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Laurel is a city in northern Prince George's Countymarker, Marylandmarker, United Statesmarker, located midway between Washington, D.C.marker and Baltimoremarker. Incorporated in 1870, the city maintains a historic district including its Main Street. The official 2007 population estimate for Laurel city was 21,619; adding the residents in Laurel's postal zip codes outside city limits, the population was 87,810 as of the 2000 census.

Laurel is near Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Laboratorymarker, the Fort Meademarker Army base, and the National Security Agencymarker (NSA). It is also adjacent to Laurel Park Racecoursemarker, a horse racetrack in Anne Arundel Countymarker.



The Cretaceous Era brought dinosaurs to the area which left a number of fossils, now preserved in a park in Laurel. The site, which among other finds has yielded fossilized teeth from Astrodon and Priconodon species, has been called the most prolific in the eastern United States.

Pre-20th century

Laurel, Maryland was formed from land on the fall line of the Patuxent River owned by the Snowden family, which also owned Montpeliermarker. A grist mill on the site circa 1811 grew to a small cotton mill by the 1820s. In 1835, coinciding with the opening of the Capital Subdivisionrail line from Baltimore to Washington, the Patuxent Manufacturing Company was chartered and the mill expanded greatly. Mill president Horace Capron with his partners built housing for close to 300 workers, and a bigger cotton mill. Cotton duck from the mill was shipped down what would become Laurel’s Main Street, then by rail to Baltimore. A substantial dam was built in 1850. As a mill town, Laurel was somewhat unique in Prince George’s County and was surrounded by agricultural endeavors.

The community was originally known as Laurel Factory, and was a true company town, with a school, and shops, and many of the mill workers' homes owned until the 1860s by the company. During the 1840s three historic churches in the community: the Methodist, St. Mary of the Mills (Roman Catholic), and St. Philip's (Episcopal) established what are still-vigorous congregations. During the Civil War, Laurel Factory, like much of Maryland, was a divided community, but with many Southern sympathizers. Union soldiers patrolled the railroad, and for a time there was also a Union hospital. During the latter half of the 19th Century, while it still operated its factories, manufacturing played a less important role in the community. Laurel evolved into an early suburban town. Many of its residents commuted by rail to jobs in Washington or Baltimore. The town was incorporated in 1870 and reincorporated in 1890 to coincide with a new electric power plant and paved streets.

Citizens National Bank opened its doors on Main Street in 1890 as Prince George's County's first nationally chartered bank, and remained independently managed and with the same name until acquired by PNC Financial Services in 2007. Branch services are still provided from the original building.

In 1899, Laurel's seven-time mayor Edward Phelps succeeded in constructing the first high school in Prince George's Countymarker, despite several financial obstacles. The original building, now known as the Phelps Community Center, still stands at the northeast corner of Montgomery and Eighth Streets.

20th century

Laurel Park Racecoursemarker, a thoroughbred racetrack, opened in 1911 and remains in operation. Laurel also hosted a horse trotter (harness racing) track named Freestate Raceway from 1948 to 1990;it was located in Howard County on the west side of US Route 1, south of Savage in an area that now includes a CarMax dealership, Weis supermarket, and strip mall.

Natural gas service was extended to the community in 1929.

On May 15, 1972, Governor George Wallace of Alabamamarker, running for the presidential nomination of the Democratic Party, was campaign at a rally in the parking lot of Laurel Shopping Center, near what is today a Bank of America branch, when he was shot and paralyzed by Arthur Bremer, a disturbed, out-of-work janitor (see An Assassin's Diary).

On June 22, 1972 Laurel was impacted severely by Hurricane Agnes, which caused the greatest flooding ever recorded in Maryland. Several bridges were destroyed and the nearby T. Howard Duckett Dam at Rocky Gorge Reservoirmarker was at capacity and posed a huge threat.

A former 1840s mill workers' home on the northeast corner of 9th and Main Streets was renovated and opened as the Laurel Museum on May 1, 1996. The museum features exhibits that highlight the history of Laurel and its citizens. A gift shop is available and museum admission is free. The museum's John Calder Brennan Library is open to researchers by appointment.

21st century

On September 24, 2001, a tornado passed through Laurel and left F3 property damage, including significant roof damage to Laurel High School and the historic Harrison-Beard Building.

Prior to the September 11, 2001 attacks, several of the hijack of American Airlines Flight 77 (which crashed into the Pentagon) stayed at various motels in the Laurel area, including the Budget Host Valencia and Pin-Del motels in Howard Countymarker just north of the city limits. The wing of the Valencia where they stayed was demolished and a new Sleep Inn was constructed on the ground, which opened in April 2007. They accessed the Internet through public computers at a Kinko's just south of the city limits. The also prepared for the hijacking by working out at a Gold's Gym; a report by FBImarker Director Mueller states the gym was in Laurel, while other sources list the location as Greenbelt, Marylandmarker, several miles to the south.

On August 29, 2005, Laurel adopted Laurel, Mississippimarker as a sister city to help with Hurricane Katrina relief and recovery. In the two years following adoption, "the government, businesses and residents of Laurel, Md. ... raised more than $20,000 for Laurel, Miss."

Historic sites

The following is a list of historic sites in Laurel and vicinity identified by the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission and / or National Register of Historic Places:
Site name Image Location M-NCPPC Inventory Number Comment
1 Avondale Millmarker 21 Avondale St. n/a Added to the National Register of Historic Places, September 20, 1979; destroyed 1991
2 Duvall Bridge Telegraph Road at Patuxent River, Patuxent Wildlife Research Centermarker 64-002
3 Laurel High Schoolmarker (original building) / Phelps Community Center 700 block of Montgomery St n/a Added to the National Register of Historic Places, June 27, 1979
4 Laurel Railroad Stationmarker E. Main St n/a Added to the National Register of Historic Places, March 30, 1973
5 Montpeliermarker 2.1 mi. E of Laurel on MD 197 62-006 Added to the National Register of Historic Places, April 17, 1970
6 Oaklands 8314 Contee Road 62-003
7 Snow Hillmarker S of Laurel off MD 197 62-004 Added to the National Register of Historic Places, August 13, 1974
8 Snowden Hall Building 16, Patuxent Wildlife Research Centermarker 64-001


Laurel is located at . This positions it on the bank of the Patuxent River, which was the power source for the cotton mills that were the early industry of the town.

Though the incorporated portion of Laurel is bounded entirely within the northern tip of Prince George's Countymarker, the larger area generally known by local as Laurel spreads eastward into Anne Arundel Countymarker, northward into Howard Countymarker, and west toward (though not into) Montgomery Countymarker.

The ZIP Codes for the community of Laurel are 20707 through 20709 and 20723 through 20729. Although served by the Laurel post office, Montpeliermarker is not within the city limits; the same is true for the unincorporated communities of Scaggsvillemarker and Whiskey Bottom in Howard County, and Maryland Citymarker and Russettmarker in Anne Arundel County.


As of the census of 2000, there were 19,960 people, 8,931 households, and 4,635 families residing in the city. The population density was 5,280.2 people per square mile (2,038.8/km²). There were 9,506 housing units at an average density of 2,514.7/sq mi (971.0/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 52.24% White, 34.50% African American, 0.38% Native American, 6.89% Asian, 0.21% Pacific Islander, 2.30% from other races, and 3.47% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 6.24% of the population.

There are 8,931 households, of which 26.7% have children under the age of 18, 33.9% were married couples living together, 13.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 48.1% were non-families. 37.4% of all households were made up of individuals and 5.2% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.22 and the average family size was 2.97.

In the city the population was spread out with 22.0% under the age of 18, 8.6% from 18 to 24, 42.9% from 25 to 44, 19.7% from 45 to 64, and 6.7% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 34 years. For every 100 females there were 93.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 90.3 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $49,415, and the median income for a family was $58,552. Males had a median income of $37,966 versus $35,614 for females. The per capita income for the city was $26,717. About 4.3% of families and 6.4% of the population were below the poverty line, including 7.8% of those under age 18 and 6.4% of those age 65 or over.

For statistical reporting, the Census Bureau identifies four adjacent unincorporated area:


Laurel is traversed from north to south by U.S. 1, which links Key West, Floridamarker with the Canadianmarker border in Mainemarker. On the west the city is bordered by Interstate 95, and beyond the eastern border lies the Baltimore-Washington Parkway. Crossing all of these highways is the east-west artery of Maryland Route 198, which intersects with U.S. 1 in the heart of Laurel.

Other major state roads in Laurel are Maryland Route 216, which connects the city with southern Howard County, and Maryland Route 197, which runs from Laurel to Bowiemarker. The eastern terminus of Maryland Route 200 (the Intercounty Connector) will lie just south of the city limits, should the proposed highway between Laurel and Gaithersburg, Marylandmarker be completed.

Suburban Airportmarker, a one-strip general aviation facility, is located off of Maryland Route 197, just over the Anne Arundel County border. Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airportmarker and Ronald Reagan Washington National Airportmarker are both within about 25 miles of Laurel.

Public Transport
Two MARC train stations on the Camden Line to Baltimore and Washington, D.C. are located in Laurel: Laurel Stationmarker and Laurel Racetrack Stationmarker, the latter with minimal service. Laurel Station is a particularly notable example of the stations designed by E. Francis Baldwin for the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad.

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) Metrobus service provides four lines into Laurel, and local Connect-a-Ride and Howard Transit bus service is available. Several taxicab and shuttle services also support the region.

Emergency services

The Laurel Police Department is part of the Sixth District of the Prince George's County Police Department. The Maryland State Police patrol Route 1, Route 198, and Interstate 95, which pass through the area, and the United States Park Police patrol the Baltimore-Washington Parkway and its connectors.

The primary emergency services providers for the City of Laurel and surrounding parts of Prince George’s County are the Laurel Volunteer Fire Department (Company 10) and the Laurel Volunteer Rescue Squad (Company 49). Both companies are part of the Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Department.

The Laurel Volunteer Fire Department was formed in 1902. Today the department is located at 7411 Cherry Lane. Volunteer staffing is supplemented by four career personnel from 7:00am to 3:00pm Monday through Friday excluding holidays. The company operates three fire engines (Engine 101, Engine 103, and Engine 104); and an aerial tower (Tower 10). Ambulance service began December 11, 2006. As of June 2008, two ambulances are operated out of the Laurel fire station (Ambulance 108 and Ambulance 109). The City of Laurel Emergency Command Unit is also located at the station.

The Laurel Volunteer Rescue Squad was formed in 1952. Today the department is located at 14910 Bowie Road. Volunteer staffing is supplemented by four career personnel from 7:00am to 3:00pm Monday through Friday excluding holidays. The company operates one heavy rescue squad, one rescue-engine, three basic life support ambulances, and a swiftwater rescue team. A paramedic unit staffed by two career personnel is also assigned to Company 49.

Laurel Regional Hospital, managed by Dimensions Health Corporation, is located on Van Dusen Road.

Municipal government

Laurel is governed by a 5-member city council and a mayor. There are two political ward in the city. The first ward is generally the area north of Maryland Route 198 and the second ward is to the south. Two council members are elected from each ward, and a council member is elected at large. Residents vote for all five council members, who must reside in Laurel a year before their election and during their full term of office.

Nonpartisan city-wide elections are held every two years at Phelps Senior Center on the corner of Montgomery Street and 8th Street/St. Mary's Place. The next election, to select a mayor and city council members, will be held in 2010.

The council elects one of its members to serve as president. The president of the city council presides over council meetings and can act in a limited capacity as mayor if the mayor is unavailable. Council members serve for two years each term; the mayor serves for four years.

Media and culture

Stanley Memorial Librarymarker, the Laurel branch of the Prince George's County Memorial Library System, is located at the intersection of Seventh Street and Talbott Avenue. The "Maryland City at Russett" branch of the Anne Arundel County Public Library is also available to Laurel residents.


Television arrived in Laurel with the establishment of the first TV broadcast stations in Washington in 1946. For decades, Laurel has been served by the VHF TV channels 4, 5, 7, and 9 from Washington, and channels 2, 11, and 13 from Baltimore. In addition, there are dozens of UHF TV stations from Washington, Baltimore, and Annapolismarker. From these three cities, scores of AM and FM radio stations reach Laurel.

There are two local newspapers: Laurel Leader and The Laurel Gazette. In addition, there is one mediumwave AM radio station, WILCmarker ("Viva 900") serving the Hispanic community.

With its location between Washington and Baltimore, Laurel is also served by their daily newspapers The Washington Post, The Washington Times and The Baltimore Sun. Many Laurel residents also read a free newspaper, the Washington Examiner.

In the book, Seabiscuit: An American Legend, Laurel is mentioned several times as an important horse racing venue.


Laurel's movie theater, the Laurel Cinema 6, shows first-run American movies and Bollywood movies. Local performing arts outlets include the Venus Theatre, Laurel Mill Playhouse, Central Maryland Chorale (formerly Laurel Oratorio Society) and Montpelier Arts Center, which also features an art gallery. Another local exhibitor is the WSSC Art Gallery.


Laurel Main Street Festival, 2007
The city government supports an annual LakeFest in May and Independence Day celebration each July. Since 1981, the Laurel Board of Trade has sponsored a Main Street Festival (held on Saturday of Mother's Day weekend) each May, and since 1995 a RiverFest each October. The Montpelier Mansion grounds have hosted an annual festival the first weekend in May since 1971, updated in 2007 to focus on an "herb, tea and arts" theme.

Laurel in popular culture

There is a line in the novel The Dead Zone by Stephen King, consisting of "Laurel, Maryland" repeated over and over. Presumably this represents a psychic allusion to the attempted assassination of George Wallace in 1972. In Lisey's Story, also by Stephen King, a character steals a car from the parking lot at the Laurel Mall.

In addition, in Tom Clancy's novel The Cardinal of the Kremlin, an FBI agent pretending to work for DARPA comments to her target, a Soviet mole, "This is so much nicer than living in Laurel!"

X-Files episode, "Talitha Cumi", references a street in West Laurelmarker when Mulder says, "Off the I-95, uh Bond Mill Road," while designating a location to meet with Scully.

Famous people

Future President and Mrs. Dwight D. Eisenhower and their first son (Doud Dwight, about 5 months old) lived at Mrs. Ray's Boarding House at 327 Montgomery Street and Halverson's Boarding House in Laurel in March 1918 during the couple's second year of marriage.

Hall of Fame race horse jockey Ron Turcotte trained at Laurel Park race course in the late 1960s.

Rap artist Biz Markie moved to Laurel in 1996.

Former Megadeth lead guitarist Marty Friedman attended Laurel High School in the 1970s.


Primary and secondary schools

Public schools within city limits

Prince George's County Public Schools serves residents within Laurel's city limits.

City residents are zoned to Laurel Elementary School or Scotchtown Hills Elementary School, both within the city limits.

Two public middle schools in the Laurel area, Dwight D. Eisenhower and Martin Luther King Jr. Middle Schools in Prince George's County, serve the actual city of Laurel.

Laurel High Schoolmarker serves the city of Laurel.

Public schools nearby

Nearby elementary schools serving areas outside of the Laurel city limits include Bond Mill, Deerfield Run, James H. Harrison, Montpelier, Oaklands, and Scotchtown Hills Elementary Schools in Prince George's County; Brock Bridge and Maryland City Elementary Schools in Anne Arundel County; and Forest Ridge, Gorman, Hammond, and Laurel Woods Elementary Schools in Howard County.

Areas near Laurel in adjacent counties are served by MacArthur and Meade Middle Schools in Anne Arundel County and Hammond and Murray Hill Middle Schools in Howard County.

Other public high schools which serve the adjacent areas outside Prince George's County include Meade High Schoolmarker in Anne Arundel County and Atholtonmarker, Hammondmarker and Reservoir High Schools in Howard County. A notable magnet school in Prince George's County is Eleanor Roosevelt High School.

District of Columbia alternative school

District of Columbia Public Schools operates an alternative middle and high school near Laurel named Maya Angelou Academy.

Private schools

  • Augsburg Academy – Christian Day School; age 4 through grade 9
  • Faith Baptist Christian School – Pre-K through grade 8
  • First Baptist School of Laurel – Pre-K through grade 8
  • Julia Brown Montesorri School – Pre-K through grade 3
  • Kiddie Academy of Laurel – for ages 6 weeks through 12 years
  • Kiddies Kollege Christian Center – for ages 2 years through 5 years
  • Laurel Baptist Academy – kindergarten through grade 12
  • Pallotti Day Care Center – Catholic kindergarten
  • St. Mary of the Mills School – Catholic kindergarten through grade 8
  • St. Vincent Pallotti High Schoolmarker – Catholic high school

Colleges, universities, and trade schools

Prince George's Community College and Howard Community College share a campus in Laurel called the Laurel College Center.

Capitol Collegemarker is located south of Laurel.

The Anne Arundel County section of Laurel hosts the Woodland Job Corps Center.

Sports and recreation

Laurel's Department of Parks & Recreation sponsors seasonal sports leagues for adults, with youth leagues in the area offered by the Laurel Boys and Girls Club. Events are held among eleven city parks, three athletic fields, and three community centers. The city also operates a municipal swimming pool and tennis courts. Four indoor facilities and seven outdoor facilities are available for private rental.

The Fairland Sports and Athletic Complex on the grounds of the Fairland Regional Park, southwest of the city limits, is operated by the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission. These facilities offer a broad variety of activities including swimming, gymnastics, tennis, racquetball, weight training, child sitting, and massage therapy.

Also located within Fairland Regional Park, The Gardens Ice House skating facility offers three rink for ice skating lessons, public skating, figure skating, hockey, speed skating, and curling. Recent additional activities include basketball and lacrosse.

The Laurel Roller Skating Center, just north of the city limits, provides a location for public roller skating, and AMF Bowling Centers has a location in Laurel.

See also


  1. "Freestate Raceway Is Sold for Planned Industrial Park", HighBeam Research Inc., partial text of Washington Post article from September 6, 1989. URL retrieved on November 27, 2006.
  2. "It's Final: Freestate Is No More; Commission Grants Request to Transfer '90 Dates to Rosecroft", HighBeam Research Inc., partial text of Washington Post article from January 31, 1990. URL retrieved on November 27, 2006.
  3. "USGS Water Supply Paper 2375 National Water Summary, Maryland and the District of Columbia Floods and Droughts". URL retrieved on November 27, 2006.
  4. Invitation to the Maryland Association of Floodplain and Stormwater Managers Second Annual Conference and General Membership Meeting, October 18-19, 2006. URL retrieved on November 27, 2006.
  5. Directions and Hours, Laurel Historical Society. URL retrieved on November 28, 2006.
  6. Robert S. Mueller III, FBI Director. "Statement for the Record", Joint Intelligence Committee Inquiry. September 26, 2002. URL retrieved on December 22, 2006.
  7. Thomas Frank, "Tracing Trail of Hijackers", Newsday, April 4, 2002. URL retrieved on December 22, 2006.
  8. M-NCPPC Illustrated Inventory of Historic Sites (Prince George's County, Maryland), 2006.
  9. Garnes, Kathy. "Montpelier herb, tea and art fest moves to May". Laurel Leader. Patuxent Publishing Co. April 19, 2007.
  10. "Residences of General and Mrs. Eisenhower". Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library. URL retrieved on December 20, 2006.
  11. Morris, Mary. Biz Markie. Remix. February 1, 2004. URL retrieved on January 9, 2007.
  12. "West Laurel barn razing". October 2002. Fan Questions and Answers. Marty Friedman Official Website. URL retrieved on December 20, 2006.
  13. "Sports Programs", Department of Parks & Recreation, City of Laurel. URL retrieved on December 22, 2006.
  14. "Parks & Facilities Tour", Department of Parks & Recreation, City of Laurel. URL retrieved on December 22, 2006.
  15. "Facility Rentals", Department of Parks & Recreation, City of Laurel. URL retrieved on December 22, 2006.
  16. "M-NCPPC Specialized Sports Facilities", Department of Parks & Recreation, Prince George's County Maryland. URL retrieved on December 22, 2006.
  17. The Gardens Ice House, Laurel, Maryland. URL retrieved on December 22, 2006.
  18. Lane, Raymond M. "Getting up to speed on roller skating fun", The Washington Times, February 26, 2004. URL retrieved on December 22, 2006.

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