A History of the Town of Landover
George's County entered a period of growth and expansion that began in
the 1920's. "Streetcar suburbs" developed in such places as Brentwood,
Mount Rainier, and Seat Pleasant. Hyattsville and Bladensburg also on the
streetcar line, gained several thousand new residents. Clusters of homes
were also built along the railroad at the Landover, Ardmore and Lanham
stops. Then in the 1930's and 1940's, widespread automobile ownership made
suburban development possible in areas beyond the reach of streetcar and
railroad lines. Defense Highway, the main thoroughfare, played an important
part in the development of quiet land.
Just a narrow tree-lined country road, Defense Highway was even then very old. During colonial days it had been the main road between Bladensburg (founded 1742) and Annapolis. At the time of the war of 1812, troop reinforcements, intended to assist in the defense of the new capital of Washington, were marched along this road. The battle that took place at Bladensburg on August 24, 1814 was of course unsuccessful and the British soldiers burned the uncompleted Capitol Building.
For the next one hundred years the highway remained an unpaved country road winding through fields of tobacco, corn and wheat and through the regions thick forests. After World War I, however, the Federal Government decided that the major roads leading to Washington should be paved so troops and military equipment could be easily transported in case of another war. The Federal Government helped fund the paving of the road in the 1920's. It became known as Defense Highway.
Today Defense Highway is six lanes wide. It is often called Annapolis Road. It's official designation is Maryland Route 450. Until John Hanson Highway was built in the 1950's, it was U.S. 50.
In 1940, Dorothy and Monroe Warren, owners of 148 acres of wooded farm land along Defense Highway, planned a subdivision to be known as Landover Hills. Their property was located midway between Bladensburg and Lanham, lying southeast of Defense Highway and extending to the Pennsylvannia Railroad tracks. The builder was Meadowbrook, Inc. with Monroe Warren as president of the corporation.
Landover Hills was one of the first modern suburban developments along Defense Highway. It once stood alone out in the country.
The Early Years
In the beginning, the years 1940 and 1941, there was mud in the streets, in the yards, in the homes and in the clothing of all. This muddy place was the developing community of Landover Hills, Maryland.
Monroe and Dorothy Warren planned this community. Throughout the years, the property on which the subdivision was built had changed ownership several times. It had been divided and rearranged from three other properties.
The approximately 148 acres of hilly land was bounded by Annapolis Road, 68th Place, Ardmore-Ardwick Road and the Pennsylvania Railroad. The soil was the red clay of this part of Maryland. The landscape was rural and typically country in appearance and facilities. Two small farms and several tracts of heavy woodland contributed to the beauty and charm of the area.
In 1940 model homes were ready for inspection. Interested people had the privilege of selecting a lot from a large plat of the area. The buyer could choose a lot, large or small, according to his needs. The early price of these homes was between three and four thousand dollars, and they could be had for a low down payment and an interest rate of 4%. The future residents paid a low monthly ground rent until they were ready to purchase the lot.
By 1943 homes were being built on Taylor Street and beyond. The homes on the streets south of Taylor were "prefab" due to shortages of materials brought on my the war.
Lots were graded, front lawns sodded and shrubs planted. The town slowly took on a urban look but missing were stores, gas stations, schools and doctors. Shopping was done in Washington, Hyattsville, Bladensburg or other nearby communities. Medical services also had to be obtained in other areas and there was no organized group to make things happen.
Landover Hills was very fortunate in many ways. It was blessed by many residents with the leadership necessary to form groups to get things done. These people came from many places across our nation; they came because of transfers and changes in jobs or because of that growing sound of war. They gathered in private homes to form a civic association and a fire department. They established churches and solved school problems. They were professional, knowledgeable and thorough in their approach to solving the needs of the community.
Serving the Citizens
The first such group to organize was the Community Club Association, later known as the Landover Hills Citizens Association. Meetings were held in public buildings in other communities. Because of the efforts of the membership chairman the organization grew and committees were formed to cover all phases of life in the town. The leadership of this group provided inspiration and help to many groups that followed. Its officers were: President, John Kurtz; Vice-President, George Brown; Treasurer, William Elliot; and Secretary, Doris Stonebraker.
The Woman's Club of Landover Hills was organized in 1941 and held its meetings in homes of members. The aim of the women was civic improvement and they worked hard to achieve this goal. They coordinated their efforts with those of the Community Club Association in order to bring needed changes to the fast growing community. Mrs. Lovye Schilling was elected President of this group.
The Homemakers Club was formed and flourished under the auspices of the Prince George's County Home Demonstration Agent and Club President Mrs. Theresa Boyle. Members participated in meetings and fairs; some attended classes at the University of Maryland.
The Citizens Association saw the need for a better means of communication with the residents. With the help of volunteers a monthly newsletter was mimeographed and sent to each home in town.
The Effects of War
December 7, 1941 was a dark day for the town, the country and the world. No one could anticipate the problems that would arise as a result of the bombing of Pearl harbor and our full scale involvement in World War II. Many young people would be called to serve in our nations' armed forces; some would be sent to distant battlefields.
Shortages affected every stage of peoples' lives. Shortages of building supplies slowed down the completion of homes in town and forced the builder to make many changes in the design of the homes. Heating systems were changed from oil to coal. Gasoline was rationed and car pools were organized. Public transportation was sought and limited service was granted by Greyhound. Scrap metal and fats were saved and donated for recycling. Trash and garbage collection was contracted for on an individual basis. This soon became unsatisfactory and a contract was finally obtained so that the collection could be done on a town wide basis.
A school for the town became a distant dream.
The Civil Defense Agency assisted in organizing and training air raid wardens. These volunteers were fingerprinted by the F.B.I. The agency also assisted the town in getting an Officer of Civilian Defense Pumper, arm bands, helmets and other items used by the wardens.
Four large bells that were to be used as air raid signals were purchased and erected in the town. Their signals were relayed from the Bladensburg fire station to the home of chief wardens Dorothy and Bill Zundel. Dorothy was the daytime warden and her husband Bill served the night shift. The signals were conveyed to wardens throughout the town who were responsible for going out and pulling ropes to ring the bells. Practice blackouts were conducted, the first one in March 1942.
Later the Citizens Association conducted a house-to-house campaign to collect funded to buy sirens that would replace the bells. The sirens were purchased. Two were placed in the lower part of town and one on the Zundel's roof. Practice blackouts and drills were held until the end of the war. The volunteers received recognition for their services from the Civilian Defense Agency and from the President of the Untied States.
The Red Cross organized first aid courses and the Woman's Club collected funds to buy first aid cases for use by the air raid wardens.
"War" or "Victory" gardens were started in backyards and that old clay gave back some very nice produce. Nothing is ever perfect and neither was this endeavor. The little Japanese Beetle came to take his share. The University of Maryland and the Extension Service came to the rescue with help in the form of information and beetle traps. Food rationing was a fact of life and the little gardens were a small help in reducing the stress and aggravation of standing in long lines for such things as soap, sugar and other items.
Petty crime became a problem in the town. Thieves moved about at night stealing cars, tires and other car parts. The county police were able to offer little help as their force was barely large enough to serve the whole county. A request for the formation of an auxiliary police department was made to the county commissioners, who forwarded it to the Governor of Maryland. The request was denied since the town was not incorporated. Again the town responded. With 185 male volunteers the Civilian Night Patrol, under the direction of Bill Zundel was organized. It protected the property of sleeping residents during the hours of 8:00 p.m. until midnight. The men used their own cars and a white rag with the word "Police" written on it was their only identification. During air raid drills no automobile lights could be shown so a flashlight was used as it was needed.
The Post Office
The first post office was established on May 16, 1945 at 4419 72nd Avenue, the home of Edward and Ann McEntee. The back wall of their kitchen was converted into a walk-up window where postal business could be conducted. Mrs. McEntee provided the much needed service to the Town.
Four years later the post office moved to Oliver's store where it remained until the Landover Hills Shopping Center was expanded and could provide space for a full scale post office. This building was used until 1970 when the new Landover Hills Post Office went into operation at 7400 Buchanan Street.
During 1948 there was a move by the Post Office Department to transfer the postal service received by Landover Hills from the First Class Hyattsville District to the Second Class Bladensburg District. The Citizen's Association opposed the transfer, they enlisted the cooperation of neighboring communities. With this added help, the transfer never came about and except for minor problems, Hyattsville has served the community well.
Children attended school in Bladensburg and Lanham. All the children including first graders went by bus. They left as early as 7:30 a.m. and returned as late as 5 p.m.
Monroe Warren donated fourteen acres to be used as a building site for a school to the Prince George's Board of Education. This was the first such parcel of land to be donated for a school. Home buyers were told where the school would be built, but not one of them could know the problems and obstacles that lay ahead. All these had to be overcome before the school could become a reality.
An informal census was taken to find the number of school age children in the area. This census had to be taken several times before the plans for the school were on the drawing board. When federal funds used to assist in the building of schools became unavailable political representatives were contacted to give assistance. The Citizens Association formed a school committee which met with school officials and presented the results of the census. Eventually the Board of Education informed the association that it recognized the need for a school in Landover Hills, but the war delayed construction for many years.
Elementary school children continued to attend school in Bladensburg and Lanham. In 1942 some of these children were transferred to the Ardmore Elementary School. For a variety of reasons parents were extremely dissatisfied with the move. The health and safety of their children were at stake and some parents removed their children from school. A delegation of thirty-five parents requested a meeting with the superintendent of schools. After a lengthy discussion of grievances the superintendent rose from his seat and told the group to get their children back in school by Monday or they would find themselves in jail.
The group said, "So do it."
The very next week a letter was received by the parent delegation informing them that a room was being renovated at the Bladensburg Primary School. The room was bright and cheerful and an excellent teacher, Mrs. Mudd, was assigned to teach the children.
The school committee from the Citizens Association became very active in various parent-teacher associations and worked with them in solving their problems. The Board of Education became aware of this and informed them that they were pleased with their initiative. They requested the committee keep them informed of any new developments.
A bus shelter was built at 71st Avenue and Annapolis Road to protect the children during bad weather. Mr. Warren donated materials for this shelter and citizen volunteers erected it.
By 1946 it became apparent that the Landover Hills school would become a reality. Funds were available and plans had been drawn. There were some revisions in plans, and discussions on name and other matters but on March 6, 1949 Landover Hills School was dedicated. By this time many of those children from the early years were in Junior and Senior High School.
The religious needs of the Town were met by people joining together and meeting in homes. A non-sectarian Sunday School opened in the Francis Dickson home at 4216 71st Avenue in 1941. Soon the place was overcrowded and another home was also used. This group eventually became the Landover Hills Baptist Mission and met at 6914 Varnum Street. Lutheran, Methodist and Catholic Churches would also be founded in Landover Hills in the 1950's.
In the meantime, people also attended churches in Ardmore, Bladensburg and Mount Rainier.
The Fire Department
The Bladensburg Volunteer Fire Department served the Town of Landover Hills. Many of the men from Town joined the Volunteer Bladensburg Unit, attending training classes, receiving certificates and becoming volunteer firemen.
From this group an auxiliary fire department was organized in Landover Hills. Phil McCrary was the first Chief of the unit. Dave Holloway taught a new class in basic firefighting.
The auxiliary unit became the nucleus of a permanent Fire Department for the Town and the surrounding area. The volunteers used the Office of Civilian Defense Pumper and practiced in their spare time. Then, by October 1945, it was decided the time had come to organize a Fire Department in Landover Hills. Invitations were sent to all homes inviting men interested in firefighting to join. These men met in private homes and elected E.W Houston as temporary treasurer.
Plans were made and a constitution and By-laws were written and adopted. By January 1946 the department was formally organized. Its only piece of equipment was the OCD Pumper.
The officers of this newly organized unit were: President. E.W. Houston; Vice President Clarence Pendleton; Secretary-Treasurer, J.F.X. Mayhew; Trustees, Glen D. Culbert, Andrew Willioner and William Zundel. Operation officers were: Chief Henry J. Pepin and upon his resignation Clarence Cramer; Assistant Chief, J.F.X. Mayhew; First Captain, Walter K. Hill; Second Captain, Clarence E. Taylor; First Lieutenant, John F. Corkill; Second Lieutenant Clarence Pendleton; Sergeant, Charles Burton; Chief Engineer, Daniel Rauch, Jr.; Assistant Engineers, Daniel Rauch, Sr., Glen Culbert, William Fox, William Sessums and Ben E. Harris. (Some of the officers and men of LHVFD circa 1946).
For a total cost of $350.00 the department bought a used Dodge truck and turned it into a firefighting vehicle. Now there was a firefighting unit with one piece of equipment and no place to meet or store their truck. It was decided to build a quonset hut. A deal was made with the Board of Education for the use of the part of school land which bordered on the west end of Taylor Street. (current location of Landover Hills Town Hall). By August 1946 the hut was erected, the charter of incorporation was granted and the men were ready to answer the call.
Through the fund raising efforts of the department needed equipment and supplies were slowly obtained. In November of 1950 a county fire tax law was passed to help in the maintenance and housing of equipment in those areas that favored the tax. There is now a county wide tax which provides for some paid firemen at each firehouse.
The Ladies Auxiliary
to the Landover Hills Fire Department was organized in January 1947. The
goal of these ladies was to support the fire department in all of their
activities, including fund raising. They joined the county and state auxiliaries
and through the years many of the local members served as officers and
on committees in these groups. The first officers of the Ladies Auxiliary
were: President, Mrs. Edith Hill; Vice President, Mrs. Dorothy Cramer;
Secretary, Mrs. Nettie Fox; Treasurer, Mrs. Irma Hands; Guard, Mrs. Sylvia
Pugh. Mrs. Dorothy Cramer moved from Landover Hills and Mrs. Catherine
Corkill was elected Vice President.
In the early years recreational facilities in the area were practically non-existent. While some clubs, church groups and the various committees provided some recreational activity for adults, the children were virtually left out. Yards, streets and open spaces were either too muddy or too uneven for spontaneous play activities.
A group headed by Bill Zundel received permission to clear a portion of the school property for a playground. The land was so rocky and hilly that it was impossible to do the task with the equipment available. Mr. William tracy received permission to use the proposed shopping center site for ball games. Volunteers cleared a large area and ball games gave pleasure to adults and children alike. The Landover Hills Men's Softball Team held regularly scheduled games challenging similar teams in the county.
On November 12, 1942, Boy Scout Troop 251 was chartered, naming Landover Hills Citizen Association as sponsor. Mr. Howard Seitz of the National Area Council presented the charter to John Kurtz, President of the Citizens Association. the first scoutmaster was Eric Sword, followed by Ed Grover, assisted by William Stonebraker. Interest lagged for a while until Edward Marr, still in military service, took over the troop, assisted by Quinn Smith.
Girl Scout and Brownie troops were organized. Many talented and dedicated women provided leadership to the girls in the community. At the same time they offered many interesting activities. Mrs. Howard Seitz was the organizer and first leader of this troop. She was followed by Peggy Sauer, Pat Elliot and many others.
Sleigh riding during the cold winter months was a fun time for the children. Two streets were blocked, fire were made in barrels and with adult supervision a great time was had by all.
In 1942 the Citizen's Association planned a Halloween party. The Women's Club had donated some money for the air raid service but these funds had not been used. The money was now given for the Halloween party. This was a big success! In the following years builders constructed stages so that the costumes could be viewed and judged and business groups donated valuable prizes for the winners.
These parties continued until the town was incorporated.
In 1944 the Women's Club of Landover Hills, under the direction of Mrs. Alfred gregory, dedicated an Honor Roll as a tribute to the men and women of the Town who had served in the armed forces of our country. The Honor Roll was located on the island at 71st Avenue and Annapolis Road.
For the dedication ceremony a wooden platform was erected by volunteers. It was draped with flags and banners and was equipped with a public address system. Seats were provided for invited guests.
Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts served as the Honor Guard. The American flag was raised over the Honor Roll by Corporal Fred Wallace of Buchanan Street; Reverend Merle Shade gave the invocation. The Gold Star mother of Landover Hills, Mrs. Regina Bryant, was escorted by Seaman First Class William Timmons. She was to unveil the Honor Roll. Mrs. Bryant was the mother of Hugh Mack Bryant, who was killed in action in New Guinea on November 27, 1942. A wreath was placed on the memorial by Mrs. Thomas Steele, President of the Women's Club, Helen Shenton sang. The Honorable Congressman Lansdale G. Sasscer gave the address and Father Waldemar J. Herborn gave the benediction. After the ceremony tea was served to the invited guests at the Zundel home.
The Honor Roll stood until after the war as a silent tribute to those who served their country. Names were added until the end of the war. later this Honor Roll was replaced with a memorial tree and a permanent plaque honoring World War II veterans of Landover Hills. Wreaths were placed at the site on Veterans Day and Memorial day. In 1968 Annapolis Road was widened and the tree, the plaque and the community Christmas tree had to be removed.
From the beginning it was apparent that the community could not realize all of its goals with the help of only the Citizen's Association. Although there was the need for more police protection and auxiliary force could not be formed because the town was not incorporated. Trash and garbage collections could be handled better. The streets and roads were in very bad condition and there was no means for repairs in sight. The responsibility for road maintenance remained with the builder until all building was completed. He too had shortages.
The Citizen's Association appointed a committee to investigate the various forms of self government that could be adopted. They were to report on which one would best serve the needs of the Town. The Special Improvement Area was suggested and then rejected by the Association.
Residents were urged to register and vote in order to show the voting power of Landover Hills.
Incorporation meant that the state would grant authority by charter for the Town to govern itself. It could then solve its own problems. It would be necessary for 51% of the homeowners to sign a petition requesting the right to incorporate. This petition would be presented to the Maryland State Legislature which would meet in January 1945. If the petition was accepted a bill would be drawn up which would allow a referendum vote for incorporation. It was expected that it would take six months for the charter to become a fact.
The Association appointed an incorporation committee of 15 members with Mrs. Ann McEntee as chairman. W. Carroll Betty, a Hyattsville attorney, was retained to protect the interests of the Town and to draw up a charter in case a majority of voters signed the petition and the legislature accepted it.
The community was canvassed in October 1944 and by December 65% of the homeowners had signed the petition. By January 70% of the residents favored incorporation. Signatures were turned over to the attorney for presentation to the legislature. But, as always, there was a small group who were against the move and would try to block it.
Because of the Hatch Act residents who worked for the federal government had to receive special permission from the Civil Service Commission to participate in local elections or to hold office. Because they did this Landover Hills became one of several nearby communities in which federal employees could participate in local elections and hold office.
In March 1945 Herbert R. O'Connor, Governor of Maryland, signed House Bill 231 granting the residents of Landover Hills the right to hold a referendum vote to incorporate. Homeowners received printed information on the cost of operating the Town under incorporation. They were urged to vote. Registration was held in three wards; private homes were used for registering and voting polls were set up.
The first registration day was April 14, 1945 and the first voting day was April 17, 1945. The result of the referendum was 265 for incorporation and 93 against.
A nominating convention, designed to carry out the terms of the charter, was set for April 25, 1945. Because there was no community meeting place, Dave and Louise Holloway offered their front yard at 7102 Varnum Street as a place to hold the convention. A large wooden platform was erected by volunteers, and was draped with banners and flags.
The nominating convention met to nominate the Mayor and Town Treasurer and two Councilmen from each of the three wards. William Zundel, President of the Citizens Association, addressed the gathering. He thanked all who cooperated with the Association, the Incorporation Committee and Mr. Edward McEntee, Chairman of the Nominating Committee.
Nominations were called for Mayor, Treasurer, and two Councilmen from each of the three wards. The results of the nominating convention were: mayor, William Zundel; Treasurer, Ann McEntee; Councilmen, Ward I, Roland Mills and E. Wheeler Houston; Ward II, Raymond Mealy and Otis Anderson; Ward III, William Elliott and William J.R. Spahr.
The first election date was set for May 9, 1945. But on May 4th a suit contesting the referendum held on April 17th was filed in the Prince george's Court in Upper Marlboro, Maryland by five residents who were not in favor of the incorporation. Several charges of illegalities committed by the incorporation committee were spelled out in the suit. This was a disappointment but as always the Town pulled together and twenty citizens of the Town went before the court in Upper Marlboro. As a result objections to the legality of the referendum on the incorporation of Landover Hills were overruled by Judge Gray. The suit was ordered dismissed.
The Incorporation Committee prepared and distributed to all residents a flyer stating the results of the suit, and urging everyone to vote on May 9, 1945. On that date the slate of officers was duly elected. The only paid member of the first Town Council was the treasurer. All other members served without compensation.
In 1945 the Prince George's County election districts were revised. Landover Hills became the 4th Precinct of the 2nd Election District of Bladensburg. It was then necessary to find a place where citizens could register and vote in county elections. Mr. Spahr offered his basement and built voting booths. Election judges were appointed and Republican and Democratic workers were assigned. Voting was held at the Spahr house until the firehouse was built. Then voting was held at the firehouse and later it took place at the completed Landover Hills School.
Mayor Zundel set about the process of shaping an efficient town government that would provide for the safety and welfare of the people. Mr. O. Wheeler of 4233 71st Avenue was appointed Chief of Police; there were no other officers. Dave Holloway was appointed Fire Marshall. In 1946 Danny Rauch, Jr. of 6931 Shepherd Street served as Police Chief with four officers under him. The men served without pay and used their own cars. They were given one dollar a week for gasoline. Their uniforms were a combination of bus driver uniforms. In 1947 Paul Leyendecker of 4409 72nd Avenue was appointed Chief of Police with three officers serving under him.
In 1952 Joseph Brandt took office as Mayor, replacing William Zundel. He won the election by one vote. there had been an official recount of the ballots cast on May 9, 1951.
Population was 1,661 and the tax rate was fixed by Charter at .50 per $100.
In 1954, a Mr. Norris built several homes on 70th Avenue near Parkwood Street. His responsibility to the Town included paving the street and laying curbs along front footage.
Meetings of the Town Council were held at Landover Hills Elementary School or the firehouse. In September 1953, the Council decided to rent the Youth Services Building for $2.00 a month. The Council dealt with municipal problems such as road cave-ins caused by drainage from across the highway in Glenridge and by the many underground springs in "the hills". Trash and garbage were also a problem. These extra efforts paid off in the improved appearance of the Town.
Street lights were added as the Town grew. Following a fatal accident at 71st and Defense Highway a traffic light was installed there by Hawkins Electric Company. The light had a pedestrian control which proved helpful to the students attending the new Junior High across the highway in Glenridge.
The Police Department consisted of verifying numbers of officers under Chief Edmund Confrey, who was appointed in 1951. Uniforms were worn and a special patch on the sleeve, designed by Mrs. Anna Lex, set them apart as Landover Hills Police. Chief Confrey used his home at 4117 Fairfax Street as Headquarters. His wife answered the phone during the day, referring serious calls to Prince George's County Police. Townspeople referred to her as "Mrs. Chief". The Town purchased a Ford with a two-way radio in 1950. Its official designation was "Car 64" and it bore the Town name and seal. In 1958 Sgt. Abraham Parys formed a Police Cadet Corps. Young men between the ages of 16 and 20 were trained to assist police and civil defense personnel. The first cadets to graduate from this program were Henry D. Clark, Elbert R. Hill , and Robert J. Parys.
In 1953 the Town appointed Joseph F.X. Mayhew Fire Marshall. Under his leadership the homeowners and businessmen became fire conscious. The volunteer firemen conducted instructional programs in the elementary school and sent home fire safety check lists. A phone call to the Fire Department would usually bring a volunteer to inspect chimneys and flues. Since homes were primarily of wooden construction, the threat of house fires was always present. Grateful citizens often contributed to the annual fund drive to help support the Volunteer Fire Department. Sand was stockpiled at the firehouse and spread by firemen and citizens in icy weather.
Civil Defense, which grew out of wartime blackout periods, was a concern of the Town. In 1952 Mr. raymond Mealy was appointed to be Civil defense Director. Mr. Clarence Pendleton of 4404 71st Avenue succeeded to this post under Mayor Harbin. With brief absences he still serves the Town in this capacity.
Mr. Freed, of the Central Study Group, approached the Town Council in February 1953 with a plan for a large new incorporated area. This was to include communities bounded by Finns Lane, East Pines, the (under construction) Baltimore Washington Parkway, and an unnamed road in Landover. This was to include West Lanham, Landover Hills, and Bellemead. Woodlawn was 96% favorable. Bellemead, represented by mr. Morrell, was favorable. Glenridge was cautious and wanted to postpone decision until 1955. Defense Heights and Parkway Estates had not been polled. Landover Hills was of the opinion that the idea was sound, but felt the initiative should come from from the individual communities. The difficulties of incorporating were explained. Much more study of the plan was needed. Of course, the Town never adopted this plan and several communities remain unincorporated. The Town did annex Buchanan Street from 72nd Avenue to Ardmore Road in 1958 at the request of the two churches residing thereon.
In 1952, each homeowner was given a codified ordinance book for easy reference. The Town entrance sign originally constructed in 1946, was refurbished in 1952. A fence along 71st Avenue was necessitated by the fact that some over eager drivers used the lot as a short cut when leaving the shopping center. As there was a service road in front of the stores at that time, one could avoid the main road. Clean-up Day 1953 was completed at a total cost of $30. Four Hundred and Sixty Five people received free chest x-rays at the mobile until set up at the Shell Station.
In February 1955, the Town made a request of Governor McKeldin. They asked that the Town of Landover Hills be placed on the official state map. Also at that time, salaries of the Town Clerk and Treasurer were raised to $200 and $100 respectively. It was decided that the Town would purchase and plant 10 Crabapple and 8 Red Maple trees in Buchanan Park, total cost $180.
Stanley Swipp became Mayor in 1955 and resigned in 1957. James W. Harbin was appointed to fill the vacancy and was subsequently elected. He served in that post until his untimely death at his home, 4110 Beall Street, in 1965. In 1957 Mayor Harbin and Civil Defense Director Clarence Pendleton attended a statewide exercise in Civil Defense. The two men could readily see the importance of a Civil Defense Plan for the Town. training and equipment were supplied to interested townspeople by the State Civil Defense Agency. A generator for emergency electric power was bought by the Town.
Landover Hills has spawned four churches. The character of the early settlers may account for this phenomenon. They were mostly young couples transplanted here from other states and they brought their religious preferences with them.
Ascension Lutheran Churchgrew from an invitation of the Arthur Mahlo family to Reverend Edwin Pieplow of Trinity Lutheran Church, Mt Rainier. Since gasoline was tightly rationed and automobiles were scarce, traveling to Mt. Rainier each Sunday posed a hardship for families living in Landover Hills. Reverend Pieplow did come in January 1945. He preached to 19 adults and children in the home of Colonel Donald Rindt at 7110 Allison Street. For a few months in 1946, services were held in the Bennick home at 4222 71st Avenue. In that year, with financial help from Trinity Lutheran Congregation in Mt. Rainier, the house at 4219 70th Avenue was bought. The cinder block and brick basement addition was built in 1947. Parishioner Ernest Maier, of Maier Cinder Block Company in Bladensburg, was of great help in this endeavor. The white bungalow was used for a sanctuary and the basement building for Sunday School and a meeting hall.
In December 1950, the Church entered into a financial agreement with trinity Lutheran Church of Bowie. The pastor at Ascension would serve both churches. Reverend henry C. Schroeder, of Jacksonville, Florida was installed as pastor and moved into the chapel residence at 4219 70th Avenue in Landover Hills. he lived there until a new parsonage was bought at 6909 Buchanan Street, Woodlawn in 1953. Plans to build a proper church at the 70th Avenue site were abandoned because of zoning restrictions. On June 6, 1952 the congregation voted to purchase 2.1 acres of land on Ardmore Road. Mr. and Mrs. Fred Knauer, of Trinity Church, Bowie generously donated $10,000 so construction could commence debt free. The present church at 7420 Ardmore Road was dedicated on March 3, 1957.
Christ United Methodist Church was a product of the thoughtful efforts of Methodist planners in the Baltimore Conference. They saw the need of a Methodist church in the rapidly growing area of Landover Hills. This expansion followed the opening of the Baltimore-Washington Parkway in 1955. On June 17, 1956 the first service and congregational meeting took place at Landover Hills Elementary School. There were 77 persons present, including a choir of 15 from First Church in Hyattsville. At the same time, 31 children attended Sunday School in the Youth Services Building next door. The following Sunday 13 persons took vows of membership in the as yet unnamed church. On January 27, 1957 charter memberships were closed at 90 members. The property on 69th Avenue was bought as a parsonage. From March 10, 1957 until completion of their building in 1962, services were held at 4219 70th Avenue, the site having been purchased from Ascension Lutheran for $17,000.
Good Friday 1958, marked the first joint service with neighboring churches of other denominations. This practice continued until 1966. At one time this involved 7 churches.
The Baptist Church, which had begun in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Francis Dickson, had continued to grow under the guidance of Mr. Merle Shade and Reverend George Hickson, both of Mt. Rainier Baptist Church. When the mission opened its new home at 6914 Varnum Street, Mr. Shade and his family moved into the house and Sunday morning and evening services were begun in August 1943. Mr. and Mrs. Spahr, who lived across the street at 6917 Varnum Street, converted their basement into a junior department for Sunday School.
On January 21, 1945 the mission was organized as the Landover Hills Baptist Church. Mr. Shade, by now Reverend Shade, became the first pastor, followed by Reverend Herbert Clough in 1949.
The property at 73rd Avenue and Buchanan Street was purchased in 1951 for $2,400. The finance committee consisted of Mrs. Zoerner, Mrs. Pruitt, Mr. Thorp, Mr. Chinn, and Mr. Rollman. Perpetual Building Association offered to raise their pledge from $5,000 to $40,000. This generous offer was gratefully accepted and the church was built.
The Women's Missionary Union of the Baptist Church was formed in 1956 by Mrs. Ratcliffe and Mrs. Spahr with Mrs. Vonetta (Bonnie) Hall as the first president. The beautiful stained glass window behind the baptismal was a gift from the WMU. In 1961 a parsonage was completed at 5811 Oland Drive, New Carrollton and the house at 4416 73rd Avenue was purchased as a senior department of the Sunday School.
St. Mary's Catholic Church started as a mission from St. George Church in Ardmore. That small wooden structure known as "the cathedral in the pines" was where Landover Hills' Catholics attended Mass in the early 40's. The 9.5 acre property for St. Mary's was purchased in 1948 and two officers mess halls, acquired from War Assets Administration, were trucked from Richmond. These were assembled on the Buchanan Street side and exterior brickwork (very decorative) was added. The building contained a church, meeting rooms, church hall, and kitchen. The first Mass was said on May 30, 1948 by Father Waldemar Herborn. His parish assistant was Father Raum. In 1950, when Father Timothy Lickteig became pastor, the need for a school and larger church was apparent. There were 400 families in the parish and 233 children attending grade school. These children were bused to Holy Name School in D.C.
In February 1954, work was begun on the red brick church-school building. A rectory was provided for the priests when the parish purchased a house at 72nd Avenue and Buchanan Street in 1951. The number of families continued to grow. In 1960 parish boundaries were redrawn. St. Mary's lost a great many people to St. Mathias Church in Lanham. With the development of New Carrollton some Catholics moved there and started attending St. Bernard's in Riverdale.
Landover Hills Elementary School opened with a flair in September 1948. Showplace of the School Board, the building had many innovative details such as: functional fireplace in the library, large airy classrooms with individual exits to play areas, chalkboards at child height, a boy's and girl's bathroom adjacent to each classroom, large principal's office, teacher's lounge, health room, cafeteria, and auditorium complete with raised platform and velvet curtains. Enrollment rapidly outstripped facilities. Opening with 400 students the school population grew to 820 by 1951. Eight classrooms were added at that time.
By the early 50's the children who had moved in to the Hills in the 40;s were ready to graduate. The Town was justly proud of Ken O'Dwyer. Barbara Elliot and Eva Bennick,valedictorians of the senior class at Bladensburg High School in 1950, '51, and '52 respectively.
St. Mary;s School opened in 1954 with grades 1 and 2 only. Over the next 5 years grades and faculty were added until a full complement of 8 grades and enrollment of 1,126 students was reached in 1961. That year saw the school's first graduation ceremony, held in the church. Several students were awarded scholarships: Vincent Festa, Jay and Jack Cleary received sports scholarships to DeMatha. David Jamie a music scholarship to Gonzaga.
By the late 50's and early 60's both schools were on double shifts- that is some students attended school from 8:00 to 12:00, then another group came from 1:00 to 5:00.
Landover Hills Shopping Center opened in 1948 with two stores- Chandler's Drug and Cole's Supermarket. Others quickly followed suit. The Shell Gas Station was built on the site of the Landover Hills Market. Betty Jane's Bakery, Landover Hills Barbershop, Temple Dry Cleaners, Link's Liquors, Landover Hills Hardware, and Landover Hills Post Office completed the strip. Oliver's at 72nd and Defense Highway had become B&J's (owners Colwell Beers and Dana Judy) and was a favorite after school snack shop. A short bus ride away were Kresge's Ten Cent Store and Goodwill Store in Bladensburg. With the opening of Capital Plaza in 1962, shopping options were greatly enhanced.
Parking became a problem on narrow Varnum Street. New houses were being built on 74th Avenue. Dr. Musser purchased one of these at 4410 74th Avenue for his office and moved his family to Cheverly. The Landover Hills Baptist Church permitted patients to park on the 74th Avenue side of their lot, a courtesy which Dr. Musser greatly appreciated. He retired in 1982, leaving the practice in the capable hands of Robert Gereige.
Milos A. Jansa, Pediatrician, was a Captain in the Army, Chief of Pediatrics at Fort bragg, N.C. Army base before moving his family to Landover Hills in 1958 to start his practice. He had a practice in his home on Varnum Street from 1958 until about 1970, when parking also became a problem. He then moved his practice to Finns Lane in Lanham, where he practiced until his retirement on December 31, 1999, having served 3 generations of patients in and around the Landover Hills area. He continues to live on Varnum Street with his wife.
Chandler's owned and operated by registered pharmacist N.W. Chandler, rapidly became a focal point in Town. Many young parents found friendly, capable advice about medicines to ease the aches and pains common to children. Presciptions given by doctors in the area were also carefully filled. "Doc" Chandler, as he was affectionately called, showed his genuine concern in many ways. Often, he opened the store during the night if Dr. Musser needed something for his patients.
Two other medical practitioners, also located just outside of town limits, were the Drs. Thomas and Mary Beck Maloney. From 1955 to the present their office at 4814 71st Avenue in Woodlawn has been a haven of help for families in the Landover Hills area. Mrs. Ilene Festa Rose, who lives at 4411 71st Avenue in Landover Hills, has been their nurse for many years.
Dr. Herbert Earnshaw was the neighborhood dentist. In 1953 he requested special exception from R-55 to C-1 zoning because he was no longer going to live in his office. He and his wife moved away and the office expanded into all the rooms at 7101 Annapolis Road. His practice also did well, as he was capable and conveniently located. Many of the children in town liked him, not only because of his gently hands, but because he rewarded them with a free ice cream cone prescription at Chandler's. Dr. Earnshaw is now semi-retired. Dr. Daniel deHaas takes care of most of the patients.
Leadership of the Homemakers Club passed from Landover Hills to the ladies of Bellemead in the mid 50's. By 1959 there was a club in both the Bellemead and Radiant Valley section, but none in Landover Hills. Mrs. Thelma Mc Daniel, an energetic mother of three, decided to change all that. A call to the Extension Service at the University of Maryland convinced her that a club was possible in the Hills. A representative from the County Homemaker's would meet with as few as five women for the purpose of starting a club. This meeting was held at the Youth Services Building on November 14, 1960 with 10 women present. Elected to office were: President, Thelma McDaniel; Vice-President, Florence Selby; Recording Secretary, Helen Olds; Corresponding Secretary, Mary Zahn; Treasurer, Pat Markland.
Veterans in town were welcome to attend meetings at the home of Adj. John Wetzstein, 4204 72nd Avenue, for the purpose of forming an American Legion Post. The charter for American legion Post-241 was presented in September 1948. A lot was bought at the west end of Allison Street but was never used. It was sold in 1958. The Veteran's of Foreign Wars also had a post in town- Post 8950. They met in homes or churches until 1958 when a large new facility was completed at 9800 Good Luck Road in Lanham. Post membership now included veterans from a much larger geographic area.
Boy Scouting continued in the 50's under the able leadership of William Stonebraker. He, with assistant Ted Meanea, built the troop of three boys into a large active scout troop of 40 boys. Meetings were often held at the boy scout cabin in the woods behind Landover Hills Elementary School. By the early 60's, however, interest waned and the troop disbanded. Boys wishing to do so transferred to Troop 713, then being sponsored by Christ Methodist Church. Although Troop 713 was chartered to the Methodist Church during the early 60's, it was originally chartered to Ascension Lutheran Church. For the past few years, from about 1980, Ascension has become the sponsor again with Mr. Ton Schenk as Scoutmaster.
In 1951, the first scout meeting of troop 707 was held at St. mary;s Church, Father Vianney had urged William Masters, Pat Painter, Walter Curtin and Bob Cotton to get together for this purpose. The first campground was at the end of Ardmore Road on 25 acres owned by Joe Siedel. Later George Cleary allowed the boys to use 15 acres of his 90 acre spread near George Palmer Highway. "Camp Nailkeg", as it was called served as an overnight campsite where many scouting skills were taught, Sunday Mass was attended in the field with the troop chaplains officiating. Some of the men in leadership positions were William Masters who was Committee Representative for 15 years and also served as interim scoutmaster; Bob Cotton, Jack Mitchell, Joe Wentz, Frank Gomez, Roland Jamie and Don Hultz. Oresent Scoutmaster is John Odom.
Girl Scouts were also very much in evidence throughout the 50's. Mrs. Rex Cain of 7004 Allison Street was asked to be a leader and by 1948 as many as 36 girls were meeting at her house. Mrs. Viva Millios was Neighborhood Chairman, and later became leader of Senior Troop 323. Marian Hay was the next Chairman followed in 1959 by E. Alice Knights. In 1952, Brownie Troop 251, headed by Mrs. Knights and assistant Hilda Beers, guided 16 girls through the first phases of scouting. With the intermediate and senior troops, quite a sizable program was available. Mrs. Mary O'Dwyer, herself a librarian, responded to a request by the girls for a small library. Hungry for good reading material, the girls collected books from parents and friends and soon a fine collection of books was catalogued and ready for use. This service was quite popular until bookmobiles and more accessible libraries were an established fact.
In addition to weekly meetings, the girls had camping experiences at various outdoor locations. Conestoga, located on private property on Good Luck Road; Misty Mount, near Camp David in Thurmont; and Camp Winona, near Hughesville served as overnight and weeklong campsites. These experiences helped to instill the scouting spirit and let girls acquire the practical knowledge for good camping skills. The girls engaged in many community projects such as making and distributing small gifts to Laurel Children's Center and Glendale Hospital, delivering the Town Newsletter, etc.
A list of men and women included in the Girl Scouts Program would read like a Who's Who in the Town. In addition to those already mentioned, here are a few more:
Romell Decker Anna Lex
Barbara Edler Jackie McCann Margaret Fenn Thelma McDaniel
Trudy Kley Fran Motta Carol Hankins Willie Lee Morris
Joe Harris Dorothy Schwartz Mary Harris Goldie Stebbing
Lorraine Hillard Margaret Wampler Norman Hillard
A new, fully equipped playground and ballfield was dedicated at Landover Hills school in 1952 and in May of 1953 Park and Planning announced its plans to build a baseball diamond at Glenridge Junior High School. The two facilities served not only the children but adults as well. Landover Hills Men's Club fielded a baseball team under the management of Bill Tracy of Varnum Street. Regularly scheduled games were played throughout the summer at both of these sites. Other similar teams in the county offered the local men plenty of competition.
Annual Halloween Parades continued to be a highlight of the Fall season. Back yard weiner roasts using the huge leaf piles as fuel were popular with many families. The banning of outdoor fires in 1970, except for recreational purposes, limited this activity. Christmas parties for kids and New year's Eve parties for adults were regular events at the Firehouse. Bingo, wedding receptions, club parties, fashion shows, etc. were functions at both the Firehouse and St. mary's Church. In addition, St. Mary's put on a big carnival every summer for several years. this event sparked a lot of enthusiasm and fun in the community. Nearby Palmer Drive-in provided an inexpensive way for families to see movies. The roller rink in Bladensburg was another popular spot and, for those with cars, swimming was available in Greenbelt Pool.
That Was Then
The decade of 1963 through 1973 was a very productive period for Landover Hills. By 1971 the number of houses had reached 470 and our population had risen to 2000.
In 1964 one hundred white pine trees were planted along Parkwood Street. the work was done under the direction of Councilman Al gregory. the trees were a gift from the Maryland State Forestry service. Also, in 1964, mass oral polio immunizations were offered by the Prince George's County medical Society. Three Sundays were set aside for the administration of the vaccine on sugar cubes. Locations of the distribution sites were Bladensburg, Duvall, and Glenridge Schools and the cost was .24 cents per dose. In March of that same year, the Landover Hills Police Department installed a phone answering device in the home of Chief Abraham Parys.
Interested citizens formed a corporation, Landover Aquatic Club, Inc., to build and provide a pool in the area. James Page was President, John Mullings, Vice President, Robert Kinter, Secretary and Orman Croft, Treasurer. Using the teenagers in Town to distribute flyers, there was soon enough interest in the project and a sufficient number of members to go to the bank. Suburban Trust made a $27,000 loan to the corporation. This money plus what had been collected from members brought the land from William Cafritz. The 2 1/3 acre plot is located just outside town limits at 70th and Barton Road. The pool, opening on May 31, 1964 rapidly became a summertime mecca for children of all ages. Toddlers came to enjoy the baby pool while mothers relaxed nearby. Older children took lessons and soon a swim team was formed under the auspices of the Princemont Swim League.
Teen night, every other Saturday from 7 until 11, was an instant success. There were a variety of local rock bands and plenty of room for dancing on the decks. water games were great fun with food and soft drinks hustled up by moms and dads. The events attracted teens from all around the area.
Adults, too, had their luaus water sports, and pot luck dinners. Fourth of July was an all-day family affair with continuous horseshoes, pennies in the pool, non-stop hot dogs and coke combinations, greased watermelons in the well, etc. During the late 70's, the pool suffered financial setbacks and came close to bankruptcy. In the early 80's, however a young and innovative group got elected by the membership and took steps to keep up interest all year long by such means as dances, weekly bowling leagues, football and softball in season, and during summer, water polo competition, as well as competitive swimming. Today, the club numbers 150 families and its growing.
The churches in Landover Hills grew in this decade. St. Mary's Catholic Church began planning for a new building in February 1965. A building committee was created to advuse the pastor, Father O'Connor, on all phases of construction. The committee consisted of Albert Peter, John Zamostny, Walter Curtin, Tom Long, Leo A. Miller, Thomas Shine, Mike Spaulding, and Robert S. Van Fleet.
The church was competed in 1967 at a cost of nearly a million dollars. It dominates the intersection of Route 450 and Ardmore-Ardwick Road. Of yellow brick and pre-cast white concrete construction, the building is very modern and the grounds are beautifully landscaped. At least 1000 people can be seated inside. Masses are offered on Saturday evenings and several times on Sundays. Continuing activities, besides the school, are sponsored by the Men's Club, Senior Citizens Club, Ladies of Charity and Sodality, Boy Scout Troop 707 and CYO.
Briefly during the late 70's, the church along with St. Christopher's Episcopal in New Carrollton, was the angel behind a community theatre group call "Chris-Mar Players". This group was among the first to bring good musicals such as "Carousel", "Godspell" and "South Pacific" into the county.
Landover Hills Baptist Church was honored to have the Reverend Wallace B. Henley, Jr., President Nixon's advisor on Youth Affairs, serve as interim pastor from february to June 1971. At that time Reverend Carmon O. Hartsfield arrived from Texas. Under Pastor Hartsfield's direction a new and more durable church steeple was erected, replacing the old wooden one which had blown down in a storm. An Early Learning Center was established in 1972. Open to all children, the school provides 3-5 year olds with good learning experiences in a thoroughly Christian atmosphere.
A Korean Baptist Congregation has been meeting in the church as a separate congregation since January 1984. Notice of their meetings, printed in Korean, makes an interesting adjunct to the long familiar Landover Hills Baptist Church signs.
Landover Hills Catholics of St. Mary's parish offered the old 40 room building at 7202 Buchanan Street to the Archdiocese of Washington. It became a center for apostolic work among deaf people. Under its new assignment the building was placed under the patronage of St. Francis of Assisi and dedicated in the Fall of 1975. The director is Reverend Edward Helm, assisted by Sister Mary Ann Phelan, S.P. The parish rectory was moved to its present location at 7401 Buchanan Street.
Landover Hills Elementary and St. Mary's Schools continued to provide quality education for the children. Ascension Lutheran dedicated its educational building in 1964. The building contains kindergarten, grades 1 through 6 and a library. Landover Hills Elementary had a 1961 enrollment of 700. Accommodations were made by converting the library and cafeteria into classrooms. The opening of Cooper Lane School in 1962 further alleviated overcrowding. Two kindergarten rooms were added in 1970. On June 11, 1967, 500 guests assembled at Landover Hills School for a retirement party for Miss Elizabeth Lynch, principal since its inception in 1948. The PTA presented Miss Lynch with a bound book containing testimonials written by former students and associates from around the world. Mr. Daniel Gadra became principal following Miss Lynch's retirement. Mr. Charles Bell became principal in 1969.
The Volunteer Fire Department was actively involved with the Town. Although not associated with the town government, the department provided young men the opportunity to serve their ranks. Chief Charles Burton and Deputy Chief Conway provided applications to those young men and later women who wished to train. The converted quonset hut, with its brick addition, continued to serve as firehouse and slwwping quarters for Compnay 30. The Ladies Auxillary worked steadily catering receptions of all kinds. One daring firemn, Ralph Smith, took his life in his habds and rode the shoulders of an aerialist across a tight rope in one spectacular outdoor fund-raising event.
An ambulance was added in 1960. Continuous training is offered to all volunteers. The excellence of this training program may account for the near perfect safety record. There occured only one duty-related loss of life in their forty year history- that of Mr. Hamer of Fairfax Street. An intensive care vehicle was assigned to the department in 1985. It will serve not only Landover Hills, but New Carrollton, Lanham, Kentland, Palmer Park and Cheverly.
Some of the men still active in the association (as of 1985) are: John Godfrey, Don Eireman, Milt Kyhos, Joe Mayhew and Charlie Burton.
The Police Department grew and became an integral part of our neighborhood during the 60's. Sargeant Parys (succeeding Chief Confrey) became the Chief of Police in May 1963. He was the first to serve on a full-time basis. In August 1965, Chief Parys organized the Landover Hills Area Recreation Club for teenagers. Corporal Vernon R. Hill was appointed Chief of Police on October 23, 1966. Under Chief Hill the Police Department received numerous commendations from organizations, churches, private citizens and businesses.
In March of 1966, Mayor Charles R. Kline, Mr. Al Gregory and a representative of Landover Hills Shopping Center met with State Roads officials to express the town's interest in the project to widen Route 450. It was to be widened from two lanes to six lanes from 69th Avenue to the Beltway. At first, all the land required for widening was going to be taken from the Landover Hills' side of the road. Due to active citizen interest, however, final plans included 50% of Landover Hills property in the project. Adequate underground drains near St. Mary's and 72nd Avenue were installed as part of the road project. No longer would homeowners be plagued with flooding from Glenridge.
Widening was complete in September of 1968. At that time, the entrance marker and flagpoles were replaced under Mayor Kline's direction.
In 1966 a two and a half foot snowfall paralyzed the state. All Civil Defense Units, Army and Red Cross Chapters were alerted. At the heart of the operation was the Communications Department. The Army and State Roads Commission had their own radio contacts but all other efforts were coordinated through Civil Defense operation of which Clarence E. Pendleton, Jr. of 71st Avenue and two others were part. People were rescued from stranded cars and brought into schools and firehouses where Army cots were hastily set up. Food, clothing, blankets and other necessities were supplied by Red Cross volunteers. The northern area of Prince George's County assisted 300 people in this way. The blizzard closed schools for a week, giving area children an unexpected winter holiday.
In January 1967, it was discovered that the property at 4219 70th Avenue, occupied by The Church of God since 1962, was to be sold. The Town Council, currently meeting in the Youth Services Building, was interested. The building in the rear would be suitable for a town hall as well as being convenient for town and police officers.
Mayor Kline and Councilman Alfred Gregory met with officials of the Suburban trust Company to discuss possible financing if The Church of God agreed to sell to the Town. On January 10, 1967, the Council voted unanimously to purchase the property. Mayor Kline and Councilman Gregory completed negotiations with the bank in three days. Because of the condition of the church and because final approval had to be obtained from the church trustees, final settlement was not made until June 12, 1967. Mr. William McCullough, then Town Attorney, was instrumental in working out the many details required before final settlement was made.
The first council meeting in the town hall was on June 28, 1967. The town hall was officially dedicated on Saturday, May 18, 1968. The Honorable William McCullough presided as Master of Ceremonies for the program. The colors were presented by Boy Scouts of Troop 700, 707 and 713. Councilman Telford Falls led the audience in the salute to the flag. Reverend William F. Berry, St. Mary's Church gave the invocation. Mayor Kline welcomed the guests. The Honorable William Goodman, member of the Maryland House of Delegates, was the guest speaker. Mr. McCullough gave the dedication address. Girl Scouts of the Landover Service Unit 5 sang "Maryland, My Maryland". The benediction was given by Reverend Paul S. Jones, Christ United Methodist Church. There were musical selections by the "Beall Street Three", a Landover Hills family group, the Miltimores.
The yearly Christmas Party was held in town hall. The beautiful Spruce tree in front of the building was made the official Christmas tree and has been lighted each Christmas Season.
In the summer of 1968 the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commision completed construction of the Landover Hills neighborhood park. Sixteen acres in size, the park is located between Taylor Street and Warner Avenue. It consists of a baseball diamond, football field, two sets of play equipment, an outdoor basketball court, two tennis courts and picnic tables and bleachers. The children have taken full advantage of the facilities and parents are relieved to have them playing in the park, not in the streets.
In 1970, the Fire Department moved to 68th Avenue and Defense Highway, a brand new modern facility. MNCPPC undertook extensive remodeling of the building at 6904 Taylor Street. The old quonset hut was torn down and a new building was erected to serve as a neighborhood recreation center. Construction followed basic plans designed by Park and Planning for use throughout the county and was ready for use in 1971. Various table games such as bumper pool, regulation pool, ping pong, shuffle board, and small table games were offered to youngsters. Tap and ballet dancing, tumbling, and a pre-school program were available to children as well. Classes for adults included activities as upholdtery, slimnastics and cake decorating.
The Boys Club became the Boys and Girls Club in 1960. Mrs. Eileen Clubb was the first softball coach for girls. She helped set up other programs for girls such as soccer and cheerleading. Two Englishmen, Dennis Kelliher and John Tilley made excellent soccer coaches. Mr. Gil Robeson was baseball coach (boys) from 1967 to 1981. He published a newsletter for members. In 1971 there were 1000 boys and 500 girls on club rolls.
In 1970, the Boys Club Staff was merged with that of the Recreation Department of MNCPPC. Mr. John Jones was named that year to be Program Director for all boys programs in the county. In 1982 renovation of the Landover Hills Boys and Girls Club field between Warner Avenue and Taylor Street was completed. $300,000 was spent for grading, lights and a fence to enclose the property. It is currently under consideration for annexation to the Town.
The Boys and
Girls Club has been an integral part of many families' lives. To list a
few of the names in addition to those already mentioned, there was Richard
Chinn, Leo and Barbara Mascetti, Mickey Heard, Ted Thoman, Carl Engles,
Mary Edelen, Don and Kay Clark and Luther Halley.
...This Is Now
In 1973 Judge Frank Kaufman made a decision which affected many Prince Georgians. He ruled in favor of the NAACP in a suit brought against the county school board. This suit was a charge of de facto school segregation.
As a result of this court ruling school attendance boundaries had to be redrawn. Some children from Landover Hills were to be bused to Matthew Henson Elementary School in Landover. Students attending senior high were to be bused to Fairmont Heights, a high school in a predominatly black neighborhood.
The parents in town reacted in various ways. The population at that time was still 99.7% white, a ratio that gave rise to some feelings of disquiet and alarm. Many parents were upset that the concept of the neighborhood school was being ignored, and that their children would have to spend long hours on the bus to get to and from their schools. Cost involved was also a factor. Although a majority of parents went along with the changes as presented, many people felt constrained to protest the judicial decision. Some of these protests were made in writing, some by telephone and some by means of people sent to talk to local and national representatives.
Public hearings were held by the school board and efforts were made to make the busing mandate as workable as possible. A number of Landover Hills parents removed their children from the public school system, placing them in private schools. Other families moved further out into the county or left it altogether. Many others elected to work with the new order.
It is interesting to note that actual implementation of school desegregation went fairly smoothly. The fact that it involved so many children from so many different areas of the county made problems inevitable, but on the whole the children from Landover Hills made the same adjustments as children everywhere. Our new young students became an integral part of the neighborhood until Landover Hills School was finally closed.
For thirty-five years Landover Hills ElementarySchool had been the year-round hub of the neighborhood. It was here that the youth of Landover Hills first acquired the knowledge and the wherewithal that would serve them the rest of their lives. It was also here that the parents, through their children and the school, met with one another on common grounds and forged the type of unifying bond that a community such as ours could not afford to be without.
While everyone has his favorite memories of Landover Hills School, whether it be of friends or teachers or of some special days, all would be hard pressed to forget the presence of one man in particular. This is Henderson, who was the custodian. Principals and teachers came and went but only Henderson remained to the last. For over thirty years Henderson Robinson took care of Landover Hills Elementary School, and he did it with pride and devotion. Miss Lynch, principal of the school from 1948 to 1967, said it was Henderson who put the growing facility in shape and kept it in top form. Henderson and his wife have since retired to North Carolina.
The school closed quietly in June, 1983. Declining enrollment brought many such closings throughout the county. Landover Hills students are now bused to Glenridge an elementary school that serves several neighborhoods.
After much consideration on the part of the town and county governments a tenant suitable to occupy the school property was chosen. The buidling has been empty for the eighteen months since the closing of the school. A new beginning is now on the horizon and 1985 will see the re-opening of the building in the form of the Associated Builders and Contractors Trade School. This new school will be offering instruction in the building trades, generally to those already at work in these fields. Work is underway to renovate the school and revitalize the adjacent areas so that they will be ready for the opening of this enterprising new project.
One can parallel the closing of Landover Hills Elementary School with the closing of yet another landmark in town- the lunch counter/soda fountain within Chandler's Drug Store. This counter/soda fountain served the town for the same thirty five year period as the school, from 1948 to 1983. Instituted by Mr. Chandler at the time he opened Chandler's Drug Store, the counter/soda fountain held a special attraction for citizens of all ages.
Since the Landover Hills Shopping Center was within walking distance for most of its residents, many of their needs could be filled right there. The youngsters sent down to the shopping center by their parents (to pick up their father's shirts from the cleaners, to get a haircut or buy a loaf of bread from the bakery) were sure to stop in at Chandler's. With their change they would buy a candy bar or amble over to the fountain for an ice cream cone or a soda. For a youngster to sit at that counter and place an order was indeed a great achievement and a sign of acceptance. Before the days of fast food restaurants, Chandler's fountain was THE place for town's teenagers to go. There they could buy a coke and a burger and get caught up on the day's events. Complimentary cokes or coffee were given to those waiting for prescriptions to be filled.
The group most affected by the closing of the counter, however, were the town's senior citizens. Many frequented Chandler's lunch counter for the opportunity to get out and about, to converse with their friends and to have, in some cases, their most well-balanced meal of the day.
The counter/fountain survived many changes, both internal and external. The biggest of these was the retirement of "Doc" Chandler in November of 1973. He turned Chandler's Drug Store over to pharmacists Stacy Pass and Stephen Needel, both of whom kept the counter going for the last nine years of existence.
A first for the Town of Landover Hills can be traced back to 1970 when Ward 3 Councilman James D. Britt applied for and received the town's first grant. This Community Development Grant of $100,000 was awarded to Landover Hills by the county governement. The money was used to correct the drainage problem that existed on Buchanan Street between 73rd and 75th Avenues, to repair the roads of Taylor Terrace and Taylor Street and to put the sidewalks along Route 450.
Over the past five years the town has sought to use preventative measures to solve other problems, rather than to wait for major disasters to occur. With the help of block funding the town embarked on a project that would replace the old style roll-off gutters with the step curb type that are the county standard. Because this was done many of the town's drainage problems were corrected and the streets were saved from being washed away. Another means of preventing deterioration of the streets and gutters has been the use of slurry seal, a water based compound which provides an economical method of resurfacing roads and gutters. If used every three to five years it will help keep the 4.5 miles of streets in the town in good condition.
The town of Landover Hills underwent its most significant change in 1980. This change would affect the way in which the town was to be run. Ward 3 Councilman James Britt and A. Jack Mitchell laid the groundwork that would enable Landover Hills to change its charter, thus initiating a change in government. In adopting the new charter, Landover Hills would change from a small town to town administrator form of government.
In doing this Landover Hills joined a growing number of towns of similar size who saw the advantage of having a full time professional staff on duty. This staff would provide continuity with town leadership and ensure future growth. While the mayor and councilmen still set policy in the town, it becomes the duty of the town administrator to carry it out. He puts projects into action and sees to the day-to-day operation of the town.
David Felzenberg was the first adminstrator, serving from August 1981 through July 1984. He left the post at that time to become Executive Director of the Washington Ear, a radio reading service for the blind. The current administrator is Ms. Doris Nichols.
Times to Remember
Some events stand out in the memory as being of particular significance to the history of the town. These were the times that brought into being a culmination of civic activities, that saw a viable result of the work that was done by concerned citizens.
May 31, 1981 was the day Rinck Park was dedicated by Mayor Harris. Many other distinquished officials from the town and throughout the county participated in the ceremony. Mr. Rinck had long taken responsibility for the care and maintenance of the Buchanan Street Park, as it was then known. He had long been active in the town, serving as a councilman in Ward 3, where he was in charge of public safety. If anyone ever wondered who it is that puts up and takes down the flags every day and night at 71st Avenue and Defense Highway, he need wonder no more. It is Mr. Henry Rinck.
Officials from Storer Cable Company were on hand at the town council meeting of January 18, 1982. In a ceremony with Mayor Jack Motta and the council they put the town's cable television system into operation. The ceremony was carried on Channel 10, the local government access channel. From time to time Storer Cable Company will train volunteers to operate the equipment so that town meetings and other events of local interest can be seen.
In the past a county tax was levied for services already provided by the town government. Because of this citizens living in municipalities were double taxed. Thanks to the new tax differential legislation that became effective on July 11, 1984 the town citizens had an adjustment made to their combined town and county tax schedules. The 1983-84 rates were town 65 cents, county $2.54. The 1984-85 rates are town 89 cents, county $2.12. Thus, the overall tax per $100 of assessed evaluation on real estate was lowered by 18 cents.
There were those citizens, however, who were not happy to see the tax rate of the town increased. These residents, upset over the 24 cent increase, call for the removal of the mayor from office. The town charter, under article 2, Section 306, provides for the holding of a special election under certain conditions. A petition signed by at least 20% of the registered voters has to be presented to the council to determine if a special election whereby the mayor might be recalled from office could be held. On September 11, 1984 such a special election was held, giving the citizens a chance to vote on keeping Mayor Britt in office. Mayor Britt survived the elction, winning by 20 votes, 152 to 132.
This event marks the first time a mayor has stood for a recall in the state. It is somewhat ironic to note that a recall article is not standard among town charters. When James Britt was a councilman, he and Councilman A. Jack Mitchell incorporated the recall item in an overall rewriting of the town's charter.
November 7, 1984 was the day for moving the town offices to the new location at 6904 Taylor Street. The new facility occupies the former Landover Hills Community Center. The move was accomplished by many willing hands including those of the town workers and council members.
Town clerk Faithe Musante and administrator Doris Nichols keep regular office hours there, as does Steve Moeller, public works appointee. The town council meetings are held there on the third Monday evening of each month. Town police have an office in the building. There is ample room for large or small group gatherings, and the new facility fulfills a long desired need for a community house.
Demolition of the old town hall at 4219 70th Avenue took place in November 1984.
April 23, 1982 was the date of the first publicly announced beautification day. However, as early as 1943-44 Paul Lyendecker organized and carried out the first beautification project. Armed with $70 donated by the Woman's Club, he and the Boy Scouts had cleaned up, painted up and fixed up the area around the bus shelter and island at 71st Avenue and Defense Highway. Throughout its history the town has encouraged property owners to keep a neat appearance.
The week of April 16-23, 1983 was declared TOWN OF LANDOVER HILLS WEEK throughout the state of Maryland. Governor Harry Hughes read a proclamation which said, in part, ".... it is fitting that the state of Maryland recognize this outstanding example of civic pride and formally commend the citizens of Landover Hills for their activities."
The festivities got underway on April 16 at 1 p.m. A parade, complete with antique cars, police and fire equipment, and an armed forces color guard set out along the parade route. Landover Hills Elementary School was the fitting starting point for the parade. The procession then marched out to 71st Avenue, down to Taylor Street, and right to the Community Center. It was a day of great fun.
During the next week townspeople kept busy getting rid of accumulated trash and in general fixing up their property.
On April 23, 1983 Beautification Day was observed.
What can be called a full day's work commenced at 9 a.m. The day was devoted to an all-volunteer effort to spruce up all the public areas, including Rinck Park. The islands on 71st Avenue were manicured, new shrubbery was planted at the entrance sign and the two flag poles got a fresh coat of paint. Such an undertaking would not have been possible without proper organization on the town's part and the efforts of the dedicated and resourceful volunteers. Over seventy-seven local business and benefactors provided financial and material assistance.
April, 1984 saw its special beautification projects also. Help came from a variety of sources, and the results were deeply gratifying.
Boy Scouts rakes and fertilized the lawn at Rinck Park. Mr. Dennis Wright of the Ponderosa Restaurant took the responsibility for the cleaning of the shopping center. He brought volunteer workers from his place of business and several students from the Margaret Brent Special Center in New Carrollton. All these willing workers accomplished the task. Police Chief Larry Sweeney, John Kerr and others painted and planted shrubs in front of the new Landover Hills Municpal Building. The Beltway Lions Club gave financial support, and sent six of their members to help paint curbs and stop lines on town streets.
Azaleas and forsythia bushes were planted on the island on 71st Avenue and new pine trees were planted along Parkwood Street to replace some that had died.
April 20, 1985 was chosen as the day to celebrate the town's fortieth birthday. The actual date for the birthday, or date of incorporation, was May 9, but the activities were held on April 20th. Festivities started at 10 a.m. and continued until 4 p.m.
What a variety of activity there was! From boys and girls of Landover Hills to the County Executive, from toddlers to old-timers, many people representing a multitude of interests were there to enliven the day.
Various groups in town set up tables and displays on the parking lot adjacent to the municpal center. White elephant sales were held by private citizens. The Boys and Girls Club of Landover Hills operated a very successful refreshment stand. Town and county police fingerprinted the youngsters. Mr. McGruff, a county policeman who dresses as a hound dog and goes about the county schools lecturing children about the dangers of drugs and pushers, was on hand to speak to the young ones and their parents. Two bands provided msuic. Boy Scout Troop 713 had Scoutmaster Ron Shenk and a few boys manning their display table.
The town provided an opportunity for citizens to register to vote.
Mr. Pendleton was on hand to demonstrate civil defense plans. Mrs. Mary Harris and representatives of the Landover Aquatic Pool were set up to accept application for membership. Horseshow pits, set up by Councilman Jack Mitchell,attracted players throughout the day.
The History Committee set up a display of old pictures. A group photo was taken of the "old-timers" and another of the "second generation" of residetns of Landover Hills.
A highlight of the afternoon was a visit from County Executive Parris Glendening. He presented mayor Britt with a county flag and accepted a Landover Hills T-shirt imprinted with the words, "The Hills are Alive!"
Many residents and former residents came to enjoy the day with neighbors and friends. It was a day that will long be remembered.
Some Interesting Facts.....
Two outstanding women in the town's history are Anna Lex and Dorothy Schwartz.
In january, 1980, at a meeting of the Prince George's County Municpal Association, former Councilwoman Lex was voted in as an honorary member. She was thus recognized for the services she rendered toward improving municipal government. Mrs. Lex had served on the Landover hills town council from 1957 until she retired in 1973. In 1976 she returned to the council and served another three years, making her the town's most enduring elected official. She has nineteen years to her credit.
Dorothy Lee Fletcher, a native Washingtonian, married Louis Scwartz of Detroit, Michigan. They moved to Landover Hills in 1942, where Dorothy served the community with unfailing devotion. She was active in the Citizen's Association, seeking to build a school in Landover Hills. She served with the school committee through the early years and was chairman of the dedication ceremony which took place in March, 1949. Mrs. Schwartz was town clerk-treasurer from 1947 to 1955, and was a council woman from 1963 to 1971. More recently she served on a Prince George's County committee for School Closings.
Our research has failed to discover the very first family to move into "the hills", but we do know that Mr. and Mrs. Benjamin Storey were the first to purchase a home. Model homes were located across Defense Highway at 69th Street. Benjamin and Phyllis Storey chose the one-and-a-half story Cape Cod model, and opted ofr a lot at 7118 Allison Street. They were told by the real estate agent that they were the first to buy. However, their home was not ready for occupance until November, 1940. Other families were already living in the town when the Storeys moved in.
January 1941 saw two families move in on Webster Street, there to stay to the present day. They are Mr. and Mrs. Ben Kappers and Mr. and Mrs. George Meredith. Others who have been living in Landover Hills for more than forty years are; Mrs. Betty Kleindienst, Mrs. Dorothy Schwartz, Mr. and Mrs. Edwin hartman, Mrs. Ethel Armiger, Mrs. Anna Lex, Mr. and Mrs. John Jones, Mrs. Julia Dingee, Mrs. Dorothy Louise Holloway, Mrs. Dorothy Gordon, Mr. and Mrs. William Stonebraker, Mr. and Mrs. Eierman, Mr. and Mrs. Clarence Pendleton, Mr. and Mrs. William H. Storey, Mr. and Mrs. Charles Zoerner and Mrs. Ida Mahlo.
The writers have chronicled some, but by no means all, of the incidents that are important to the history of Landover Hills. Many men and women have given generously of their time and talent to make "the hills" a nice place in which to live. We hope our readers have enjoyed the book. Moreover, we trust that by looking back at the past they can envision plans for the future.
Once Landover Hills stood alone far out in the country. It was the only suburban town between Bladensburg and Lanham. It faced problems vital to its very survival.
Things are not so different today. Now we are again standing alone as the only self-governing town in a cluster of like size communities. What optins do we have to insure our survival? Growth into the 21st Century is inevitable. How we solve our present problems and lay out plans for the future is a real challenge for today's residents, as it was in 1945 when the citizens voted to incorporate.
As the nation
races into the future we, as the grass-roots level of government, should
perhaps, contemplate the words spoken by Abraham Lincoln in his Gettysburg
Address: "....that the nation shall under God, have a new birth of freedom,
and that government of the people, by the people and for the people shall
not perish from the earth."