Hyattsville History

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Photo of Hyattsville circa 1920 courtesy of the Library of Congress. http://1.usa.gov/1ecSfyn

Hyattsville’s history was written by how people liked to get around.

In short: the city was started because of stagecoaches and trains, boomed because of streetcars, faltered because of automobiles and is being reborn because of walking.

The first break came in 1812 when Maryland began building the Washington and Baltimore Turnpike (now Route 1, or Baltimore Avenue) through the area. Then, in 1835, the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad began running trains past here too.

City founder Christopher Clarke Hyatt saw potential in being near the intersection of the turnpike and the railroad and bought land here in 1845 near the present-day site of Franklin’s restaurant. By 1886, the city was incorporated and soon had more than a thousand residents.

In 1899, a streetcar line from Washington, D.C., reached Hyattsville and the area boomed, with Sears homes and bungalows built in what is now the Historic District. A Washington Times article in 1903 praised it as one of Washington’s finest suburbs.

The streetcar system was dismantled in 1962 in favor of buses and business in Hyattsville’s downtown began to suffer. While shortsighted, this decision allowed many of the historic homes and buildings in the area to be spared.

In 1993, the Washington Metro system opened Green Line stations in West Hyattsville and Prince George’s Plaza, recognizing that the center of the community had shifted north and west. The University Town Center project nearby was the first attempt to reorient that part of town toward a more walkable urban development style.

Closer to the historic downtown, the Arts District Hyattsville development, which includes rowhomes, high-end apartments, retail space and a Busboys and Poets restaurant with a large performing space, was also designed to create a more walkable community which will soon connect to the Rhode Island Avenue Trolley Trail as well.

Just outside of Hyattsville, long-vacant land in the town of Riverdale Park will soon be home to another major development with multi-family housing, a hotel and retail space including a Whole Foods Market. A little north along Route 1, College Park has begun a revitalization of its own, to be spurred by a new light-rail Purple Line.

Today, Hyattsville is undergoing a renaissance, as people discover its historic charm, its affordable yet upscale housing options and its friendly, laid-back atmosphere.

For more of Hyattsville’s past, check out our history section.

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