Historic Items

Trains & Streetcars

This section of the wall (the far left side) is the “Trains & Streetcar” section. With a history focused around “linking the nation,” the artifacts shown here are related to that long history of how our regional transportation network connected the communities of the Heritage Area. The Baltimore & Ohio Railroad (shown in the “shield” and the image of the train) was completed between Baltimore and Washington, D.C. via the “Washington Branch” in 1835. The railroad connected communities very far apart – Bladensburg, College Park, and Laurel. The image of the train in Laurel shows the importance and vitality of the railroad. Later, in the 1880s and 1890s, the streetcar system was connecting the many small communities that were coming up from the growth of the Federal government. Places like Mount Rainier, Riverdale, and Branchville were stops along the route. This streetcar roll, taken from a 1940s era streetcar, would have been cranked to display the various turning locations. The streetcar system originally extended all the way to Laurel, but by the 1940s was stopping in Branchville (about where Maryland Route 193 crosses the Trolley Trail). Note in the next image is the “SLOW” sign that would have mounted to a pole for the streetcar system. Finally, the D.C. Transit sign board would have been on a bus between Washington and Bowie to take riders to the Bowie race track for a horse race. This brings the most modern of vehicles – the bus or automobile – into connection with one of the oldest – the horse.

B&O Railroad Shield (replica)
Capital Transit Streetcar Stop “Roll” from National Capital Trolley Museum
Image of Baltimore & Ohio train near Laurel from B&O Railroad Museum
DC Transit Bus sign advertising a special run to the Bowie Race Track from National Capital Trolley Museum

Communities & Natural Resources

In this part of the wall, our items explore two different topics – communities and natural resources.

The heritage area has seventeen member communities – from homeowner associations to large cities. Two of our member towns donated items that demonstrate the legacy of their community. On the lower left is the very long shovel that the Town of Berwyn Heights used to install light poles before the advent of machinery that could place the pole. The Town of University Park donated the “College Heights Drive” sign as a demonstration of the small, residential communities that are a vital part of our region’s history.

The image of the Perimeter Trail at Greenbelt Park (National Park Service) reminds us of our connection to the natural places of the region. Greenbelt Park is one of the few places in the region where you can camp and hike through a natural, National Park within walking distance of the Metro. Also in this image, note the “American Discovery Trail” sign. The ADT connects the East Coast with the West Coast with one, long trail system. Of course, the kayak stands out. Donated by the Bladensburg Waterfront Park when the boat wasn’t seaworthy, the kayak indicates the importance of our two rivers – the Anacostia and the Patuxent Rivers. Get out and paddle to see the region from a different point of view.

SLOW Sign from Capital Transit system donated by National Capital Trolley Museum
Kayak and paddle donated from Bladensburg Waterfront Park
Image of Perimeter Trail at Greenbelt Park (A. Marcavitch)
Shovel donated by the Town of Berwyn Heights used to install first power poles
College Park Heights sign donated by Town of University Park

US Route 1: Black and White

US Route 1, Baltimore Avenue, or America’s Main Street are all names for the long highway that connects so many of our heritage area communities. This highway, which has existed in some form or another for over four hundred years (and perhaps longer), is a well-known road for the high amount of commercial development, redevelopment, and growth. These items are a way of connecting with that long legacy. The US Route 1 shield is from a 1940s design. The “WHITE HOUSE” neon sign is actually taken from the original sign that stood outside of the motel shown in the postcard image above. The Del Haven White House Motel was located where the modern IKEA is today in North College Park. The central “white house” was at one time known as Brown’s Tavern. A motel and gas station was built behind the main building. The motel was a common look for motels of the golden age of roadside construction in the 1920s and 1930s. But the road at the time wasn’t open to all. African American travelers would have spotted the name “White House” and known they were likely not allowed to enter. Instead, African American owned facilities would have been used or even private homes (“tourist homes”) in communities like Lakeland. The Negro Motorist Green Book, developed by Victor Green, was a passport to many of these locations for African American travelers prior to about 1968. Only one site on US Route 1 (in Elkridge) is listed for Maryland. But we know many other sites did exist at the time to cater to the African American traveler.

Cover of the Negro Traveler’s Green Book from 1956
Maryland US ROUTE 1 Sign (replica)
Del Haven White House Cottages Postcard from Boston Public Library collection
Del Haven White House Cottages portion of Neon Sign (Donated by Larry Kanter)

War of 1812 & Fields of Firsts

Two very different historical moments are shown in this wall. On the left is a banner from the War of 1812 commemoration in 2012-2014. A group working through Maryland Milestones developed a large commemoration to celebrate the Battle of Bladensburg. The battle (shown in the small painting below this wall) was fought on August 24, 1814, and was a major test of the young American forces. Before leaving the field pursued by the British, the American troops under Commodore Joshua Barney mounted a valiant stand – undaunted in the face of the superior British – and ensured enough time to save the Declaration of Independence and Constitution from British torches. When the American’s were on the field, they would have seen the “rockets red glare” above them – coming from the “Congreve rocket.” These rockets, little more than a modern bottle rocket, would have made much noise and burst into a red stream. To the farmers and untrained militia, this would have been a scary sight.

In the more modern days of 1909, the Wright Brothers – after their successful test of flight – came to College Park to build a training facility for military fliers. The College Park airfield, shown in this image, was used for military and commercial airplanes. Crashes were common in the time and the smiles on the faces of the men carrying this wrecked airplane seem to indicate that no one was hurt. The airplane propeller is a remnant from a more modern airplane.

Finally, the bicycle reminds us that we should get out on the trail. This bike from the 1930s/1940s was part of a College Park Aviation Museum exhibit about the Wright Brothers (who built bicycles first). Today, we can pack up our basket and get out on the trail!

War of 1812 Banner from 2014 Commemoration
Replica “Congreve’ Rocket donated by Prince George’s Cultural and Historic Trust
Propeller donated by College Park Aviation Museum
Image of military aviators carrying the wing of a Wright Flyer at College Park Airport in 1900’s from collection of College Park Aviation Museum
1930’s Era Bicycle from College Park Aviation Museum

There are two additional artifacts in the space. Directly to the right of the bicycle is a film canister from the Old Greenbelt Theater and a fragment of the original wall that was in this space. The Pyramid Atlantic Art Center was at one time a church but soon became a silent movie theater (1915). This space was the entry to the theater by the 1930s. The walls would have been a variety of colors with colorful Egyptian designs.