Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Washington Outer Beltway Alters Belair at Bowie Plans

Many people from Bowie are aware that the Somerset neighborhood, informally known as the "S" section, was the first neighborhood to be built by Levitt & Sons on the former Woodward estate known as Belair.  What's not as commonly known is that Somerset was not intended to be the first neighborhood.

According to an article written by Don Wescott in 1974, an executive who worked for Levitt & Sons for years, Levitt planned on building the Glenridge neighborhood first.  In the Belair at Bowie lexicon, Glenridge is not a very familiar name.  It's certainly not as familiar as Somerset, Buckingham, Kenilworth or Tulip Grove.  So what is Glenridge?

Glenridge was originally a 72 acre parcel of land across from the end of Church Road at the intersection of what was then Route 450 (now Old Route 450).  It was bordered on the west by a property containing a telephone utility building, and it was bordered on the east by the railroad tracks in some spots, and Route 197 in others.  The red oval in the following image illustrates the approximate location of the proposed Glenridge at Belair subdivision (the "G" section).  Twenty-two houses were eventually developed in the northeast corner of the property on Galaxy Lane in 1969.  Those 22 houses make up what is today known as the Glenridge neighborhood, and the remaining undeveloped portion of the property is now owned by the City of Bowie.

So why did Levitt & Sons alter the plans to build the Glenridge section first?  After Levitt created the initial plan for Belair at Bowie, a plan was proposed to build the Washington Outer Beltway - a highway similar to the proposed Capital Beltway that would circle the D.C. area.  The Outer Beltway would be much longer than the Capital Beltway, and it would be located farther out in the suburbs.  Part of the Outer Beltway was going to run along the northern end of Church Road, and a highway interchange was going to be built at what was then the intersection of Church Road and Route 450.

The dark blue line on the following map shows the proposed path of the Outer Beltway, and the blue circles represent the proposed interchanges.  The red arrow on the map points to the proposed interchange at the intersection of Church Road and what was then Route 450.

Levitt decided that it wouldn't be a good idea to build a neighborhood in the path of a proposed highway, so the plans were changed, and Somerset became the first Belair at Bowie neighborhood to be built.

The Washington Outer Beltway was never built as originally proposed, although the Intercounty Connector and the Fairfax County Parkway are considered to be portions of the original proposal.

Several years after the original Glenridge plan was scrapped, another proposal was made that would affect the Glenridge parcel.  A proposal was made to relocate Route 450 so that it would bisect Glenridge into two sections.  It would take more than 35 years before that proposal came to fruition.


Saturday, February 28, 2015

Simply Southern American Grille Opens in Bowie's Hilltop Plaza

February 27, 2015:  My family and I went to Simply Southern American Grille for dinner. Today was the first day the restaurant was open. Simply Southern is located in the Hilltop Shopping Center next to the Chesapeake Grille and Deli in the former Irie Café location (6840 Race Track Rd Bowie, MD 20715; (301) 262-4700).
Simply Southern is owned by Aaron and Uche Loney – the same people who own Irie Café. So it’s only natural to want to compare the two restaurants. Irie Café was very dark and uninviting. Simply Southern has a nice and bright décor. We saw a restaurant full of patrons before we even got to the front door – something we never saw with Irie Café.
Simply Southern American Grille is a sit-down restaurant with moderate prices. The wait staff is very friendly and attentive, and the restaurant is clean. The menu has a limited number of items. There’s no kids’ menu, but they will prepare things like grilled cheese and chicken nuggets on request. They have a bar area, and beer, wine and liquor are available. Entrees range in price from $14 to $21. Takeout orders are accepted.
The food was very good. I had the Jambalaya – and some of my son’s wings – and some of my daughter’s Pulled Pork Sliders – and some of my daughter’s fries. Don’t judge me. It was all good. We’ll be back for sure.

See menu below.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

When it snows, Bowie goes... sometimes

The snow and the ice from the latest winter storm caused multiple closures in the Bowie area this weekend.  The Bowie Race Course, however, once prided itself on staying open despite harsh winter weather.  "When it snows, Bowie goes," was the catch phrase that was used to indicate that horse racing would still take place during bad weather.  The reluctance of track official to cancel races at the track once caused hundreds of fans to be stranded at the track overnight.

Despite the reputation, the track did close on occasion, including the days following the "Blizzard of '66," but the track was impacted by more than just the storm that day. An early morning fire destroyed five barns and resulted in the deaths of more than 40 horses.Wind gusts in excess of 50 miles per hour fanned the flames, and caused the fire to spread quickly.

Firefighters took more than 30 minutes to navigate the snow covered roads along the way to the track. According to Robert Nelson of the Bowie Volunteer Fire Department, crews from the station had to push a stranded car from the roadway and shovel their way through three separate snow drifts in order to get their apparatus to the track.

Arriving personnel found a chaotic scene. Flames were shooting high into the air, and panicked horses and ice made for a hazardous situation.

Approximately 100 horses were let loose in an effort to save as many lives as possible. Some horses were later found roaming at the Belair Shopping Center and Glenn Dale Hospital.

This picture was taken on February 4th, 1966 during the first day in operation after the storm.  Some fans stood among the snow piles watching the final stretch of the fifth race of the day.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

#TBT - The tree-lined road leading to the Belair Mansion in 1936

The Belair Mansion, 1936

There were originally 78 tulip poplar trees that lined the entrance to the mansion, and many of those ended up in the backyards of homes in the Tulip Grove neighborhood.  The trees were originally planted in the 1750s by Colonel Benjamin Tasker, thus making these trees more than 255 years old today. After James Woodward purchased the property in 1898, he hired tree specialists from New York to administer first aid to the ailing trees.  When Levitt purchased Belair nearly 60 years later, the trees were in rough shape once again.  The trees were nursed back to health, and each tree was fitted with a lightning rod.

The photographer of this picture was most likely standing in a spot that today would be in the backyard of a home on either Tarragon Lane or Tapered Lane.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Alert Bowie 2.0 - Getting that 3am Call

 If you're like me, you received an automated phone call around 3:30 am this morning regarding a newly issued wind warning.  The call was part of the Alert Bowie 2.0 service available to all Bowie residents.  Although the wind warning goes into effect at 6pm today, the National Weather Service issued the warning shortly after 3:00 am this morning. The default behavior of the Alert Bowie 2.0 system is to send out alerts as they are issued, although those settings can be modified.

There are three possible changes to your settings that you can make to avoid alerts like this morning's wake-up call.

  1. Cancel the alerts all together, although this is like throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
  2. Remove the option to receive high wind alerts.
  3. Set an option to not receive alerts during certain hours of the day.  This setting applies to all alerts except for tornado warnings.  If a tornado is coming, expect a call!

All of this information is available on the Alert Bowie 2.0 web site, however, that leaves two unanswered questions, and I'll pose those questions the appropriate people.
  1. If you change your settings so that you do not receive alerts during certain times of day, what happens when that time period is up?  Do you receive the alerts at the end of the time period?
  2. For some warnings, text messages are sent. This morning people received both text messages and phone calls.  How does the alert system determine when a phone call is made as opposed to just sending a text?
I have included instructions below for adjusting your Alert Bowie 2.0 settings.

Step 1
Sign in to Alert Bowie 2.0 at the following web site.  There is an option for registering for the first time, and there is an option for you to reset your password if you've forgotten your password.

Step 2
Click on the "Edit" link in the top right corner of the screen.

Step 3
Click on the "+" icon to the left of the "Automated Weather Alerts" to see options related to your automated weather alerts.

Step 4
Click on the "Don't contact me between" checkbox, and specify the time of day when you don't wish to receive alerts.

Step 5
If you want to opt-out of wind alerts, click on the "+" icon to the left of the "Wind" option, and uncheck the checkbox.

Step 6
When you are finished with your changes, click on the "Save" button at the bottom of the screen.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Rosa's Pizzeria

#‎TBT‬ - Someone anonymously sent Bowie Living pictures from Rosa’s Pizzeria last week. Most of the pictures are of customers and staff, and they appear to have been taken in the early 1980s. This is what the contributor had to say:

Rosa and Adriano (Breschi) were wonderful people and provided scores of Bowie kids their first experience in the workforce. Both are deceased now, but I'm sure they and their delicious pizzas are remembered fondly by many Bowieites. Given the recent renovation of the store, which I gather erased all traces of the surviving Rosa's decor, it seems fitting that the great times and wonderful food many of us recall from those days should not be forgotten.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Bowie's 2nd Annual Soap Box Derby, 1972

The 2nd annual Bowie Soap Box Derby took place on Sunday, July 8th, 1972.  The following article by Bob Reid was published in the July 13th edition of the Bowie Blade.

Bowie Entrants Far Back In 2nd Annual Soap Box Derby
By Rob Reid
Bowie Blade Editor
Thursday, July 13, 1972

Bowie youngsters were superior only in numbers for the running of the 2nd Annual Soap Box Derby here last Sunday, with the top four finisher hailing from out of town.

The winner, after some 80 heats, was Daryl Freeman, a freckled-face 11-year-old from Bladensburg, running in his first Soap Box Derby competition.

His needle-nosed, gold Takoma Transfer and Storage Special flashed over the finish line in the championship heat a bare quarter of a length ahead of Van Hanson, a 14-year-old from Takoma Park.

Hanson, from a family of Soap Box racing brothers, was awarded second place, while last year's runner-up, Everett Parson of Brandywine finished third, beating distaff racer, Cathy Leavy.

The races were run down a 900 foot stretch of Race Track Road, and consumed 5 1/2 hours, much of the time spent returning the cars from the finish line back to the starting ramps for further heats.

Five girls were among the 40 contestants, and one, Linda Winpigler, an 11-year-old blond with a flowing mane from Frederick finished fourth.

The favorite of the crowd was Cathy Leavy, 12, a student at St. Pius school, whose flower-embroidered car captured the fancy of the fans.

Cathy, the daughter of William Leavy, last year's derby director, was clearly the better of her family entry with brother Steve, 13, who was eliminated earlier.

Because of her flower-power car, the fans quickly nicknamed her "the flower girl," and Cathy, as cool as a veteran Indianapolis driver, kept them on tip-toe until the 71st heat when she was finally eliminated by Linda Winpigler.

Only a single accident marred the day's races when Nancy Perret, a 13-year older from Pius X school applied premature breaking at the finish line, and spun out into the woods.  The car suffered major damage, but Nancy was unhurt.

The derby, as it was last year, was sponsored by the Bowie Jaycees and Rogers Chevrolet. The winner, Darryl Freeman, received a $500 U.S. Savings Bond and the championship trophy, and earned himself a week-long trip to Akron, Ohio in August for the national finals.

George Sipe, zone public relations manager for the Chevrolet Motors Division, and Bill Rogers, owner of Rogers Chevrolet, were on hand to make the various presentations to the new champion, who confessed, "I never though I was going to win it."

Prior to the official racing, a pace race between last year's champion, Casey Muldoon, and Mayor Jim Conway in his bulky J.C. Supercar was run with Casey winning in 29.31 seconds.

By comparison, Freeman's winning time in the championship was 28.74 seconds, the second best time of the day. Earlier, Parson has posted 28.57 seconds in narrowly beating Cathy Leavy.

The Jaycees Marty Gear was this year's Soap Box Derby Director.  "I believe we ironed out a lot of the problems of the first year," he said after the races, "and all in all, we had a good day of it."

Innovations this year included sophisticated communications by citizen's band radio, intercommunication between starting ramps, finish line, and public announcement systems, and photographic finishes.

The Bowie Jaycees have the Soap Box Derby franchise for all of Prince George's County, and entrants came from Upper Marlboro, Forestville, Bladensburg, Brentwood, Crofton, Glenn Dale, Pasadena, Oxon Hill, Rockville, Brandywine, Laurel, Camp Springs, Accokeek, as well as the 18 from Bowie.

All contestants were required to personally construct their own cars, but adult advice was allowed.  No more than $50 could be spent, including the cost of standard racing wheels which must be purchased from Chevrolet, and the maximum allowable weight, driver and car, was 250 pounds.

For the first time this year in Bowie, many of the cars were of fiberglass construction.

The crowd peaked at about 2,000, but thinned as the long, hot, muggy afternoon wore on.  There was also better crowd control this year, with snow fencing erected along the west side of Race Track Road to prevent fans from running onto the raceway.

The Bowie Blade and Post Times, Thursday, July 13, 1972, photos by Ken Smallwood and Bob Reid

The News Express, July 12, 1972, photos by Bill Strassberger 

Bowie Mayor Jim Conway in his J.C. Supercar
The News Express, July 12, 1972, photos by Bill Strassberger

Cathy Leavy
The News Express, July 12, 1972, photos by Bill Strassberger

The Bowie Blade and Post Times, Thursday, July 13, 1972, photos by Ken Smallwood and Bob Reid

The Bowie Blade and Post Times, Thursday, July 13, 1972, photos by Ken Smallwood and Bob Reid

The Bowie Blade and Post Times, Thursday, July 13, 1972, photos by Ken Smallwood and Bob Reid

The Bowie Blade and Post Times, Thursday, July 13, 1972, photos by Ken Smallwood and Bob Reid

The Bowie Blade and Post Times, Thursday, July 13, 1972, photos by Ken Smallwood and Bob Reid

The Bowie Blade and Post Times, Thursday, July 13, 1972, photos by Ken Smallwood and Bob Reid

The Bowie Blade and Post Times, Thursday, July 13, 1972, photos by Ken Smallwood and Bob Reid

The Bowie Blade and Post Times, Thursday, July 13, 1972, photos by Ken Smallwood and Bob Reid