Watch Jim Henson’s Surprising 1950s Coffee Ads

Jim Henson Wilkins Coffee ads

Jim Henson — a world-renowned puppeteer and creator of “The Muppets,” who lived in University Park with his family, went to Northwestern High School in Hyattsville and attended the University of Maryland, College Park, where he created “Sam and Friends — is remembered today as a preternaturally good-natured creator of puppets beloved by children and adults around the world.

But Route 1’s most famous resident had a dark sense of humor that’s often forgotten.

The best way to get a sense of this is to look at one of Henson’s earliest works, a series of ads for D.C.’s own Wilkins Coffee that he created when he lived in the area and that aired on local T.V. stations from 1957 to 1961.

At the time, the stations had only 10-second slots in which the ads could air, so they had to be punchy. In this case, often literally so.

Henson came up with two characters — Wilkins, who drinks the coffee, and Wontkins, who won’t — and had them spar with the kind of cheerful violence typically seen in Itchy and Scratchy cartoons.

Over the course of 179 ads, Wilkins cuts, stabs, boxes, smashes, runs over, blows up, hammers, steamrolls, guillotines, cannonballs and electrocutes Wontkins, among other things, over his taste in coffee.

The ads were attention-getting — and successful enough that they were remade. Kids could even order a vinyl version of Wilkins and Wontkins through the mail in 1958.

“In terms of popularity of commercials in the Washington area, we were the number one, most popular commercial,” Henson later recalled. “They got a lot of talk, and so then the advertising agency started syndicating them and they would sell them to a coffee company in Boston, another coffee company in New York.”

The ads are creative, but they are a bit jarring to people who remember Henson differently. You can watch some of the ads here.

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

Potomac Pizza Offers 99-Cent Pizza Deal

Potomac Pizza in College Park is offering a large cheese pizza for just 99 cents for readers of the Hyattsville Wire.

The family-owned local pizza chain opened its fourth location inside the Hotel at the University of Maryland this summer and has since become something of a hangout for the campus community.

It’s also added to the local delivery options, often delivering pizza until 2 or 3 a.m.

To order the 99-cent pizza, register for the chain’s Pizza Bucks program online. Then, just use the coupon code “hyattsvillewire” when ordering online or print out this page and present it to your cashier along with your registered phone number when ordering in person.

The deal, valid only at the College Park location, expires on Dec. 31. Toppings will come with an additional charge, and it’s not valid with specialty pizzas, other offers or specials. One 99-cent pizza per family.

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

College Park Lands Fortune 500 Innovation Lab

Hotel at the University of Maryland College Park Innovation Lab Diamondback Garage

College Park’s Discovery District has landed a Fortune 500 tenant: Capital One.

The McLean-based financial services company will open a 7,500-square-foot innovation lab in March or April on the first floor of the 850-space garage in the Hotel at the University of Maryland, known as the Diamondback Garage.

The lab is part of a $3 million effort by Capital One to groom UMD students for jobs in data analytics, machine learning and cybersecurity, in part by giving them a place near campus to work on real-world problems.

Most of that money is going toward endowing a faculty chair for the computer science department. The state’s Department of Commerce also recently chipped in $2.1 million to hire two other professors and support research.

Capital One’s innovation lab shows how the university’s new game plan for driving development is coming together. It will be across Baltimore Avenue from the six-story Brendan Iribe Center for Computer Science and Innovation, currently under construction, near the hotel and conference center and new student housing.

In the near future, a computer science student could walk from their apartment at the Varsity, take a class at the Iribe Center, walk across the street to grab a bagel and then head to an internship in the innovation lab.

Their boss might then walk over to the hotel to give a presentation at a computer science conference and then have a high-powered lunch at Old Maryland Grill before jumping on a Purple Line train.

The university has said this is a model for how it might work with other businesses, promising that more deals will be announced soon.

The new Hotel at the University of Maryland is part of College Park’s greater Discovery District, a technical and research hub formerly known as M Square Research Park and the Innovation District, which encompasses more than 150 acres and is aimed at helping to revitalize the Route 1 corridor.

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

Riverdale Park Bridge to Open in Early 2018

A bridge connecting Riverdale Park Station to the Discovery District is slated to open in early 2018.

The bridge will run from Van Buren Street — which goes past Whole Foods through the center of the development — over the CSX railroad to Lafayette Avenue in the southern end of the University of Maryland research park.

“It appears that the agreement between CSX Railroad (which owns the air above their tracks) and the County (which will own the bridge) is still under negotiation, and that negotiation is likely to continue into the new year,” noted Riverdale Park Mayor Alan K. Thompson recently.

The bridge is designed to accommodate pedestrians and bicyclists as well as cars, although it remains to be seen how bike-friendly it will ultimately be.

Though it will be one of a handful of railroad crossings in the area for Route 1 communities, the bridge is carefully designed to discourage overuse. Van Buren Street has a large median and on-street parking to slow down traffic through Riverdale Park Station, while Lafayette Avenue is in a back corner of the Discovery District.

Still, the crossing will tie together the two growing developments, making it easy for employees of some of the big employers in the Discovery District, such as NOAA and the USDA, to pop over for a quick lunch or to pick up some groceries.

The bridge will also be a short bike or walk from the Purple Line stop on River Road in the Discovery District, which means some residents of the townhomes at Riverdale Park Station may use it to connect as well.

At least one council member in Riverdale Park has suggested the town add a mural to the bridge, as Hyattsville did with a similar railroad overpass near Franklins.

Posted in College Park, Riverdale Park | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Old Maryland Grill’s Dessert ‘A Can’t Miss’

Smith Island Cake courtesy of Old Maryland Grill.

Old Maryland Grill’s intense focus on Maryland cuisine extends even to its dessert menu.

Now the high-end College Park restaurant from Mike Franklin has gotten notice for one of its state specialties: Smith Island Cake.

Located 10 miles from shore and accessible only by ferry, Smith Island is home to a few hundred people in what is now a 400-year-old fishing village.

In the 1800s, when the island’s men would go on the autumn oyster harvest, their wives would make cakes to send along. Over the years, Smith Island Cake became legendary and in 2008 it was named the official state dessert.

National Geographic once named the cake one of five American desserts “worth the trip.”

But that may not be necessary, as the Washington Post declared Old Maryland Grill’s version of the cake one of D.C.’s “can’t miss desserts.”

“The freshest version in the Washington area is, appropriately enough, at the Old Maryland Grill in College Park, where the moist layers are separated by a rich, fudgey frosting,” noted the Post. “Chocolate ice cream is served on the side, but this slab of cake is good enough to stand on its own.”

The cake is the handiwork of Old Maryland Grill pastry chef Annie Clemmons, who previously worked at the two Michelin-starred restaurant Cyrus in California’s wine country before relocating to the D.C. area in 2011.

Clemmons brings some of the culinary heft that Mike Franklin sought when opening his second restaurant, having worked with such noted chefs as Thomas Keller of the French Laundry, James Beard-award winner Nancy Silverton, Remi Lauvand and Douglas Keane.

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

Mount Rainier Singer Building Flats Now Leasing

Singer Flats Mount Rainier historic apartments

Apartments are now leasing in the historic Singer Building in Mount Rainier.

As part of the renovations of the 1936 building located on Mount Rainier Circle in the middle part of the city, 11 residential units are being added to the second and third floors.

The high-end apartments will feature granite countertops, stainless steel appliances and high-efficiency LED lighting and meet LEED Silver standards, a measure of how green a building is.

Once the home of a sales shop for the Singer sewing machine company, the building is being redeveloped by the Brookland-based Menkiti Group, its first project in Prince George’s County.

The building will also be home to Pennyroyal Station, a new bar and restaurant run by Miller and Erin Edwards from the popular Bar Pilar and Café Saint-Ex restaurants in D.C. and Garrick Lumsden, formerly of Passion Food LLC.

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

Why Route 1’s Arthouse Cinema Is Thriving

Old Greenbelt Theatre movie cinema arthouse indie Maryland

One of the more interesting arthouse cinemas in the greater Washington area is not far from Route 1.

Built in 1938 as part of a New Deal-era planned community, the Old Greenbelt Theatre has survived as a single-screen movie theater long into the multiplex era.

That’s in part by offering an old-fashioned experience for indie filmgoers. The theater is currently showing the hugely popular “Lady Bird,” a coming-of-age movie directed by indie darling Greta Gerwig. (Next, it hopes to land “Murder on the Orient Express.”)

For classic movie buffs, the theater offers free matinees on the first Monday of the month with films like “Sullivan’s Travels” and “A Place in the Sun.”

It also offers fare for families, including “Miyazaki Mondays” featuring classics such as “My Neighbor Totoro” and “Spirited Away” from beloved Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki every third Monday.

Initially run as a co-op, like the nearby grocery store, the theatre was remodeled by the city in 2014-2015 and is now managed by the nonprofit Friends of Greenbelt Theatre.

That’s appropriate for Greenbelt, one of three U.S. cities planned by the Roosevelt Administration in the 1930s as an experiment in cooperative living, and the only one to form a co-op to buy the homes from the federal government when it divested from the projects in 1952.

Posted in Hyattsville | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

An Interview With Painter Wayson Jones

Wayson R. Jones "Fences" painting Mount Rainier Maryland artist painting

“Fences,” acrylic, sand and gesso on canvas, courtesy of Wayson R. Jones

Wayson R. Jones’ latest exhibition will be seen by more people than ever.

That’s because it’s at the Hotel at the University of Maryland, where several of the Mount Rainier painter’s pieces are on display.

A graduate of the University of Maryland, where he studied music, Jones got into painting a few years ago.

He spoke with the Hyattsville Wire via email about his paintings.

How did you come to Mount Rainier?

I’ve lived in this area (Hyattsville, Brentwood, Mount Rainier) off and on for a long time, but basically I was looking for a more reasonable rent.

What do you think of the local arts scene?

I think it’s wonderful! Lots of private galleries have closed, but the DMV has several great nonprofit arts space, and world-class museums, including the Katzen at American University, which (unlike the Smithsonian) does a great job of including local artists. Our Gateway Arts District is full of great artists, and I’m proud to be part of this community.

What are your favorite arts places to go along Route 1?

39th Street Gallery, curated by John Paradiso; Brentwood Arts Exchange; Pyramid Atlantic, and Otis Street Arts Project in Mount Rainier.

How did you get into painting?

I transitioned from doing music and gradually got into painting. About 10 years ago, I started doing collages with the fall colored leaves and visiting the arts and crafts store for materials. I got curious about other art mediums and it’s just taken off from there.

One of your recent exhibits was entirely in black and white. How did using a more limited palette focus your painting?

That’s a great question. I’m more interested in composition than color for my own work. I grew up as a kid watching black-and-white TV and movies, so I think there’s an influence of that. I didn’t make a conscious decision to go monochromatic; it just evolved, especially once I got a studio.

How did your painting come to be selected for the new Hotel at the University of Maryland?

I’ve known Rhonda Dallas, the executive director of the Prince Georges County Arts and Humanities Council, for a few years. She knows many of the Gateway artists and chose some of us for the project.

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

District Taco in Riverdale Park to Open Dec. 11

District Taco Riverdale Park Mexican restaurant

District Taco will open in Riverdale Park at noon on Monday, Dec. 11.

The popular D.C. Mexican chain’s first outpost in Maryland will be in the growing Riverdale Park Station, just down the street from the new MOD Pizza.

“Our Maryland fans have been very patient, and we are excited to finally give our new amigos what they want,” said owner Osiris Hoil, who began the chain with a food truck.

The first 100 customers in line on Dec. 11 will receive District Taco swag and a free meal. A portion of the day’s profits will go to Extra-Ordinary Birthdays, a local organization that offers support for homeless families and creates personalized birthday parties for homeless children.

The Riverdale Park location joins 11 others in D.C., Virginia and Pennsylvania for District Taco, and Hoil is already scouting other locations in Maryland.

As part of its opening celebrations, District Taco is offering University of Maryland students a 25% discount with their student ID from Dec. 12-19 and encouraging students to take advantage of its free wifi while they study for final exams.

An avid cyclist, Hoil sponsored the college’s cycling team and has said he picked the location in part because of its proximity to campus.

The restaurant will be open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, with its popular breakfast tacos as another draw for commuters.

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

A New Way to Pick Up Holiday Gifts on Route 1

Amazon Locker Hyattsville Riverdale Park Route 1 MarylandIf you like to do your holiday shopping online, you’ve got a new way to pick up gifts on Route 1.

Online retailing giant Amazon has placed several automated lockers around Hyattsville, College Park and Riverdale Park where you can securely pick up packages.

Amazon Locker is a sort of one-time-use post office box. When you’re ordering online, you specify the locker where you want it delivered. After it arrives, you can pick it up using a code sent by email that opens the box.

Locally, the lockers are located at the Mall at Prince George’s, the Safeway at University Town Center, the Whole Foods at Riverdale Park Station, the 7-Eleven in College Park next to Zip’s dry cleaners and at the 3,000-square-foot Amazon store in Terrapin Row.

The main benefit of Amazon Locker is security, especially if you aren’t at home during the day or will be away for a period of time.

Unlike the post office, the stores where the lockers are located keep later hours. (The 7-Eleven and Safeway locations are even accessible 24 hours a day.) And the lockers are bigger than the typical P.O. box, where you’ll have to wait in line to get a package.

UPS has a similar package-delivery system called Access Point, with a locker at the Liberty gas station in Brentwood.

Posted in Brentwood, College Park, Hyattsville, Riverdale Park | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment