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.”

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3 Responses to Why Hyattsville Used to Be a Dry Town

  1. crjcurrie says:

    Hyattsville is still the only municipality that is expressly denied by state law from having a business with a Class A liquor permit (free-standing liquor store). That ban was reaffirmed in the recent re-codification of the state’s multi-thousand page liquor ordinance.

  2. Thanks crjcurrie. What about the liquor store at University Town Center?

  3. crjcurrie says:

    Good question! That’s being looked into. As you probably know, the Prince George’s liquor board has had some problems …

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