Episode 6 of Lost Laurel for Laurel TV has aired, and its theme is Date Night in Laurel—a look at some of the favorite date night destinations Laurelites have enjoyed over the years, including movie theaters, restaurants, and special events.
One such special event was the landmark Laurel Pop Festival at Laurel Race Course in 1969. Kevin Leonardwrote a fantastic account of it for the Laurel Leader recently, and I had a blast accompanying him for an interview with Bruce Remer of e-rockworld.com at the site of the legendary concert. Bruce had been there as a high school student along with friend and fellow photographer Tom Beech—and the two easily mingled backstage with the performers, snapping photos with a Kodak Instamatic. Some of their photos and artifacts can even be seen on Led Zeppelin‘s website, on a page devoted to their Laurel performance.
This being a “date night” theme, I had hoped to have this episode ready in time for Valentines Day… but better late than never. 😉 Hope you enjoy it!
Laurel Shopping Center parking lot, May 2012 (Photo: Richard Friend)
I wasn’t born until December 1972, and my family didn’t move to Laurel until 1976. But it wasn’t long afterward that I began to hear about some famous politician having been shot in the parking lot of Laurel Shopping Center on May 15, 1972.
Even as a small child, something about that fascinated me—and it has ever since. Our home town was on the map, so to speak, because of this moment of infamy. Alabama Governor George C. Wallace—a controversial presidential candidate who would actually win the democratic primary in Maryland that year—had just stepped down from the podium, removed his jacket, and begun glad-handing some of the approximately 1,000 who’d assembled to hear and/or jeer his campaign speech. Within seconds, he’d be gunned down by the proverbial lone nut—a 21-year-old would-be assassin from Milwaukee, Wisconsin named Arthur Bremer.
Wallace would survive the shooting, (in spite of a total of five wounds, including shots to the chest and abdomen) but would be confined to a wheelchair and in constant pain for the remaining 26 years of his life. He died in 1998, having spent years renouncing his segregationist past, apologizing, and attempting to rectify a general perception of him as an unvarnished racist—a view he claimed brought him more pain than the assassination attempt itself.
Arthur Bremer would spend the next 35 years in a Hagerstown, MD prison before being released (18 years early) in 2007. Now living in Cumberland, he’ll remain on supervised release until 2025. Bremer’s diary, published after his arrest, revealed that the assassination attempt was motivated by a desire for fame, rather than politics, and that President Nixon had also been an earlier target. Bremer’s actions inspired the screenplay for the 1976 movie Taxi Driver, which in turn provoked the 1981 assassination attempt on the life of President Ronald Reagan by John Hinckley, Jr..
Of course, this isn’t a political blog, so I won’t ramble on about Wallace and Bremer’s respective biographies—there’s plenty of information on them out there if you’re interested. Although as a boxing fan, I will say that I was surprised to learn that George Wallace had been a two-time State Golden Gloves champ. But I digress.
Suffice it to say, I learned at an early age that what had happened at Laurel Shopping Center that afternoon 40 years ago today was a pretty big deal. And it wasn’t just a big deal in Laurel—it had national ramifications. From that point on, it seemed that any and all references to Laurel, Maryland—be it printed in encyclopedias, or in conversation with folks from out of town—inevitably mentioned the Wallace shooting.
He was even on a collector’s card!
In fact, to this day, an online image search of our fair town will inevitably yield photos of George Wallace (although, more recently, Laurel has also been dubiously tied to the 9/11 hijackers—several of whom stayed here in the days leading up to that tragic day).
But on this 40th anniversary, let’s look at the Wallace shooting in the context of Lost Laurel, rather than simply recapping the event and its principal players.
One of the first questions I had as a kid was, simply, where exactly did the shooting occur? Most of the photos I’ve seen (as well as footage of the shooting itself) are so tightly cropped and non-specific, it’s difficult to discern where in the Laurel Shopping Center this actually happened.
My parents, in fact, had long believed that it took place in the Montrose Ave. crosswalk beside Giant Food—probably because the stage Wallace spoke upon resembles the nativity scene that was in that location throughout the 80s. Plus, it seems like a logical place to hold the assembly. However, that was not the case.
Gov. George Wallace addresses the crowd just five minutes before the shooting. (Photo: Mabel Hobart)
The stage was actually set closer to the center of the parking lot, just behind what was at that time the Equitable Trust Bank, (currently Bank of America). It was in this area of the parking lot—between the south side of the bank and Woolworth’s—that Governor Wallace was shot.
The photos below, courtesy of John Floyd II, show the back (south side) of the bank—where the shooting took place. John, 14 years old at the time, was there that day with his mother, and estimates the actual spot of the shooting to be approximately where the white car is parked in this photo.
State Bank in 1962, and a recent photo of the building in its current guise as Bank of America. (Photos: John Floyd II)
You’ve probably noticed the name “State Bank” on the photo above. That’s what it was before it became Equitable Trust. (Hmm… banks constantly changing names—some things weren’t so different 40 years ago after all, were they?) Below is a Laurel News Leader cover photo from October 1962, which announced a $60,000 construction and improvement program to the State Bank’s Laurel Shopping Center branch, including an enlargement of the lobby and two new executive offices, a fall-out shelter in the basement, complete new heating and air-conditioning plants, as well as decorating and landscaping.
A 35mm color slide from an undated winter during the bank’s Equitable Trust era gives us a peek at the front of the building; although it’s somewhat difficult to focus on anything other than the massive, lumpy, telephone-wielding snowman perched atop the bank. During this phase, the bank had been painted white. We can also see the addition of a clock in the lower portion of the large, vertical sign—the lettering of which was also obviously changed. (I’m assuming it simply said “BANK”).
The file photo below shows the aftermath of the shooting—just after Wallace had been whisked away by ambulance. (John Floyd noted that prior to the assassination attempt, the entire parking lot between the bank and Woolworth’s was packed with spectators). In the photo, we also have a distant glimpse of some of the other businesses that were there at the time—most notably, Hecht’s in the top left corner behind the bank; the original International House of Pancakes, with its gabled roof; the Laurel Car Wash (originally owned by former Laurel Mayor Harry Hardingham, and still in business today!); a BP gas station; and a Fotomat booth.
(Photo: file, Laurel Leader)
To that point, let’s look at what else comprised Laurel Shopping Center at that time. The following directory came out a few years later, but many of the businesses listed had been open at the time of the shooting.
Greater Laurel Area Community Guide, 1976
Another view of the shopping center from this era comes from an apparent protest of, well, pants. This demonstration, apparently calling for the boycott of Farah Pants at Hecht’s, occurred in December 1973.
It’s also worth noting that one of the more dramatic photos that came across the AP Wire—showing a motionless Wallace lying in the back of a station wagon while awaiting an ambulance—was taken by a Laurel photographer, J.A. Bowman.
Recently, I found a photo that appeared in the October 16, 1977 issue of the Washington Post, recalling the shooting five years later. The article featured Mabel and Ross Speigle, between whom the would-be assassin literally reached while firing. Ross was the gentleman in the ball cap, whose tattooed arm you can see grabbing Bremer’s arm. The couple recalled their incredible experience, and were photographed in the spot where it all happened.
Back in January, I’d noticed a discussion thread on another Laurel-themed Facebook page. Susan Poe commented on a video link of the shooting: “The man wrestling the shooter to the ground was my neighbor, when I lived on 4th Street—Ross Speigle, and his wife Mabel was beside him… for anyone who remembers. I remember that day very well.” I posted the photo for Sue, who’d never seen it. She quickly replied, “OMG! Tears in my eyes… I haven’t seen their faces in over 20 years. Thank you so much. Wow. You have no idea. They were like family to me.”
She went on to tell me that Mabel (or “Mabe”, as she was known) had passed away from cancer, and Ross followed her a few years later. It was clear that this had been a very special couple, even without their unexpected involvement in the Wallace incident. Ross had acted out of instinct in grabbing Bremer’s arm—an action that could very well have been the reason why no one was killed that day. But the Speigles’ courage didn’t end there; Mabel proved to be a dynamic witness who helped seal Arthur Bremer’s fate:
Given this significant anniversary, I thought it only fitting that Mabel and Ross accompany me (in a manner of speaking) back to the site one more time.
There’s at least one other camera angle showing the Wallace shooting—this one with a brief glimpse of the Equitable Trust Bank itself, giving the surroundings more context. In this particular upload (set to Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Sweet Home Alabama) the footage doesn’t begin in earnest until the 1:34 mark. However, it’s in color; and it has sound. You can easily get a sense of the chaos in the immediate aftermath on that incredible day.
And lastly, there was a film made about the life of George Wallace. It’s titled, (you guessed it) George Wallace. Gary Sinise starred in the title role, alongside Angelina Jolie as his then-wife, Cornelia. The filmmakers did a decent job recreating the “Laurel Shopping Center” stage from which Wallace spoke before the shooting, but anyone who’s familiar with Laurel will immediately notice the surroundings and realize that the scene wasn’t shot (no pun intended) at Laurel Shopping Center. Interestingly enough, Gary Sinise won an Emmy for the performance—on the very night that the real George Wallace passed away.
Thirty-one years ago this week, the Laurel Leader noted the opening of the brand new Hecht’s at Laurel Centre—completing the relocation from its original building in the open Laurel Shopping Center, where it had been since the early 1960s. It would go on to be the sole occupant of the new building until Hecht’s eventually folded, and became Macy’s.
The new store had upper and lower levels, and included the popular Edgar’s Restaurant and an in-house beauty salon. As the above photo will attest, it also featured a small but beguiling kids’ section called the “Land of Ahhs”, where stuffed animals and board games filled whimsical display cases, including the locomotive and Snoopy’s doghouse seen here.
A clipping from October 1980 (seven months earlier) showed the building still under construction just beyond the Laurel Shopping Center:
What I remember most about the store wasn’t so much the displays or the wares themselves, but the floors. Weird, I know.
But the distinctive parquet flooring was something new to me as a child; something I’d probably only seen on TV during Boston Celtics games before. And the flooring layout in the new Hecht’s wasn’t traditional, either. Other department stores had rudimentary walkways; typically around the perimeter of the store and intersecting at central points throughout. The new Hecht’s, however, utilized these new parquet pathways differently—weaving throughout the store in short straight lines and 45-degree angles. In a video posted on YouTube in late March of this year, (shortly after Macy’s closed) I was surprised to see that the flooring was, in fact, still there. You can also get a sense of how these angling pathways once encouraged shoppers to explore the countless nooks and crannies the store had to offer.
Apparently, Macy’s didn’t do a whole lot of upkeep over the years after inheriting the building.
And driving past the old mall last week—just days after its official May 1st closing—the building looked essentially as it has since that upper parking deck spectacularly collapsed back in July 2005. Empty.
(6 digital images by John Floyd II, 2005)
Now that mall has been formally closed, (and just as ominously, a double-wide construction crew trailer set up in the parking lot) the building that once housed both Hecht’s and Macy’s will probably be disappearing soon. More likely, what’s left of those fragile parking decks surrounding it will be the first to go.
But oddly enough, one Hecht’s-related item that never seems to completely disappear are those cardboard gift boxes, especially at Christmas. I’m kind of glad for that. It’s like seeing an old friend.
On a chilly, rainy day like today, who couldn’t use a nice bowl of Maryland’s finest cream of crab soup?
By most accounts, Bay ‘n Surf aptly advertised their signature soup, lovingly crafted in the distinctive 300-seat restaurant with decorative lighthouse at 14411 Baltimore Avenue—the location it called home since 1965. But the restaurant that had seen so many romantic Valentines Day dinners over the years did not have a happy Valentines Day in 2007, when a compressor for one of the restaurant’s walk-in refrigerators ignited at approximately 6:15 AM, setting ablaze a nearby office and parts of the kitchen. According to firefighters, the dining area was essentially untouched; and while preliminary estimates put the damage at $500,000, the owner told The Washington Post that she planned to reopen by May of that year.
Now more than five years after the fire, the restaurant—and its distinctive lighthouse—sit eerily empty.
Despite the occasional rumor of Bay ‘n Surf returning—or, more likely, reopening in a new location outside of Laurel, nothing of the sort has materialized. The property has evidently been sold, however, but there’s been no official word on what’s to become of it. Odds are, however, whatever the new place is, the cream of crab soup just won’t be the same.
You can still experience some of those Bay ‘n Surf memories—and a decent bowl of cream of crab soup—right next door, though. Nuzback’s Bar, another Laurel landmark which has sat directly beside the old seafood restaurant all these years, (including the years before Bay ‘n Surf, when it was the notorious Oakcrest Inn!) is still going strong, and they have an outdoor seating area where you can enjoy your food and drinks while gazing over at what’s left of the Bay ‘n Surf.
When I was growing up in the 1970s and 80s, Nuzback’s had a bit of a reputation as a rough place (to put it mildly). But I doubt they’ve ever had quite the drama that the old Oakcrest Inn had—especially on August 29, 1955, when a deadly gun battle apparently broke out… between a pair of middle-aged brothers, no less. One of whom owned the place:
Washington Post, August 30, 1955
The surviving brother was later acquitted, citing self defense. You have to wonder if he ever went back, perhaps after it became the Bay ‘n Surf. After all, they did have Maryland’s finest cream of crab soup.
Five-dollar footlong, you say? Herb’s Carry-Out wasn’t *quite* as expensive as Subway, back in the day.
The vintage (and greasy) Laurel icon, brilliantly captured here in watercolors by artist Cathy Emery, was a longtime, late night staple just a block south of Main Street at 126 Washington Blvd.
The sight of its unique facade brought back a flood of food memories on Facebook, as Laurelites recalled their favorite dishes—and memories—from Herb’s. Several mentioned the shrimp and gizzard boxes, while others cited the cheesesteaks, footlong hot dogs, and soft shell crab sandwiches—often after a night out at the nearby B & E Tavern.
Others recalled even simpler fare, like Michelle Atkins:
“My father used to take me here when I was a little girl, i would get a grilled cheese & donald duck orange juice!”
And Richard Pierce, who hailed Herb’s shrimp and gizzard boxes, also pointed out another ever-present feature of the establishment:
“Remember all the empty carryout boxes stacked up in the front widows?”
Cathy Emery apparently remembered them, too, as they appear to be lovingly included in the painting.
The Laurel Centennial Souvenir Historical Booklet has a small photo of Herb’s from circa 1970, and includes an interesting background on the building before all the gizzard boxes and cheesesteaks came.
The Maryland Drug Company was a long-time tenant before Herb’s occupied the street level store. (The upper floors were converted into apartments at some point.) But its history goes back much further. In fact, according to the Maryland State Archives (who produced a fairly extensive capsule summary sheet on it in 1998), The Free Quill Building, as it was originally known, was constructed circa 1885 on land owned by James A. Clark, the editor of the Free Quill—Laurel’s first long-term weekly newspaper.
The Laurel Centennial booklet includes an 1887 illustration that was used in the Free Quill’s masthead. And while there aren’t any storefront windows with stacks of carryout boxes visible, the building is still recognizable as Herb’s:
From the capsule summary sheet, a more detailed history of the structure:
The upper floor of the building was an open hall which was used for public meetings and dances (Centennial Booklet 1970: 54). The Free Quill eventually became the Laurel News Leader, but it is unknown where the paper was produced after Clark sold the property. The property was conveyed to Charles Shaffer in 1895, and was sold to Edmund Hill in 1898.Edmund Hill ran a butcher shop out of the building, and continued to use the upper hall as a public meeting space. The heirs of Edmund Hill sold the property in 1919 to Ormand Phair. Ormand Phair had purchased the adjoining residential property in 1910 from Charles Shaffer. Trustees for Ormand Phair sold both properties to the Maryland Drug Company in 1958. The current owners purchased the property in 1973.
Also included in the summary is a series of elevation photos taken in May 1998—when the street level storefront bore the rather generic name, “Laurel Convenient Mart”. At the time, fittingly, the building was vacant.
The old turreted building still stands, albeit empty once again, since its last incarnation as Dingle’s Printing.
I remember thinking it was odd to see a printing company in the space I always associated with Herb’s Carry-Out, but as it turns out, the building was originally used for printing purposes. In addition to the Free Quill, the Illustrated Residence and Business Directory of 1894 (only two complete copies of which are still known to exist), was also printed in this building. That directory, another Laurel first, was thankfully reprinted in the Centennial booklet for posterity.
As for the building itself, it unfortunately isn’t eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. According to a Maryland Historical Trust State Historic Sites Inventory Form,
The property is not eligible under Criterion A, as research conducted indicates no association with any historic events or trends significant in the development of national, state, or local history. Historic research indicates that the property has no association with persons who have made specific contributions to history, and therefore, it does not meet Criterion B. It is not eligible under Criterion C, as it is a highly altered example of an late-nineteenth century commercial building in Laurel. The first floor facade has been greatly altered with a modern storefront, and all the windows have been replaced and the larger openings filled in. The upper story which once served as a meeting hall has been converted into apartments. The building no longer retains its integrity of materials, design, workmanship, feeling, or association. Finally, the structure has no known potential to yield important information, and therefore, is not eligible under Criterion D.
Ouch. That’s some tough criteria.
Historical significance has a funny way of recording itself, doesn’t it? This odd, old building may or may not have a long-term future. It’s not likely ever going to be protected by any preservationists. And its only noted contributions to the community occurred over 120 years ago. But if you talk to the people who knew Laurel in the gritty 1970s and early 80s, they remember it for something else entirely—Criterion E, if you will. That’s “E” for Eat at Herb’s.
And as for “specific contributions to history”, etc., I offer this: in 125 years, nobody cared enough to paint a portrait of that building in any incarnation other than Herb’s Carry-Out. And I’d venture to say that there are at least a few buildings on historic preservation lists that haven’t been as lovingly painted, or painted at all. But then again, nobody ever bought a shrimp and gizzard box from their establishment.
Like the proverbial “2-for-1” special, today’s focus is on a restaurant within a department store—both of which, of course, are now long gone.
I remember Edgar’s—the restaurant within Hecht’s at Laurel Centre Mall—more for its distinctive, art deco logo that I’d often pass while walking the upper level parquet floors en route to the mall proper. Truth be told, I don’t actually recall ever having eaten there; but I remember that logo—particularly Edgar’s beady little eyes and pencil mustache. In fact, to this day, whenever I hear the expression “beady eyes”, I immediately think of Edgar.
While I’m pretty sure I could’ve drawn it from memory, I found a couple of Washington Post ads from 1985 and 86, respectively, which feature both the logo and the beady-eyed Edgar himself.
The prices, I have to say, look great—even for the mid-1980s. And from what I’ve heard, the food was actually quite good.
While they’re not Edgar-specific, I’ve noticed a few Hecht’s Restaurants glasses on eBay, promoting Lipton Iced Tea. Coincidentally, that Lipton Iced Tea logo guy also had quite a mustache, didn’t he? Fortunately, his eyes weren’t so beady, though.
When you ask folks who grew up in the 1980s about “Merry Go Round“, they’ll undoubtedly remember the store… and its trendy fashions that they’d probably just as soon forget. Do the brands “I.O.U.” and “Skidz” ring any bells?
For those who grew up in Laurel at that time, our Merry Go Round was located on the lower level of Laurel Centre Mall, not far from the Hecht’s entrance. And coincidentally, just a few short yards away was another merry go round of sorts—the Carousel shops, which were literally located on a revolving platform in the center of the mall. These seven small boutiques were surrounded by a moat, no less—into which everyone in Laurel likely threw at least one penny at some point. (Perhaps wishing for a new red leather jacket from Merry Go Round, or something).
It wasn’t obvious, but the Carousel did actually rotate. According to this press photo which ran in the October 28, 1979 issue of the Baltimore Sun, the platform did a complete turn every 50 minutes. It did, at least, until maintenance costs proved to be too prohibitive, and then it just sat still. For that reason, many people probably never realized that it ever rotated at all.
And as for Merry Go Round, the store, I hope you didn’t think I’d miss this opportunity to showcase some of its many wares. Enjoy. Or cringe, more likely.
In fact, the Laurel Art Center at 322 Main Street has already closed its doors, (temporarily, let’s hope) as the Emery family decides its fate. But let’s face it—it doesn’t sound good.
Admittedly, before last year, it had been awhile since I’d visited the Laurel Art Center. But like an old friend many miles away, it felt good just to know it was still there. And it was an old friend, indeed. An old friend that remained the same throughout the passing decades.
It was an extraordinarily special place for me, particularly as a youngster. I was one of those kids you hear about who literally started drawing from the moment he first held a pencil. I drew everything, and I drew it on everything—as this early depiction of an epic football battle between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Pittsburgh Steelers can attest. I drew it on the back of one of my mom’s paper placemats sometime around 1979. You’ll notice that I hadn’t quite grasped the rules of football at the time; although I still can see the benefit to marking the field with “60” and “70”-yard lines and so forth. But I digress.
As a young artist, I was fascinated with the tools of the trade: the pencils and felt pens, and the marks they made on paper. And the paper itself, for that matter. Fortunately, I was blessed with parents who recognized and nurtured my talent at a very early age. My mom, on routine trips to the likes of Woolworth’s or Zayre, would invariably come home with a small gift for me—a sketch pad, and/or a little set of watercolor paints. I’ll never forget the thrill of trying out new art supplies, regardless of what they were or where they came from.
As I progressed, I learned that there was an entire world of real art supplies out there—far beyond my standard number 2 pencils, generic felt tip pens, and little sets of watercolors. There were actual drawing pencils, with a range of textures and contrast; there were papers that were actually designed to accommodate watercolors—unlike my mom’s standard white typewriter paper (or her paper placemats). This world first presented itself to me in the form of the Laurel Art Center.
To me, the phrase, “like a kid in a candy store” has never been so apt as when I visited this place. And it has always felt that way, whether I was 10 years old, twenty-something, or today, as I’m closing in on 40. From the weathered, wooden outdoor facade to the cavernous aisles filled with every art supply imaginable, the Laurel Art Center never changed. The smell of graphite pencils, wooden frames, and the occasional hint of turpentine is just as apparent today as it was when I first experienced it.
I came across this terrific set on Flickr from member clgmaclean, which captures the essence of the Laurel Art Center and its myriad inventory. Somewhere on those countless cardboard displays and particleboard shelves, I’m sure my own discreet doodles still exist—as I tested many a pen before buying it.
While the store itself hasn’t changed all these years, its purpose has evolved for me during those three distinct periods I alluded to: childhood, college, and adulthood.
As a kid, it was simply an artistic wonderland; a place to experiment and learn with tools that just weren’t available at the local five and dime.
When I enrolled at the Corcoran College of Art + Design in the Fall of 1993, it was the first and only place I went to purchase my required supplies—an epic supply list that I’m told was photocopied and saved by staffmembers at the store for future use!
Long after graduating and becoming a graphic designer, it was this project—Lost Laurel—that brought me back to the store once again. Not for art supplies, ironically, but for the fantastic prints by local artists Marian Quinn and Cathy Emery—prints that document countless Laurel buildings and landmarks that are long gone. It was the first resource I thought of when I started Lost Laurel. And funny enough, I remembered seeing some of them in the store all those years ago… At the time, however, it didn’t dawn on me just how prescient they were. Why would anyone want a print of Keller’s News Stand, or Petrucci’s Dinner Theater, or Pal Jack’s Pizza, I remember thinking—they’re right here next to the Art Center. Yeah, 30 years ago they were. Now they’re gone, like so many other places that were uniquely Laurel.
Keller's/Knapp's, watercolor print by Cathy Emery
I’d made several trips to the the Laurel Art Center in recent months, picking up a number of these historical prints for my collection, which I’ve been sharing primarily on the Lost Laurel Facebook page.
Each time I browsed the selections, one print in particular caught my eye. And now, even while recognizing how prescient it was, I couldn’t bring myself to buy it. It was a Marian Quinn pen and ink drawing of the Laurel Art Center itself. While I wanted it—and certainly wished I’d just gone ahead and grabbed it while I had the chance—I felt as though I might be jinxing my old friend. I was there to get artwork of places past, not places that I held hope would continue to persevere.
According to the article in the Leader, the Laurel Art Center’s closing may not be permanent. At least, not yet. There seems to be a chance that the store will open on a temporary schedule (I suggest checking their Facebook pages often for updates—here and here) until the ownership issue can be resolved. And to that point, I want to wish Mr. Leo Emery—the wonderful man who founded the store all those years ago, and who has remained such an integral part of it ever since—and his entire family the best of luck. That goes for everyone who has ever worked at the store, as well. I also want to give them all a belated, but heartfelt thank you for all that they’ve done—for as long as I can remember. If there hadn’t been a Laurel Art Center, who knows what I might be doing today. I can’t imagine that I would’ve maintained such a strong interest in art had it not been for them. I would’ve eventually gotten bored, just doodling on my mom’s paper placemats, and moved on to something else. Instead, I found inspiration in that store like nowhere else.
I’ll end this post with another look at the past, as well as a glimpse at the near future. It can be seen in this photo—one of my favorites from John Floyd II:
The very first Main Street Festival, 1981. (Photo: John Floyd II)
Each of the establishments from the old Marian Quinn prints I mentioned can be seen in this view from 1981, looking west on Main Street from its intersection with Washington Blvd. There’s Pal Jack’s Pizza on the left, just beside Petrucci’s. Further up, just past the Equitable Trust bank is the Laurel Art Center itself. Across the street, you can see the familiar Pepsi sign hanging from what was, at that time, Keller’s News Stand. This was no ordinary day, of course; people didn’t just walk in the middle of Main Street routinely in 1981. This was the Main Street Festival—the very first Main Street Festival, in fact. I find it entirely fitting that, in the middle of this vibrant, promising snapshot of a community embracing itself—there is the Laurel Art Center.
It’s also fitting that the city of Laurel recently designated a downtown arts district in this very section of town, with an eye to attracting new arts-based businesses and legitimizing the growing arts focus of the area. How terribly ironic it would be if the Laurel Art Center, after 35 years, is no longer around to be at the center of this great new community movement as well.