Tag Archives: rt 1

Laurel in Postcards

Chances are, you’ve seen at least one vintage Laurel postcard in your life before. Maybe it was a 1950s picture of the Laurel (Tastee) Diner. Or more likely, it was a memento from Laurel’s most popular attraction throughout the past century, Laurel Park Racecourse.

Admittedly, I can’t recall having seen any postcards of Laurel while I was growing up there in the 1980s. By then, most had been relegated to personal scrap books (and unfortunately, quite a few probably ended up in garbage cans). The Laurel Historical Society has undoubtedly preserved many, and the Laurel Library has at least thoughtfully photocopied some of the oldest examples.

But what if I told you that there have likely been well over 100 picture postcards of Laurel, Maryland produced since the early 1900s? Many of them featuring motels, restaurants, and street scenes that have long-since disappeared… and a few that actually still exist today.

John Floyd II has amassed a tremendous collection of original Laurel postcards over the course of several years, and was kind enough to lend me his entire album to be scanned and shared. Here now are over 80 cards, front and back. Some bear interesting correspondence and postmarks, others are as blank as they were the day they were first purchased—undoubtedly in Laurel.

All postcards courtesy of J.D. Floyd II, Royal Blue Ltd. archives

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Ponderosa Steakhouse

Long before the current (as of this writing) Laurel Station Bar & Grill on Baltimore Ave., there was one of these—a Ponderosa Steakhouse.

It’s been any number of different establishments since its heyday in the 1970s—most notably, (and similarly) perhaps, a Sizzler—but I’ve literally lost count. For me, the building has always been (and always will be) Ponderosa.

Ironically, I may have only eaten there one time before it closed in the early 80s, but I walked past it almost daily en route to the mall.

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Dead Building Walking: The American National Bank

Recreating a photo from the 1970 Laurel, Maryland Centennial Historical Souvenir Booklet

For all the years I lived in Laurel—and for several years before and since—a unique mid-century modern 4-story building has sat between Rt. 1 north and south, at the intersection of Rt. 198. Over the course of those years, it had been a number of different banks, along with various upstairs offices. It was originally the American National Bank Building, and it was a highly-touted architectural addition to Laurel in the early 1960s.

Some remember it as “the big blue flashbulb building”, hinting at its resemblance.

But others simply remember it. Even if, like me, you’ve never been inside the building, you remember its presence in that location—visible from up and down Rt. 1, and when approaching from either direction on Rt. 198. It was just there, and it’s going to look and feel decidedly different when it’s not.

I’d love to know more about its background, but there’s not a lot of readily available material to be found. If you have any specific information, please share!

A quick Google search of “American National Bank Building” will reveal a couple of noticeably comparable styles. Admittedly, I know very little about the architectural origins and history of any of these buildings, but look at the aesthetic similarity of these larger structures—both of which also happened to be American National Banks. The one in Austin, TX, which opened in 1954, was designed by the Austin-based firm of Kuehne, Brooks and Barr. This building made it to the Preservation Texas 2009 list of most endangered places in the state. Clearly, somebody in Texas recognized the value in preserving that building, and made it happen.

I also came across an old postcard, featuring an even taller model from nearby Silver Spring, MD. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any accompanying details on its story or what’s become of that one.

American National Bank/Starr Building, Austin, TX. (Photo: texdraft.wordpress.com)

Vintage picture postcard of the American National Bank Building, Silver Spring, MD. (Photo: silverspringsingular.com)

The question (for any architectural scholars and/or generally curious folk out there) is whether these buildings were actually related—were they designed by the same firms, influenced by them, or was it just a mere stylistic coincidence?

It might be a moot point now, as Laurel’s old American National Bank Building is living on borrowed time.

I’d heard that it’s going to be demolished very soon; with a Walgreen’s, of all things, slated to replace it. The old building had apparently sat empty for quite some time—a literal shell of what was once the town’s premier architectural landmark. Falling into disrepair, it has since been condemned; it now sits awaiting its fate with broken and boarded-up windows, padlocked doors, and crumbling plaster. It actually looks like it might fall in on itself before the wrecking ball even touches it, sadly.

I visited it in late December 2011 and early January 2012 and took the photos below. I’ll be sure to get some photos of the actual demolition itself when it finally occurs, and the subsequent construction of the new Walgreen’s.

Somehow, I doubt anyone will be writing about the Walgreen’s some 40 years from now, but I guess time will tell.

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