Why Hyattsville Used to Be a Dry Town

Hyattsville started out as a dry town in part because Bladensburg wasn’t.

As we noted recently, Hyattsville’s rebirth is being fueled by craft breweries, sales of beer and wine and even a new distillery, meadery, and Belgian-inspired brewery.

But the backstory on why Hyattsville was dry in the first place is also worth sharing. A history of Hyattsville from the 1961 anniversary of the town’s incorporation recently shared with us by a loyal reader spells it out.

During the era after the Civil War, Bladensburg turned into a center of vice, with cock fights and gambling set up to amuse passengers on stage coaches that ran through the area to and from Washington, D.C.

“Gambling and consumption of spiritous liquors went on the increase in Bladensburg, despite the efforts of the citizens of that city,” the history notes. “Bladensburg officials were further hard put to stop this form of ‘entertainment’ after a man arrested for disorderly conduct burned the wooden jail down and made his escape. Until a new jail could be constructed, the gambling and drinking continued unabated.”

This frustrated some of the more religious residents of the town, who opted to move up the road to Hyattsville, where Christopher Clarke Hyatt was pushing to ban drinking and smoking in the city charter.

Though he died before the city was incorporated, Hyatt got his wish.

An article in the Prince George’s Sentinel on April 23, 1970, notes that the city’s charter, approved in 1886, “forbade the sale of alcoholic beverages” within city limits, adding that the ban was “overturned recently” by the legislature.

As James Fallows wrote in the Atlantic last year,”A city on the way back will have one or more craft breweries, and probably some small distilleries too.”

Posted in Hyattsville | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

A Sneak Peek at Burtons Grill & Bar

Burton's Grill and Bar Riverdale Park Station Maryland

Burtons Grill & Bar will open at 4 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 22, at Riverdale Park Station, but the Hyattsville Wire got a preview this past week.

The Riverdale location will be the first in Maryland for the upscale chain, which has 14 other locations from New Hampshire to Florida.

Designed by Boston-based Niemitz Design Group, the interior features tall windows matched with dark wood tables and booths, giving the place the feel of a traditional steakhouse without the overly dim lighting.

Like Busboys and Poets down the street, Burtons is forward-thinking about allergy awareness and restricted diets. The menu features vegetarian, paleo and gluten-free food, as well as the option of selecting a half portion.

While the fare leans toward contemporary American, there are some twists, such as a “Philly spring roll” made with sirloin and onion rings, “street tacos” with tomato jalapeño relish and arugula and “General Tso’s cauliflower.”

The bar will add to Route 1’s options, with wine from France, Spain, New Zealand and the West Coast; and signature cocktails like a basil gimlet made with gin, house-made lime cordial, muddled basil, chamomile and citrus bitters.

There’s also a “{B} Choosy” kids menu that follows the USDA’s latest guidelines for nutrition and allows parents to choose from a list of ingredients and cooking methods instead of just offering one-size-fits-all chicken tenders and grilled cheese.

The 6,808-square-foot space will have 182 dining room seats and 33 bar seats. Two outdoor patios, complete with a fire table and corn hole game area, will add another 55 seats.

Posted in Riverdale Park | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

What’s Behind Route 1’s Fitness Boom

Gold's Gym Riverdale Park Station fitness center

Route 1 is having a fitness boom.

Gold’s Gym at Riverdale Park Station, opening this spring, will join CrossFit Hyattsville, an LA Fitness at Prince George’s Plaza (and another in Greenbelt), a Planet Fitness at the Mall at Prince George’s and an iLoveKickboxing studio at University Town Center. There is even a gym at the Prince George’s Community Center.

That’s not to mention Yoga Space and Love Yoga Studio in Hyattsville, Bikram Yoga Riverdale, Open Barre Studios and Numi Yoga in College Park and Joe’s Movement Emporium in Mount Rainier, which offers yoga, pilates and dance classes. There’s also the Espaco Cultural Samba Trovao, a Brazilian cultural center in downtown Hyattsville, which offers Capoeira Angola and samba dance classes, and Adinkra Cultural Arts Studio in Mount Rainier, which has a variety of African dance classes for both kids and adults. 

It’s not a coincidence that Gold’s Gym is moving near the new Whole Foods. Like grocery stores — which are also having a boom along Route 1 — fitness centers are immune to the damage that online sales is doing to traditional brick-and-mortar retail stores. In fact, they are benefiting from it.

Analysts say that cheaper commercial real estate has made it easier for gyms — which can range from 2,000 to 20,000 square feet — to find new locations. Franchises like Gold’s Gym, LA Fitness and Planet Fitness are growing rapidly.

Commercial developers also like gyms because — like grocery stores — they bring people back to the shopping center on at least a weekly basis, if not more. That means more foot traffic for other stores, especially at night.

Residential developers like them too. A nearby gym is as good an amenity as granite countertops, even if residents don’t end up using it. (One developer estimates that a fitness center inside an apartment building boosts its value by 10 percent.) Even the Arts District Hyattsville has a small gym in the Lustine Center.

The fitness boom along Route 1 is probably at its peak for now, until the market can support a high-end gym like Equinox, there’s probably not much more demand.

Gold’s Gym at Riverdale Park Station is already offering a special pre-opening membership offer. Amenities will include a sauna, bootcamp, and a kids club.

Posted in College Park, Hyattsville | Tagged , , | 6 Comments

Eat Your Heart Out at Pan Lourdes Bakery

From the outside, Pan Lourdes Bakery is unassuming.

But step inside the Mount Rainier bakery and you’re instantly hit with the warm smells of pastries, cakes and cookies being made.

Their motto: 100% Salvadoran Sweet Breads From Our Oven to Your Table.

Located on Rhode Island Ave in Mount Rainier near the roundabout, the bakery serves Salvadoran breads such as pineapple semitas and salpores de arroz and Mexican breads such as conchasrosquillas and cuernitos.

The Mount Rainier location is one of four in the greater D.C. area, with others on 14th Street NW, Georgia Avenue NW and Wheaton.

And there are a number of other good small bakeries along the Route 1 corridor including Shortcake Bakery and Sugar Vault Desserts & Bakery in Hyattsville.

Posted in Mount Rainier | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

An Interview With Paint Branch Creek

Paint Branch Creek band music Hyattsville College Park

Photo courtesy Paint Branch Creek

Paint Branch Creek is getting ready for the big time.

The local Americana band has been playing at backyard barbecues, venues like Robert Harper Books and the Old Parish House in College Park.

Now, with its first CD on the way, they will be playing at MilkBoy ArtHouse at 7:30 p.m. this Saturday. (Advance tickets available for $10 here.) A regional tour is planned for later in the year.

If you haven’t seen Paint Branch Creek live, it’s worth going. Their music has a soulful vibe, making even original compositions sound like long-forgotten songs from the past.

Their debut album, “Original Americana in My Soul Down Deep,” will come out in April. (Pre-order here.)

The Hyattsville Wire checked in with the band recently.

1. How did you guys meet?

Eric Maring and Greg Heelan have been musical collaborators for twenty years. Over that time, Eric has made four major recordings — his 2001 debut solo release Birdsong (praised as one of the top local releases of the year by the Washington Post); his 2004 release Penguins Rock the World!; and his collaborative efforts with Jawbone (Amikaeyla, Eric, and Greg Heelan) including the exuberant and highly acclaimed all-ages record Holy Guacamole! Eric and Greg have played venues and festivals across the D.C. region.

Patrick Lynch, Allison Hughes, Arun Ivatury, and Eric Olson all live in the same College Park neighborhood (Calvert Hills) with Eric Maring. We — and our children — are all friends, and our families all do a lot together.

Our musical collaboration grew out of our common friendship. Backyard fire pit sing-alongs and potluck dinner conversations led to many things, including collaboration on annual community concerts at the Old Parish House — Irish Music for St Patrick’s Day, tributes to Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, and the Beatles’ Abbey Road album, among other community concerts. These concerts are also part of Eric Maring’s education of young musicians – he includes his students in the shows.

Eric Olson started sharing lyrics with Eric Maring in 2015. For two years, we put in many late nights putting words to music, sometimes joined by one or more of the others. Each musician in the group has taken the lead on writing music to different songs.

2. What are your day jobs?

Eric Maring (known as “Mr. M” by kids and families in the area) is an early childhood music educator, including at the University of Maryland’s Center for Young Children.

Greg Heelan is a general contractor in Washington, D.C.

Patrick Lynch works at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt.

Allison Hughes is a singer, director, and music teacher in College Park.  She directs the 55-member College Park Chorale, and maintains a private teaching studio.

Arun Ivatury is Policy Director of Service Employees International Union (SEIU) in Washington, DC.

Eric Olson is Executive Director of the College Park City-University Partnership, and a former member of the Prince George’s County Council.

3. How long has the band been together?

It has been an evolving band for the past several years. Eric Maring, Greg Heelan, and Patrick Lynch had been playing together as a trio in recent years, and Allison Hughes and Arun Ivatury had also been part of the community concerts. But the band including everyone wasn’t fully formed until this summer.

4. How did the album come together?

We spent a lot of time this fall at Eric Maring’s family farm in Gettysburg, recording demo material in the barn. We are up to 40 songs – so we have a lot to work with for a first album and plenty for the future. We are going into the studio this month to record.

5. How are you planning on promoting it? Any tour planned?

We are looking forward to playing locally and regionally — established venues, house concerts, and also taking the show on the road. We have a lot of family and friends up the East Coast and we are plotting a way to hit the road later this year.

Posted in College Park | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Former Jey’s Auto Site Gets a Makeover

Jey's Auto Hyattsville Baltimore Avenue

Owner Jey Edward is fixing up the former gas station at the northern corner of the Arts District.

The Silver Spring business owner has long sparred with the city of Riverdale Park over the future of the site, but he told the Hyattsville Wire in a recent interview that he wants to improve the building to join the recent revitalization of Route 1.

“I want to clean up so my name can be good again,” he said.

Edward ran a gas station at the site starting in 1976, and he recalls helping neighborhood kids fill their bike tires for free and doing other “good deeds” for the area. But the building sat empty for years, leading the city to threaten at one point to take the property using eminent domain.

For a while, the biggest impediment was the fact that it was a former gas station, but Edward had the gas tanks removed and the soil remediated in 2008. Edward later proposed putting a Dunkin Donuts on the site, but the city refused to rezone it.

The current renovations include putting broad glass windows on the building, and renovating the inside including repairing the electoral work, to make the building more attractive to commercial tenants.

Edward said he does not have a tenant yet and would consider selling the building, though he’d prefer to lease it.

“I don’t know who will come,” he said. “I don’t know what will eventually be there because it’s been Jey’s Auto for 41 years .”

Posted in Hyattsville, Riverdale Park | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

An Interview With Artist Clara Cornelius

Clara Cornelius artist Hyattsville exhibit

Photo courtesy Clara Cornelius

As an artist, Clara Cornelius makes — and then remakes.

The designer in residence at Pyramid Atlantic Art Center, the University Park resident specializes in digital collage, taking photos and making drawings that she then incorporates into fantastical panoramas.

Her exhibit, “Imaginary Funhouse,” opened Friday at the print studio in Hyattsville’s SoHy neighborhood and will be on display through Feb. 9.

It features nearly 20 years of her own photos and reworked images, including three epic pieces that are 17 feet wide, two interactive games and a button machine that works on quarters.

She’s also done some work for Pyramid Atlantic, designing a few of its “Make Something” posters, including the one shown below.

Clara Cornelius artist Hyattsville

The Hyattsville Wire spoke with Cornelius recently about the show.

How did the exhibit come about?

I have been the designer in residence at Pyramid for the past year and included in that experience is the opportunity to have a show in their gallery.

Where do you find the source material for your collages?

I take all the photos that appear in my work. And I draw all the graphics that I weave into them. It’s a complete world of my own making!

Where do you do your work?

I have a studio in my home in University Park. That makes it possible/easy for me to work and spend time with my daughter.

What do you think of the local arts community?

I’ve only been living in the area for 2 years (transplant from Brooklyn, N.Y.), so I’m still figuring out the lay of the land. But overall it feels very vibrant and accessible. There is an incredibly cool community of folks at Pyramid, and I feel very lucky to be a part of that.

Posted in Hyattsville, University Park | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

The Story Behind a New Route 1 Sculpture

Riverdale Park Great Blue Herons sculpture Joanna Campbell Blake
Riverdale Park, which has already seen three new pieces of public art added near the Whole Foods last year, has installed a new sculpture along East-West Highway.

“Great Blue Herons” depicts three blue herons touching wingtips to form the international symbol for recycling. It’s a subtle environmental message at a time when trash still threatens wildlife on the Northeast Branch of the Anacostia River.

The sculpture could also be seen as something of a memorial for Cottage City sculptor Joanna Campbell Blake, who worked on it before her death at the age of 39.

Blake, who often worked out of a sculpture studio in Brentwood, is best known for her contributions to the National World War II Memorial and for designing and creating the Battle of Bladensburg Monument, installed in a park near the Peace Cross off Route 1.

The monument is an 8-by-10-foot bronze relief depicting the commodore in charge of the American forces at an early battle in the War of 1812, a wounded former slave who played a role and an unnamed Marine. It took more than two years of work.

“Great Blue Herons” is a smaller work than that but not a lesser one. It stands at the corner of Baltimore Ave and East West Highway in Riverdale Park, where more than 40,000 cars pass daily.

Posted in Brentwood, Riverdale Park | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Riverdale Park Station Gets Even More Walkable

Riverdale Park Station Maryland sidewalk Baltimore Avenue Route 1

A key stretch of Route 1 between Riverdale Park Station and Calvert Hills will finally get a much-needed sidewalk.

The developers of Riverdale Park Station and the city of College Park are helping add a sidewalk between Baltimore Avenue from Woodberry Street to Albion Road.

It doesn’t sound like much, but it’s actually pretty crucial. For joggers, bicyclists and even just neighbors out for a walk, the stretch at the crest of the hill on this part of Route 1 is particularly dangerous, as cars come perilously close.

Before the opening of the Trolley Trail, the lack of good pedestrian access effectively cut off Riverdale Park Station from Calvert Hills to the north.

That didn’t mean people didn’t try. While getting a photo for this story, the Hyattsville Wire watched a man headed to Whole Foods from Calvert Hills walking toward traffic on Route 1, with cars passing within inches.

The lack of a sidewalk didn’t matter as much before the Cafritz property was developed, but now that pedestrians have good reasons to walk to the area, adding a sidewalk is crucial.

In the long run, these little connections — like a much-needed link from the Trolley Trail to the Northwest Branch Trail — will add up, making the Route 1 corridor more walkable overall. (Though the area around Whole Foods already scores pretty well.)

Posted in Riverdale Park | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Inside Mount Rainier’s Glass School

Washington Glass School warm glass studio D.C. Mount Rainier art

If glass-blowing intimidates you, the Route 1 corridor has another option for learning how to make art with glass.

The Washington Glass School in Mount Rainier teaches classes on how to make kilncast, fused and cold worked glass sculptures and art.

Kilncasting involves heating glass to a liquid state until it fills a mold. Fusing glass involves heating different types of glass until they cohere. And cold-working involves sandblasting, cutting and polishing glass at room temperature.

Classes are typically held at night and on weekends to accommodate students who have day jobs and families to take care of. A popular class for beginners to learn the basics is scheduled from 1 to 5 p.m. on a Saturday and Sunday.

Other classes include teaching students how to make colorful glass bowls, making recycled glass art and, for the fearless, MIG welding.

The school was founded in 2001 by glass artist Tim Tate, a former therapist who got into glass art when he learned he was HIV positive who has since had work featured at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Renwick Gallery and the Mint Museum, among other places.

Posted in Mount Rainier | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment