1959, being the first major United States laboratory devoted" to investigative and experimental peaceful exploration of space. These and other government activities have brought many fine residents to Greenbelt and the area covered by this historical story. The present population of Greenbelt is nearing 12,000. A new modern Municipal Building has recently been built and was dedicated September 6, 1964. This marks the completion of a building program initiated in 1955 which included the construction of a fire station and a youth center to house the City recreation program. The total building program amounted to $460,000. The new municipal building houses the City's police department and the administrative offices. An auditorium for City Council meetings and three small meeting rooms also have been provided in the two-story brick building. The assessed value has now reached approximately $25,000,000, with a City property tax rate of $1.07 per $100.00.
A large 1200 acre "Regional Recreation Park" is being developed with picnic areas, camp sites, and other recreational facilities. An 18-hole golf course is planned and this large park will provide a recreation space not only for the residents of the immediate area but for all of northern Prince Georges County. The development of the "Beltway Plaza Regional Shopping Center" on Greenbelt Road opposite Berwyn Heights, including a large department store, has provided complete shopping facilities for the residents of the entire area. So Greenbelt which was originally built by the Federal Government as a low-cost housing project, and feared by some older residents of the area as possibly developing into an undesirable neighbor to the nearby older established communities, has proven to be a very worthwhile addition to northern Prince Georges County.
The first Protestant church services and Sunday School classes in the area of this story were held in the little public school on Edmonston Road prior to the year 1874. Religious services for Catholic residents of the area were held in private homes for a number of years. The work of these good Christian people and the establishing of the various churches in this area aided greatly in the sound development of the entire area as will be shown in the discussion of the history of these churches.
Methodist Church: The first church established in the area was in 1874 when a group of residents led by Miss Marianna Keech and sisters and the families of John F. Tucker, John Baker, Daniel Carson, William Hall, Brown, Lester, Carrington and the Misses Joyner, assisted by the Rev. Samuel W. Haddaway, organized Haddaway Chapel. Methodist Episcopal Church, South, and built a church on an acre lot on Branchville Road about 1,000 yards east of the B&O Railroad Station. The land was donated for the purpose by the Jonathan T. Walker family. G. W. Beall of the neighboring area of Beltsville served as Sunday School Superintendent during the early years of the church.
About 1893 the trustees established a small cemetery on a part of the church site and some fifty burials were made here. This old burial ground remains today, abandoned and completely overgrown and its existence unknown to the thousands who daily pass it on what is now the heavily traveled Greenbelt Road. Recently a gasoline service station has been built on the front part of this site where the church formerly stood. This has not disturbed the old cemetery where many of the old residents lie buried. In 1907 this Methodist church and building burned and was a total loss. The congregation was distressed but these stout-hearted people were soon busy devising ways and means to build a new church at a more centrally located site one block west of B&O Station on Branchville Road, previously donated by P. A. Scaggs. Success crowned their endeavor and the new church.was finished and dedicated in 1910.
As this congregation continued to grow an auditorium and several additions were built and as the old public halls, "Redman's Hall" and "Scaggs Hall", in the community were no longer in usable condition, the Scaggs donated their building which was razed and most of the material obtained for erection of a new hall for church activities and community social events. William A. Duvall was a stalwart worker in this church. It has continued to grow over the years and in 1958 the congregation decided to build a new modern church building at Hollywood Road and Rhode Island Avenue in the Hollywood Subdivision. This beautiful new building is now known as the "North College Park Methodist Church", It is a most attractive and welcome addition to a section of the present City of College Park where so many new residents have established their homes in recent years.
In 1885, the Frank L. Middleton family, one of the original families of the area, assisted by Mrs. Henry Viles and Miss Elsie Joyner, while members of Haddaway Methodist Church, formed an organization called "The Golden Chain" to promote further Christian teachings in the neighborhood. This group grew so rapidly it soon became necessary to withdraw from the Methodist Church and erect another church building. This was built by Mr. Middleton's father on a lot donated by Mr. Shannabrook, an early developer in the area, on the south side of Branchville Road near the railroad station. This organization continued to grow so large the Fourth Presbyterian Church in Washington was asked to take it under its care. This was the beginning of what was later to be the Berwyn Presbyterian Church.
Presbyterian Church; In pursuing the history of this group we discover that much of the early development of Berwyn is associated with activities of this church organization. We find that when the little "Golden Chain" society was taken under the care of the Fourth Presbyterian Church of Washington the name was changed to "Branchville Mission" and two elders were named -- Henry Viles and Frank Middleton.
In 1887 a Sunday School was started, the first superintendent being Mrs. Isador Middleton. Albert Parker was called to work in this Mission for the sunnier. Mr. Parker later married Miss Jessie Bewley, daughter of one of the pioneer families of the area. In 1890, it was found that the little "Golden Chain" building was inadequate to accommodate the needs of the growing Mission and larger facilities must be erected. It was then decided to erect a new church building near the newly established B&O Railroad Station then known as "Charlton Heights Station" (later Berwyn).
Again Francis Shannabrook, the real estate developer, donated the ground and Mr. Middleton, Sr., and his son, Harry, constructed the building. (This was the old church which was recently torn down when their new church was built on Greenbelt Road at 63rd Avenue, Berwyn Heights.) The cornerstone was laid May, 1890, The church was completed, furnished and dedicated April 1, 1891, and at the request of Frank Middleton and other members of the congregation the name was changed to "Berwyn Chapel" in honor of an invalid boy by that name whose father had substantially aided in the building of the church. This appears to be where the community of Berwyn derived its name. The church and Sunday School continued to grow due to the splendid work of the Middleton family, Mrs. Viles, Miss Rebecca Hart (Aunt Becky to many), John Matson and many others. Additions were built to the original chapel and a library established with Miss Elsie Joyner as librarian. This became a community library and greatly added to the cultural development of the area.
One of these additions was the "Gymnasium", or recreation hall, which was fully equipped with all facilities such as horizontal bars, weight lifts, trapeze, and other paraphernalia for use in physical training. An experienced physical director was obtained, a Prof. Al. Jennings, and regular classes established. Basketball, wrestling and other sports were organized and this building became a wonderful recreational center for the younger people of the entire community. All the older residents of the area will so well remember the good and wholesome evenings we youngsters had in the "old Gym". It was used for years for the benefit of all; in fact, the University of Maryland (then known as Maryland Agricultural College), used this facility for some of its early basketball games and physical training classes.
In 1902, Mr. James A. McElwee, a member of the Fourth Presbyterian Church, came to assist with the church music. He organized a Choral Society and his ability and spirit greatly aided in the further development Df church activities as well as the community generally. Various groups were organized such as the Ladies Aid Society, Women's Missionary Society and others which provided worthwhile activities for not only the ladies of this church but many other residents of the community. In 1904, the Rev. David A. Reed was duly installed as the first full-time pastor. The Rideout and Barrows families were very active in this church work.
Rev. William A. Eisenberger came to the church in 1913. The following year the church became an independent church of the Washington City Presbytery and named Rev. Eisenberger pastor. R. T. Caton, H. L. Crisp and R. P. Hueper were named elders; Charles Donaldson, Herbert Roby, Frank Truan, and J. Fred Kefauver, trustees, and George P. Bewley, John Hall and Alexander Mowatt, were chosen as deacons. The Rev. Eisenberger, a young man just graduated from college, proved to be an excellent athlete and took an active interest in sports events for the young people. He was quite a baseball pitcher and was persuaded to join the local team and won many a game for us. This was in the baseball-playing days of your writer who was then trying to hold down the first base job. The presence of Rev. Eisenberger in the center of the diamond had a very wholesome effect on the temper of all players on the field; in fact, some very amusing incidents linger in the memory of those happy days.
In 1917 the call for service in World War I came and Rev. Eisenberger resigned as pastor to enter the field of war as a chaplain. Our baseball team lost a good pitcher and a swell fellow and the Presbyterian Church a very fine pastor. In 1918 the Rev. Andrew B. Matzen was installed as pastor.
In 1921, Frank L. Middleton who had given so generously of his time, talents and substance to the Berwyn Presbyterian Church and the community of Berwyn, moved and severed his connections with the local church. About this time, certain disagreements arose in the church, which led to a rather large number of dissatisfied members changing their membership and organizing the Berwyn Baptist Church. Notwithstanding these difficulties, Rev. Matzen continued as pastor and the church continued its forward progress.
Tribulations followed over the next several years, among them fires which badly damaged the church building in 1931 and 1935. However, the faithful efforts of the members soon made necessary repairs; in fact, actually improved the property and continued to carry on. In September 1940, after 22 years of loyal service to the church and the community, the Rev. Matzen asked to be relieved of his duties and his resignation was approved.
Dr. Alfred E. Barrows served as pastor until 1941 when Rev. Milton B. Faust was installed. He served less than a year when he, too, was called into service in another war, World War II.
The Rev. J. Edward Kidder came to the church in June, 1942, serving during that period filled with the sadness of another terrible war. In November 1944, Chaplain Faust advised he desired to remain in the Navy and on April 19, 1945, Rev. Kidder was duly installed as pastor, and two additional elders were elected, Mrs. Mary Power and Mrs. Emily Gahan. The 60th anniversary of the church was celebrated in October, 1945, at which time J. Fred Kefauver and Dr. Albert F. Woods, who had served as elders continuously for 22 years, were honored by the congregation. The history of this church would not be complete without naming the superintendents of Sunday School who have served so ably over the years. In addition to those previously mentioned were Ralph Wiser, Leroy Boughton, William Simonds, Charles Worden, George Kelser, Marion Cooke, Keith Sargent, Stuart R. Hopkins, Robert S. Haas, Harold Newlander, and the present superintendent, Dean Johnson.
Rev. Kidder served until late 1960 and the present pastor, Rev. Sidney R. Conger, came to the church in January 1961.
As the above facts reveal, the activities and influences of the Berwyn Presbyterian Church, like all other churches in the area, have been very closely identified with the development and progress of the area, especially in its early history. A fine new modern church was completed recently on a new site on Greenbelt Road at 63rd Avenue, Berwyn Heights. May it continue its good work for many, many years in the future.
Catholic Church: During the early years of the development of this area the residents of the Catholic faith had to attend their services in private homes or journey to the little St. Joseph parish at the Ammendale Christian Brothers Institute, or to St. Jerome's Church at Hyattsville.
In 1892 a Sunday School was established at the home of Milton E. and Mary Easby Smith known as "Montebello" or "Cedar Row" on the Edmonston Road, now a part of the City of Greenbelt. Finally, after permission was obtained from James Cardinal Gibbons of Baltimore, the first Mass in the area was celebrated there on August 5, 1893.
It was only possible to have a Mass a few times each year but the Sunday School continued regularly and many children, including the writer, were baptized there. Some of the names appearing in Mrs. Smith's old records are Ada and Annie Loveless, Joseph Smith, Harriet Hall, Mary Gray Blyth, Catherine Jones, William Turner, Lillie and Callie Loveless, Nellie Turner, Birdie Owens, the Hart girls, and Raymond and Hyland Burch. Some of these remained in the area and later worked to establish the present Holy Redeemer Church.
As these strong and faithful Christians persevered in their church duties and more devotees of the Catholic Church settled in the area, the more fervent grew the desire and necessity for building a church. In 1910 plans were made for financing the securing of a site and constructing a church. A committee consisting of Messrs. Deeck, Gallant and Mclntyre was named to present the matter to His Eminence, James Cardinal Gibbons, who approved the project and bade them confer with Rev. Father James Tower, then Pastor at St. Jerome's Church, Hyattsville. Plans were perfected and Holy Redeemer Mission became a reality.
Arrangements were made for Mass to be held in the Knights of Pythias hall which had been built on Central Avenue (now Berwyn Road) near the electric carline until the new church could be erected. A site was finally secured at its present location on Berwyn Road and the parishioners organized to raise necessary funds to proceed with the building of the church. Records show the following families rendered much service in this successful fund raising endeavor and in the establishing of the Holy Redeemer Catholic Church in Berwyn: Dooley, S. F. Smith, H. H. Smith, Kiernan, Mclntyre, Loveless, William and Bart Deeck, Sauer, Wills, Gardiner, Hardy, Yost, Phillips, Watson, Haker, Finnell Frost, A. A. Burch and T. R. Burch.- Just as the project was well underway the Rev. Father Charles Heath, who had succeeded Father Tower at St. Jerome's left Hyattsville, His successor, Rev. Father Thomas S. Dolan, might well be considered the Father of the Parish as he assisted in perfecting plans for the church and on June 17, 1912 laid the cornerstone for the new edifice (the little white brick building now known as "Fealy Hall"). After a couple of short years he was succeeded by Rev. Father Dennis Keenan and then Rev. Father Andrew Carey under whose guidance the Parish really made its greatest advance.
In 1922, Archbishop Curley decided the Berwyn Mission had grown too large and too important to remain a Mission Church. Accordingly, it was established as a separate Parish and on June 1, 1922, Rev. Father William A. Cahill was appointed Pastor of Holy Redeemer Church. Through the devoted efforts of the families above mentioned and later the Bosma, Hohman, Lowery, Long, Ferry, Granados, Greene, Dyer, Finocchiaro, Gingell, Hughes, Rosewag, Sayre, Cook, Harlow, Haggerty, Buscher, McNally, McCoy, Waters, Wenzel, Wilson, Zalesak, Maher, McManus and many new parishioners coming into the Parish, a fine Rectory was completed in 1924. In 1927, Father Cahill was transferred to another parish and Rev. Father Leo J. Fealy was transferred from St. Paul's Church, Washington, as the new Pastor of Holy Redeemer Church. He assumed his duties on July 12, 1927.
After several years of devoted work in the Parish, Father Fealy was able to have a fine elementary school built on land acquired across the street from the church and this school was dedicated in 1931. It filled a great need in the community and was a blessing to those parents desirous of having their children educated in a parochial school. It will always be a living monument to Father Fealy and his great interest in the education of children. The school is taught by the Sisters of Providence, one of the very best teaching orders. School additions and more land have been acquired over the years and in 1954 more school rooms, an auditorium, a fine convent for the sisters teaching the school, and a large modern church building were completed, which places Holy Redeemer Church and School among the finest in the State. . Father Fealy retired from active duty and was named "Pastor Emeritus" and Rev. Father John Bailey was appointed as Pastor with Father Martin Harris and Father John Znotinas as assistant pastors. Father Bailey and Father Harris have both recently been transferred and Rev. Father Michael J. Farrell is now Pastor.
St. Andrews Episcopal Church: In. 1889, after the Maryland Agricultural College was established and the College Park area began to develop, the need for a place for religious services was realized. The first such service was held in August, 1890, in Calvert's Hall, a room on the second floor over Mr. Calvert's store near the B&O Railroad station. John 0. Johnson was authorized to conduct services which were continued in this hall for several years.
Mr. Johnson, a real estate developer, offered the church a lot and the brick building upon it at the corner of what is now Dartmouth Avenue and Knox Road. (This building has been remodeled and is now the home of the Woman's Progress Club of College Park.) This old building was originally the tobacco barn and stable for the Campbell farm.
Due to the question of the boundary between the churches of Hyattsville and Beltsville jurisdictions, services were temporarily discontinued. Meanwhile, a Presbyterian church had been started in the Berwyn section so Mr. Johnson in 1892 gave them this lot and building. The building was made suitable for Sunday School purposes. Their work, however, was not successful and in 1894 the Presbyterians gave the property back to Mr. Johnson and finally authority was obtained from the Episcopal Bishop to establish a mission there.
Then the task was to equip the church for services. St. Andrews Church in Washington was then remodeling and gave the pews, the greatest need, so the College Chapel was named St. Andrew's Chapel. Many other Washington churches donated other necessary furnishings and parishioners built the altar rail and many other articles to make the Chapel ready for services. The first service in the new Chapel was held in 1894.
It is reported that it was a great struggle for the few then associated in the work to raise sufficient funds to meet expenses, but these dedicated souls carried on. The first confirmation service was held in the Spring of 1896 by Bishop Satterlee. Records show the first wedding was that of Miss Emily Johnson to W. T. Taliaferro in June, 1896. (Many old-timers like myself have fond memories of Prof. Taliaferro who was on the faculty at Maryland University many years.)
The Chapel continued under the jurisdiction of St. Matthew's Church at Hyattsville until 1901 when it was placed under St. John's Parish at Beltsville. During the early years of the Parish the names of Mrs. L. K. Fitzhugh, Mrs. Elizabeth Patterson, Mrs. E. H. Brinkley, Prof, and Mrs. Taliaferro, Dr. and Mrs. R. W. Sylvester, Dr. and Mrs. H. B. McDonnell, Mr. William Parker, Mrs. C. 0. Appleton, Mrs. E. R. Connor, Mr. and Mrs. Thomas White and sons, Dr. and Mrs. T. B. Symons, Dr. and Mrs. A. 0. Etienne, Prof, and Mrs. C. P. Close, appear as consistent workers and many others, I am sure, I have overlooked in my research.
Rev. C. I. LaRoche was called to St. John's Parish in October, 1902 and the work at St. Andrew's Chapel began to show marked advancement. In 1913, Rev. LaRoche retired and Rev. H. V. Saunders accepted a call to St. John's. He and his wife took great interest in the Chapel and made excellent progress. During the period of his rectorate Dr. T. B. Symons and Prof. Taliaferro served on the vestry and continued to serve until a separate Parish was created under the Bishop. Rev. Saunders resigned in April, 1918, and Dr. LaRoche was asked to return to the Parish. He accepted the call and took charge of St. John's, Beltsville, in August, 1918.
Bishop Harding of the Washington Diocese, was deeply interested in the work of St. Andrew's Chapel, particularly among the students at the University and arranged with the Vestries of St. John's and St. Matthew's Parishes to create a separate Parish under the Bishop. Rev. Ronalds Taylor was assigned in October, 1920, to undertake this work. In April, 1922, Bishop Harding purchased a site one block from the main gate to the University Campus where the beautiful St. Andrew's church buildings stand today.
In 1923, this Parish was definitely separated from both St. Matthew's and St. John's Parishes and new boundaries were defined. Rev. Taylor's work with the students was very effective in building and strengthening religious life on the campus. The church has continued rapid growth in all departments and the size and facilities of "the old tobacco barn" converted to the Chapel in 1894 were badly crowded and plans were made and a campaign organized to build a new church and rectory on the College Avenue site acquired in 1922. In 1929 the Rev. Taylor resigned due to physical disability and was succeeded by Rev. George Parsons, who is a grandson of John 0. Johnson, an early developer of College Park. Rev. Parsons remained only a short period and was called to a New York Parish. Rev. Nathaniel Acton was called as Rector and served until 1956, being succeeded by Rev. Harold McGee who in turn was succeeded by Rev. Donald Gilbert Stauffer, who assumed the Rectorship on September 1 1964.
After years of untiring effort on the part of the dedicated men and women of this Parish, the day finally arrived and construction of the new church on College Avenue began in 1928. The cornerstone was laid in 1929 and the beautiful edifice was dedicated by Bishop Freemen. Later a fine Parish Hall and Rectory was erected by the parishioners in cooperation with the Episcopal Diocese of Washington. These impressive church buildings are an outstanding feature of the community.
In more recent years the Berwyn Baptist Church on Cherokee Street at 48th Place, the Hope Evangelical Lutheran on Guilford Road, the Church of the Nazarene and the North Side Baptist Church on Rhode Island Avenue, the Pilgrim Church on Edgewood Road, all in the Hollywood section, the Church of God at 48th and Tecumseh Street, and the Methodist and Baptist churches in the Lakeland section, have been established in College Park. There are also the Community Church, St. Hugh's Catholic Church, Greenbelt Baptist Church, Jewish Community Center, Mowatt Memorial Lutheran Church, all in Greenbelt. Most recently, Methodist and Baptist churches have been built on Campus Drive, just west of Maryland University. The creation and development of all of these churches signifies the excellent Christian strength inherent in the hearts of good citizens that has guided the growth and development of the entire area.
In 1881, the first public elementary school in the area was built when the Kiernan family, one of the pioneer settlers here, gave a parcel of land from their farm on Cherry Hill Road for the building of a small one-room frame school. It was in use there for years and abandoned in 1894 when a new two-room frame school was built on Branchville Road at what is now the junction of Rhode Island Avenue and the newly built extension of University Boulevard, Route 193. This new school, erected among a group of large oak trees, was known as "Oak Grove Academy". Charlas Beebe was principal, assisted by Miss Lottie Curtin.
About 1889 another elementary school was built on Edmonston Road, which, at that time, was one of the roads between Baltimore and Washington. This school was built mainly of pine logs cut from the nearby woods and was known as "Pine Grove Academy". Benjamin Pritchard was the teacher and children attended from miles around.
Incidentally, this was the first school attended by your writer who can well remember this little one-room building heated by a large stove occupying a prominent position in the center of the room. The boys had to take turns cutting a supply of wood for this stove. It was a favorite target for rubber bands and erasers after which we would of necessity have a short recess followed by rather severe physical punishment upon the guilty with a healthy switch by Mr. Pritchard who maintained a higher degree of discipline than perhaps prevails in our ultra-modern schools of today.
The boys and girls, too, had their assignments to keep the rooms clean and tidy. Our water supply was from a beautiful spring down in the woods a considerable distance behind the school building and it was a choice and pleasant task to be assigned as water boys. Our other necessary facilities of the days were two "annexes", size 4'x 4', built some distance back in the woods. Quite a contrast to our modern facilities of today!
The school above-mentioned on Old Branchville Road was considered a modern school building at that time, but, of course, lacked plumbing facilities, which were like the little school on Edmonston Road -- small houses back among the oak trees. Van H. Manning, Frank L. Middleton and Pinckney A. Scaggs were appointed school trustees.
Our water supply was from a spring among the oaks in what is now the "Oak Spring Subdivision". In fact, this subdivision derived its name from this source when Frank Greco and your writer developed it. As at the Edmonston Road School, it was a happy assignment to be designated to carry the buckets of water from this spring to the schoolhouse. The travel from home to school and return in those days was on foot, but the hike was never tiresome for there was the happy company of school chums playing leap frog, stopping for a few games of marbles, climbing over fences, jumping ditches, a visit perhaps to one of "the old swimming holes", and pursuing many childish adventures, some of which, it must be admitted, should not have delayed the arrival at school or home.
Our youngsters of today miss such wonderful times walking to and from school and enjoying the adventures of rural life in small country villages, but with the population growth, the progress of "modern developments", all of our new highways, and the automobile hazards today, bus transportation has replaced the leisurely good times enjoyed on the "walks to and from school." As your writer today sits in his automobile waiting for the traffic light at the busy intersection of University Boulevard and Rhode Island Avenue, happy thoughts go back to this site of the little brown schoolhouse and the days of yesteryear. It is unbelievable that such changes and progress could be made in such a comparatively short span of years.
A new brick school was finally erected on the site of present Berwyn School, which was destroyed by fire about 1891, after which the two-story brick school now in use there was built. A first elementary school in the old College Park section was built at the corner of what is now Princeton Avenue and Hartwick Road. It was a small frame structure which was replaced by a new brick building on a site on the south side of Calvert Road, where this school still remains today. It has, of course, been enlarged several times and is now one of the most modern elementary schools.
On Berwyn Road in 1931 was erected the Holy Redeemer Parochial School and there have been several additions to it over the years. Also, an elementary school and junior high school were constructed in Lakeland.
The Berwyn Heights school was erected as a two-room frame building about 1915 and today on the site of old St. Ann's Orphan Asylum we have one of the finest elementary schools in the County. In Greenbelt we have two good elementary schools and St. Hugh's Parochial school, as well as the Greenbelt Junior High at the corner of Edmonston and Greenbelt Roads. So our school facilities have kept pace with our population growth and the children provided with excellent educational opportunities. Of course, we also have the University of Maryland in our midst for higher education.
The establishment and development of the University of Maryland has been an integral part of the growth of this entire area. The area south of Paint Branch began to develop in 1856 when the Maryland Agricultural College was established under the first Legislative act of the Western Hemisphere to confer a charter for a college to make experimental agriculture a part of the regular curriculum, where sons of Maryland farmers could receive scientific instructions. The second such college established in the Western Hemisphere, it was privately owned in the beginning but leter financial assistance was provided by the State of Maryland.
The original site consisted of 428 acres, being a part of the "Rossborough Farms" then owned by Charles B. Calvert who was a prime mover in planning and securing the college. The old Rossburg Inn (originally Rossborough Inn) was on this land and is still in use on the University campus today. This old inn was built in 1793 and was one of the landmarks on the old Baltimore Turnpike. It is said that General George Washington and General Lafayette dined and slept there. The large elms in front of this old building were brought over from England, as were the bricks used in the structure.
The first building erected on the campus was completed in 1859. The Maryland State Legislature in 1866 granted financial aid and named Maryland's Governor ex-officio president of the board of trustees. In 1888, the Maryland Agricultural Experimental Station was established, and the institution began to play a big part in the agricultural development of the entire State.
In 1914, control of the College was taken over entirely by the State of Maryland and in 1916 the name of the institution was changed by legislative action to Maryland State College and the general curriculum expanded. In 1920, by Act of the Maryland Legislature, the name was finally changed to University of Maryland.
Under the guiding and dynamic hands of Doctors R. W. Sylvester, H. J. Patterson, A. F. Woods, R. A. Pearson, H. C. Byrd, T. B. Symons, and Wilson Elkins, the present president, and many other devoted persons, great progress has been made advancing this educational institution to a place among the leading universities of the Nation.
About the year 1900 the student enrollment was some 300, Today there are more than 22,000 students on the College Park campus. Approximately 6,000 persons are now employed on the faculty and staff with a monthly payroll now exceeding $2,000,000.
The campus, embracing more than 500 acres is unusually beautiful with the natural rolling terrain, appropriately landscaped, and the 100, or more, red brick buildings well planned and built of Georgian design. It is one of the best planned and most attractive universities in the Nation. The estimated value of the land and buildings now exceeds $80,000,000.
The history of the University is long and most interesting. Its important influence on the cultural and educational advancement of the entire adjacent areas has been largely responsible for the excellent community we enjoy today. This favorable influence reaches into the homes of practically every family. Economically, it also figures strongly in the financial welfare of many households. The area is, indeed, most fortunate to have the University as a dominant feature that gives great prestige to the College Park and adjacent sections throughout our State and Nation.
One of the historical firsts for College Park was the establishment of the first airfield, where the early development of the "flying machine" took place. The acreage on the east side of the B&O Railroad on Calvert Road was undeveloped, and in 1907 a man named Fred Cox of Washington, D.C., who had been experimenting with model airplane flying and kites, was scouting around Washington for an open area in which to test his belief that he could construct a huge kite which would bear his weight in the air. There seem to be no records of success for this gentleman, but he did discover a future airfield.
In 1909, Lieut. Frank P. Lahm, a balloonist, appreciating the future of aerial navigation, scanned the environments of Washington from a balloon, looking for open and level areas. As did Cox before him, he observed a few miles out in Prince Georges County east of the B 5. 0 Railroad such a field that appeared ideal for a flight training school for the Signal Corps flying activities. When the Army started to move in they found Rexford (Rex) Smith, a Prince Georges County man, already established there. Rex Smith's plane, which he built himself, was completed in 1909 and records show it flew successfully, circling the entire field, a distance of one and a half miles, at an altitude of 100 feet.
The Army Aviation School, as the unit later became known, was activated at the College Park field on October 8, 1909. Arrangements were made with the Wright brothers to serve as instructors and Wilbur Wright came to College Park to assist in the training of the men and handling of the "flying machines". This was reported in the Washington Star on August 2, 1909 as follows: "The Nation's first air area will be established at College Park, Maryland by the War Department. It will be the training ground for officials who will manage the heavier than air machine purchased from the Wright Brothers and Wilbur Wright will be the instructor."
The personnel at that time consisted of Lieutenants Lahm, Humphreys, Selfridge, Foulois, Beck, Walker, Milling and Arnold. In the Spring of 1911, the Signal Corps concluded the permanent home of the Aviation School would be College Park, and some 200 acres of land was leased. That Summer the first of the new planes arrived at College Park and Capt. Charles Chandler was placed in command of the Aviation School. A Lieut. Kirtland was also assigned for duty. The newspapers, slow at first to take notice of what was going on at College Park, began to give recognition to the startling aviation developments, and these activities soon were making headlines. Reporters from the Washington and Baltimore papers were assigned regular coverage and the College Park Airfield was getting plenty of publicity. Many short flights were successfully made over nearby areas which were then sparsely settled. There were occasional forced landings in someone's back lot, but no fatalities.
Wright's basic instruction to the trainees was "when in trouble look for an open space, put her nose down and stick to the ship." What intrepid men these early aviators were! Longer and longer flights were made from College Park to Washington Barracks (now Fort McNair) and to Fort Myer, Va., and return.
In the early flights there were always two men in the plane, but October 26, 1911, was the "big day" at the field when the first "solo flight" was to be made. Many promi-people and high officials from Washington were on hand early to witness the day's event. Promptly at 8 a.m. the plane was "put on the track" and Lieut. Humphreys made the first "solo flight", and the Army claimed its first officer to qualify as an aeroplane pilot under military training. A few minutes later Lieut. Lahm went aloft, so these two men at that time established aviation history. Other officers, of course, soon qualified.
Congressional appropriations were difficult to obtain but this "Aviation School" was fully organized with Capt. Chandler as Commandant, with three instructors, ten officers, supported by thirty enlisted men and one civilian mechanic.
It was usual for crowds to come to the field on Calvert Road to see the new "flying machines". Winter flying with the low-powered airplanes of that period was difficult, so the Army decided to seek a flying field in the south where these activities could be conducted all year. A field in Georgia was selected, but much activity continued at the College Park field. The Signal Corps lease expired on June 30, 1913 and the Army decided not to renew it.
The College Park Field, however, was continued in use by many private groups and individuals over the years. With the development of larger and faster plans requiring longer runways and facilities its use has been more limited to the smaller planes. The "Field", however, is still in use today where many privately owned planes are kept and the Brinkerhoff Flying Service is operating. From 1918 through 1921 this field was the Washington terminus of the first scheduled air mail route in the world. The service was from New York and Philadelphia. In the 1920's the Berliners conducted helicopter experiments at the field, which were the beginning of vertical lifts and led to the use of radio beams. The first helicopter flight took place here in 1920. Today, 45 years later, helicopter public transportation service is in operation from this historic location. There is now a marble monument on these historic grounds which was recently placed by the College Park Rotary Club recognizing the historical significance of the "College Park Airfield", which will always have its place in history. (Many of the facts here stated are from a book entitled "Man Unafraid", by Tillman, and many from my own personal recollections. )
The Volunteer Fire Companies of Branchville, Berwyn Heights, College Park and Greenbelt provide dependable, efficient and prompt service in the protection of property in this area. These first three groups were organized in the early 1920's and have been a very vital factor in the development of the communities, not only in property protection but, as perhaps few realize, in the savings on cost of insurance to the property owner. Also, they have been, and still are, helpful in providing social activities for all.
The Branchville Company also has a Rescue and First Aid Squad, well trained in ambulance service, which has for years been a great assistance to many in time of trouble and distress. There have been so many good citizens who have devoted their time and abilities to this work over the years, it is impossible to give credit here to all. However, the names of Claude Hughes, Al Buscher, Wilton Hardy, William Deeck, Sr., Al Johnson and Alvin Duvall appear as some of the original organizers of the Branchville Company in 1924, as well as Floyd Heimer, who also has served as secretary of the Prince Georges County Volunteer Fireman's Association for many years. The first Chief of the Branchville Fire Company was Albert Johnson and the First Captain of the Rescue Squad was Alvin Duvall. The present Chief of this Fire Department is Richard Melton; C. F. Daniels serves as Captain of the Fire Department; and W. H. Muller is Captain of the Rescue Squad.
In early records of the Berwyn Heights Company, organized also in 1924, George C. Hudgins, C. D. Walker, and Mortimer Johnstone were very active. Paul Sorensen is now the Chief of the Fire Department and Howard Gohr Captain of the Rescue Squad.
The College Park Company was founded in the Fall of 1925 to provide protection not only to the properties in that section but also to protect buildings of the University of Maryland. The following men aided in organizing this group: H. J. Patterson, S. S. Steinberg, H. H. Holbrook, H. B. McDonnell, H. L. Crisp, Forest Holmes, Sr., and a few others. Dr. H. B. McDonnell was chosen as the first Chief. In the Fall of 1926 the late Elmore Power donated a lot on Calvert Road near the B&O Railroad and the first fire-house was built. (This is the same building used as the "Municipal Offices" by the City of College Park for a number of years after the area was incorporated.) Dr. McDonnell served until 1933 when J. F. Headley was chosen for the position. Mr. Headley served until 1942 and was followed by T. R. Richards, Sr., who was the Chief until 1946. Richard Houchens was then elected Chief and held the position to 1947. In the Fall of 1946 the University planned to build a new "Fire Extension Building" on the Baltimore Boulevard across from the main gate to the campus and invited this fire company, in the interest of providing better protection to both the University and the City,to occupy these new quarters. Consequently, the move was made, several new pieces of equipment acquired, and the small, inadequate quarters on Calvert Road were abandoned.
In November 1946, the Greenbelt Volunteer Rescue Squad was organized by Dick Bates, Robert Gray and Warner Steinley. In 1955, the fire department was converted into a Volunteer Organization and was admitted to membership in the Prince Georges County Fireman's Association and the Maryland State Firemen's Association and also the State Rescue Squad Association. A new fire department building on Crescent Road between St. Hugh's Rectory and Parkway was completed in 1960 at a cost of $146,000 and officially dedicated by the City on July 4, 1961. The present Fire Chief is Walter V. Dutton and the Captain of the Rescue Squad is George F. Clinedinst. Greenbelt Fire and Rescue Squad is one of the four efficient organizations protecting this area rendering medical aid and emergency services to the public.
These companies are composed of the very finest citizens and are ready at all times, day or night, to serve and protect us. They all surely have the deep appreciation of all citizens. Few areas have the services of such loyal and dependable fire and rescue organizations.
Geographically, College Park and adjacent areas are distinguished by three valley streams, Paint Branch, Indian Creek, and Northeast Branch forming confluences that eventually find their way to the Anacostia and Potomac Rivers. These valley areas are being developed beautifully by the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission as recreational parks affording open spaces for the population growth. Plans for further development assure a wonderful future for our park and recreational system- This Commission deserves the praise and commendation of the residents for the far-sighted planning that has provided the parks and playfields enjoyed by all.
The excellent growth of the area has been greatly aided by the work of the Washington. Suburban Sanitary Commission. This organization came into being, like the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, largely by the far-sighted vision of T. Howard Duckett, a life-long resident of the County. It has proven over the years a most essential creation providing good water and sewer facilities to the rapidly growing Metropolitan area, including, of course, the entire area included in this story.
Many excellent subdivisions and fine homes have developed throughout the area. In 1946 the old "Hollywood-on-the-Hill" subdivision that was originally planned and recorded just after the turn of the century but had made little growth, was acquired by the Burch Realty Company, which resubdivided the land into a modern community, with spaces for two elementary schools and a recreation area known as "Burch Field". More than 1,000 homes have now been built there and this section is one of the most pleasant parts of our City of College Park.
In the past few years the "Yarrow", "College Park Estates" and "Colonial Knolls" subdivisions have developed along Edmonston Road and some of our very finest homes have been built and sold there. Also, the "College Park Woods" subdivision on Metzerott Road is developing with high grade homes and is likewise one of our best sections. As mentioned before, a good home has been built on practically every building site in Berwyn Heights, and in fact, there are today very few vacant sites in the entire area.
As the area covered by this story continued to grow and many subdivisions and identities developed and overlapped and infringed one upon the other and community services were badly needed, it was realized by some forward-looking citizens that the entire area must be drawn into a cohesive whole and plans made for further orderly development. Also, as the seat of our great university it was necessary for the community to keep pace with the excellent development taking place there. Several efforts had been made to consolidate some of the separate communities under one corporate form of government but the efforts had been unsuccessful.
In October, 1944, representatives from all sections met in the old St. Andrews Parish House on Dartmouth Avenue to discuss a plan for incorporating the entire area from Riverdale to Beltsville into one town. Many public-spirited citizens joined in the work and the following committee was named to proceed with the effort, determine boundary lines, and prepare a charter for the proposed town: Dr. T. B. Symons, long prominent in the University, Chairman, Herbert W. Wells, Secretary, Dr. C. R, Davis, M. W. Parker, Lyman Long, Russell Allen, William A. Duvall, Walter F. Mulligan, C. J. Carpenter, Harry W. McNamee, Arthur B. Gahan, J. W. C. Mack, and T. Raymond'Burch. Debate was long, with many citizens of the area presenting their views. Meetings were held weekly over a three-month period. Finally boundary lines for the proposed town were drawn and the proposed charter written.
This was presented to the Maryland Legislature, who approved the charter subject to a referendum of the residents to be held the first Monday in June, 1945. This referendum brought forth a sound vote of citizens' approval and the Town of College Park was "born".
The first election was held the first Monday of July, 1945. Elected Mayor was William A. Duvall of Branchville. Named Councilman-at-large were Herbert W. Wells and Emanuel F. Zelesak. Other Councilmen designated were Marion W. Parker (District 1, Calvert Hills); Charles R. Davis (District 2, "Old" College Park); J. Chesley Mack (District 3, Lakeland); John W. McKay (District 4, Berwyn); and G. Stewart Parker (District 5, Branchville and north). Later it was found necessary to split District 5 and form District 6, also.
The "Town" was on its way. But trouble lay ahead. Some citizens opposed the incorporation, carrying suit to the Maryland Court of Appeals. While the case was pending, T. Raymond Burch, then a Prince Georges County member of the Maryland General Assembly, guided a perfecting law to passage. Almost simultaneously the court validated the act of 1945. So, College Park twice has been made valid -- by law and court decision. The "rough" beginning turned out to be a "good ending" as we see the City today. Few realize that College Park consistently has maintained a tax rate of only 25 cents per $100 assessed valuation, one of the lowest for any incorporated city in Maryland. Only recently there has been a slight increase. Meantime, since incorporation, the College Park population has grown to over 20,000, to become the largest city in the County, with corresponding increase in demands on the tax yield. Nevertheless, maintenance of the low tax rate is a tribute to the sagacity of the Mayor and the Council and to the forebearance of citizens in their service requests. Recently, a building on 51st Avenue, in the old Branchville section has been acquired for community activities, particularly for the residents of the northern part of the City. It has been named "Davis Hall" in recognition of the diligent work of former Mayor Charles Davis for the advancement and general welfare of the City.
Many hundreds of citizens have contributed their energies to the progress of the City of College Park since incorporation in 1945. Not all held official positions, but all gave of their time and abilities. Mr. Duvall served as Mayor until 1951 when Dr. Charles H. Davis was elected. He held this position until 1963, when he declined to run again for the office. The present Mayor, William W. Gullett was elected then, and is now serving in that capacity, being re-elected for another term recently. These Mayors and Councilmen-at-Large and District Councilman, have guided the City of College Park soundly to its place of prominence today.
The property assessment today totals $43,240,410. More and more homes are being built in the area, business enterprises and industries of all descriptions developing, including the College Park Shopping Center, as well as the large regional shopping center on Greenbelt Road. The circumferential highway circling the District of Columbia, known as "Washington Beltway", recently completed, passes through this area. This provides a convenient and rapid connection with all neighboring communities and ready access to all parts of the City of Washington. Many industrial activities, such as A. H. Smith Co. in the Branchville section and the Litton and ACF plants on Calvert Road have developed in the area, giving employment to many citizens. Many Federal activities and the University of Maryland also provide employment for many residents of the area.
In addition to the various organizations and clubs previously referred to there are many other very active groups in this area, such as the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Knights of Columbus, Moose Lodge, Elks Lodge on nearby Edmonston Road, political and civic clubs, many church groups, Boy and Girl Scouts, Boys' and Girls' Clubs, Library Association and other activities available for the residents.
The area covered by this story now exceeds 12 square miles with a total resident population in excess of 40,000. Such progress and growth proves the attractiveness and desirability of life in this section of our State and assures stability of values and future progress not surpassed in our Nation.
With the rich heritage we possess, good climate, progressive County and town governments, excellent schools, low tax rates, good highways and streets, the seat of our great university, branches of the Federal Government here, neighbors to our National Capital, and the nearby great metropolis of Baltimore, surely this area is most abundantly blessed.
Yes, College Park and the adjacent towns of Berwyn Heights, Greenbelt and this section of Prince Georges County form truly a wonderful area of this great State and Nation in which to "live all the days of your life."
Curator: Dr. David P. Stern
Mail to Dr.Stern: david("at" symbol)phy6.org .
Posted 21 April 2014