Friday, April 1, 2016

City to Sell Belair Mansion

Belair Mansion
After owning the Belair Mansion for more than fifty years, the City of Bowie will  be selling the historic property.  The revenue obtained from the sale is expected to help fund the purchase of a property for a new indoor recreation center in the city,

"The voters appreciate sound fiscal policy, and we felt that this decision was a fiscally responsible one" said Mayor G. Fred Robinson.  "Additional services cost money, and if we can find creative ways to pay for those services instead of raising taxes, that's a win for everyone in my book."

After purchasing the 5 1/2 acre property from Levitt & Sons for $1 in 1964, the city used the mansion as Bowie City Hall for fourteen years.  The building later underwent major renovations, and it reopened as a museum in 1995.

"I'm going to miss the old place," said Bowie's Historic Properties Manager, Pam Williams. "I'm going to miss it all - the distant view of Foxhill Lake from my office window, seeing the kids sledding in the winter, and, of course, the annual tree lighting ceremony every December."  Williams hopes that the next owner converts the property into a bed and breakfast.

Construction of the original section of the mansion was complete around 1747 for Provincial Governor of Maryland, Samuel Ogle and his wife Anne Tasker. After Governor Ogle's death, Benjamin Tasker, Jr. became responsible for the management of the property.  Tasker is credited with planting the row of Tulip Poplar trees leading to the property - many of which are still standing today.   The service wing on the east side of the mansion and the sunroom were added by members of the Woodward family in the early 20th century.  The Woodwards are also credited with construction of the stone stable building and the bridge over Foxhill Lake.

The city listed the property with local realtor "Special" Ed Haraway of Exit First Realty.  "Ed's been selling houses in the Bowie area for more than 30 years," said Robinson. "We felt that he was the one to best represent this unique property."

"Selling the Belair Mansion is going to be harder than selling your typical Rancher or Colonial," said Haraway, "but I welcome the opportunity."  Haraway believes that he'll have a buyer within six months.  "I bet there's a wealthy business owner out there just dying for something a little different - a unique place to live and host swanky parties," speculated Haraway.

According to the MLS listing, the mansion has 25 rooms, 6 bathrooms, a new heating system and energy efficient draperies that convey with the property.  The asking price?  $3.2 million.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Preventing a Financial Crisis after the Death of a Spouse

My wife and I received some heartbreaking news the day after Christmas.  One of our friends in Bowie passed away unexpectedly.  He left behind his wife and two school-aged children.

Along with experiencing overwhelming grief and sadness, his widow had to sort through all of the assets and financial accounts – including some accounts where no beneficiary was designated.  She had a message for all of her friends:  take steps to be prepared - just in case.

It was about the same time that I was exchanging messages with friend of Bowie Living, Denise Martin.  Denise is an estate planning and probate attorney practicing in Bowie at McChesney & Dale, P.C.  She agreed to write a blog post with recommended steps to take to be prepared for the untimely death of a spouse. The subject matter is too big to tackle in a single blog post, so Denise decided to focus on how to ensure a surviving spouse isn’t left with a financial crisis by making sure assets will be available in a timely manner.

Preventing a Financial Crisis after the Death of a Spouse
By Denise Martin 

A few months ago, I received a call from a man whose wife had passed away unexpectedly at a young age.  Beyond overwhelming grief, the surviving husband and their young children simultaneously faced a financial crisis.  The wife was the primary breadwinner and also the sole owner of many of the couple’s assets.  Here are some tips that will help prevent your family from facing such an emotional and financial crisis simultaneously:

1.      Any assets individually titled in a person’s name without a beneficiary designation must pass through probate; it can take months and sometimes years for probate assets to be distributed to heirs or beneficiaries.  As such, make sure there is a liquid asset available immediately for surviving family members to pay bills, funeral expenses, etc.  Such liquid assets may include:
a.       A joint bank account (the surviving joint owner, such as a spouse or adult child, typically becomes the immediate sole owner);
b.      A bank account with a payable on death (POD) or transfer on death (TOD) designation;
c.       A brokerage account (not a retirement account) that is either (1) jointly titled with a spouse or adult child, or (2) has a spouse or adult child designated as beneficiary; or
d.      Life insurance (won’t be available immediately, as typically the insurer must receive a copy of the death certificate before proceeds are disbursed).

2.      Make sure beneficiary designations are current.  And, unless a tax professional tells you otherwise, name an adult person(s) as the beneficiary, not your estate. 

3.      If you want control over how your assets pass, have a will (and/or trust) prepared.  Otherwise probated assets will pass according to state law to closest relatives.

The author of this article, Denise Martin, is an estate planning and probate attorney practicing in Bowie, Maryland, at McChesney & Dale, P.C.  For more information, feel free to contact Denise at (301) 805-6080 or  

When will assets become available?  See the Asset Availability Timeline.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Bowie 2015 Year in Review

It's the time of year to reflect on what's happened over the last twelve months, and to look forward to a new year.  Bowie Living covered a lot of stories in 2015, and like the prior year, stories about retail stores and restaurants continue to be the most popular on social media.  I've told some of my friends that if a cure for Ebola is discovered in Bowie, the story would probably get a dozen likes on Facebook, but if a popular Chinese restaurants closes, the social media world would erupt!

The following are the top ten Bowie Living posts as reported by Facebook.

1. Cetrone’s Pizza will deliver pizza for the last time Friday night.
(94,718 unique views)


2. Bowie Living readers are reporting that long time Bowie eating establishment Grace's Fortune will be closing its Free State Shopping Center location in February due to rising rents.
(47,056 unique views)

3. American Pharoah’s link to Belair.  Triple Crown winner American Pharoah is a descendant of Nashua, the 1955 Horse of the Year.  Nashua is a product of Belair Stud, the stable and breeding farm that was once located on the grounds of the Belair Mansion in present day Bowie.

(42,320 unique views)

4. Seen today in Bowie's Old Stage neighborhood.  According to the firefighters on the scene, Suntrust Bank donated a house to a "wounded warrior," and the veteran was given an escort to the home by local firefighters."
(31,631 unique views)

5. Whitehall Shell on Route 197 this morning - damaged in last night's storm.
(23,828 unique views)

6. The Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) announced Friday that a mosquito collected in Bowie in July had tested positive for West Nile Virus.
(21,448 unique views)

7. Rash of home burglaries hits Bowie - story in The Bowie Blade-News by John McNamara
(16,149 unique views)

8. Police are investigating a shooting on Moylan Drive near the intersection with Millstream Drive.
(15,993 unique views)

9. New Speed Camera on Keynote Lane?  Bowie Living received a tip about a new speed camera on the corner of Keynote Lane and Kirk Lane.  The speed camera, it seems, is actually a fake.
(15,789 unique views)

10. Yet another restaurant in Bowie is closing.  Mi Hacienda in the Shoppes at Highbridge (intersection of Route 450 and Highbridge Road) will be closing for good on Saturday, August 15th.
(14.420 unique views)

Although it wasn't included in the top ten Facebook posts, stories about the old and new Bowie Marketplace were popular this year - from  the news that Harris Teeters is coming to Bowie, to the rogue video by Dan Bell showing the inside of the old Marketplace, to photos of the demolition, to the news that the popular Glory Days Grill would not be returning to Bowie.  Berman Enterprises, the developer of the new Marketplace, sparked additional interest in the shopping center with an announcement that the new center would include a concrete turtle - similar to the one that once kept children entertained at the Belair Shopping Center.

Bowie residents became part of a national debate this year when Linwood Holmes started flying a Confederate flag outside his Belair Drive home.  Mayor Fred Robinson had a letter delivered to Holmes in an effort to have the flag removed.  "I would respectfully ask that you reconsider your decision to display this flag and take it down," the letter said.  The mayor admitted that the city could not force Holmes to remove the flag, and Holmes continued to fly the flag.

Bowie lost its share of notable current and past residents in 2015.  Former Bowie Mayor Jim Conway passed away in September. He was credited with significant contributions to the Bowie Boys and Girls Club (BBGC) during the 1960s and early 1970s.  Anne Ainsworth passed away in September.  She was involved in multiple PTA groups in the 1970s, and along with her husband, she is credited with being instrumental in getting the Bowie Ice Rink built.  Sam Graham, a BBGC coach for more than 25 years, died unexpectedly in October.  According to a Bowie Blade-News article, Graham's approach to coaching was to promote teamwork and have fun.  Most recently, the city lost Mary Nusser to a heart attack,  Among her many accomplishments, the 58-year-old Nusser was seen as the driving force behind the development of the Bowie Performing Arts Center.

Unfortunately, local politics doesn't garner the attention that it deserves on social media.  The information is shared, but readers don't take as much interest as they do about new restaurants or even lost pets.

City elections took place in 2015, and for the first time in city history, the winners were elected to four year terms.  Among the winners was popular mayor Fred Robinson.  He was elected to an unprecedented ninth term.

The city council also lost two great men this year.  It wasn't because they weren't well liked.  They were.  The council members ran for offices in such a way that two council members were guaranteed not to return.

After serving for more than twenty-one years on the council, Dennis Brady lost his bid for mayor.  Most followers of local politics believe that Brady could have easily been reelected to his at-large council seat, and he could have had a good chance at running for mayor after Robinson retires.  Brady sought a different path.

At-large councilman Dufour Woolfley, who was appointed to the council in early 2015, lost his at-large seat when Jimmy Marcos and Henri Gardner both decided to run for the two available at-large seats on the council.  It was a bizarre turn of events when two men who voted to appoint Woolfley to the council earlier in the year, ran against Woolfley only months later. Woolfley was once described by Mayor Robinson as the "smartest person on the council," and he had a reputation for being well prepared for council meetings.  Bowie politics probably hasn't seen the last of Dufour Woolfley.

The following are other stories of interest from 2015.

  • For the first time in decades, the City of Bowie didn't host a Fourth of July fireworks display.
  • Bowie Police Departments held its first ever Citizen's Police Academy.
  • Bowie Police Department got its first police dog - a Golden Labrador named Rooster.
  • Bowie Police Department announced that it will purchase body cameras for its officers
  • The Gazette and sister publication, The Bowie Star, ceased publication.
  • The Bowie Baysox won the Eastern League Championship for the first time.
  • Renovations at Tulip Grove Elementary School are delayed.
  • A solar co-op formed for Bowie residents, and more than forty houses were converted to solar through the program by the end of 2015.
  • The Bowie City Council approved a plan for 2,500 residential units in the Melford business park.  The plan faces opposition in court by those who believe the 2006 Bowie Master Plan limits the number of residential units to 866.
  • German discount grocer Lidl announced plans to build a grocery story on the current location of Melvin Motors.
  • Walmart had some wins and losses in its quest to build a Walmart Supercenter on Route 301 across from the existing Bowie Walmart.  The most recent setbacks for the company will, at a minimum, delay the project for at least two years.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

No pie for you!

We each have our own annual holiday traditions, and the day before Thanksgiving is the day that I make a trip to Best Pie Company in Bowie to pick-up dessert for the yearly feast.  The experience is bitter- sweet.  Pick-up time is stressful, but I do walk away with some really amazing pies.  At a cost of between $23 and $30 per pie, they damn well better be amazing!

Best Pie Company is owned by Sherman and Patricia McCoy – an elderly husband-and-wife team.
Sherman is the face of the business, and some people privately refer to him as “The Pie Nazi” – a reference to The Soup Nazi character from the NBC sitcom Seinfeld.  Sherman likes things a certain way, and it’s advantageous for customers to know “the rules.”  Cash is preferred, debit cards are acceptable, but avoid the credit cards. Want a Thanksgiving pie?  Order it at least a week in advance.  Do you want your pie to be there when you pick it up?  Get there by the designated time, or your pie may be sold to someone else.  If you didn’t reserve a Thanksgiving pie, don’t ask if there are any pies available until after 5:30pm the night before.  I’ve followed these rules in the past, and I’ve taken home incredible Apple, Pumpkin, Sweet Potato and Chocolate Cream pies.  Even if you follow the rules, be prepared for something unexpected to happen.

I was hoping that yesterday’s trip to Best Pie would be quick and uneventful, but it was not to be.  It took an hour for me to get my pies, but my transaction was otherwise uneventful.  I can’t say the same for some of the other people in line. The Sweet Potato pies weren’t ready, and some people were asked to come back later.

The first rule breaker of the day was a sweet, petite, elderly woman who thought that she might be able to charm her way to a pie.  She stayed in line for more than thirty minutes even though Sherman announced multiple times that people without reservations should come back after 5:30. As she approached the front of the line, Sherman said, “name?”  I felt my blood pressure rise as she said in the sweetest voice, “You know, I don’t have a reservation, but I noticed that you have some beautiful pies in this display case.”

Sherman:  “You don’t have a reservation?”

Lady: “No, but…”

Sherman: “Let me tell you how this works.  This is just like an airplane reservation. Everyone behind you in line has a ticket to get on the plane.  You’re telling me that you see an empty seat, but one of these other people is going to sit there.”

Lady: “But I thought maybe you might be willing to sell me one of those wonderful pies in your display case.”

Sherman: “You can come back at 5:30.”

Lady: “Thank you so much!  I’ll come back.

I turned to the guy in line in front of me, and I asked, “How’s your blood pressure?”  He said, “I took a pill before I came here,” and a few of us in line had a good laugh.
It wasn’t long before the next incident occurred. Sherman couldn’t find an elderly woman’s reservation for a Chocolate Cream pie.

Sherman:  “I can’t find your reservation. I can’t give you a pie.”

Lady 2:  “You’re not going to give me a pie?”

Sherman:  “Mistakes happen.  Things get misfiled.  I make mistakes.”

Lady 2:  “But I spoke to you two weeks ago.  You’re not going to give me a Chocolate Cream pie that reserved two weeks ago?  I spoke to you.  You took my order.”

Sherman:  “You’re holding up the line.”

Lady 2 (starting to leave):  “You know what you are?  You know The Soup Nazi?  You are The Pie Nazi!  That’s what you are!”

“Yeah, that just happened,” I thought to myself.  She said it.  I’ve heard people use the term “Pie Nazi” in private conversation, but this was the first time I’ve heard someone call Sherman “Pie Nazi” to his face.

Sherman: “Can you come back in the morning.  I’ll make you a pie.”

Lady 2:  “I can’t!  I’m supposed to be in Hagerstown!”

Sherman: “Did you say Hagerstown?  Now I remember the conversation.  Let me get you a pie.”

The conversation instantly turned pleasant, the woman paid for her pie.  Before she left, Sherman said, “Do you still think I’m a Nazi?”

It wasn’t long before the guy in front of me made it to the counter.

Sherman:  “Name?”

Man:  “Lewis.”

Sherman (after searching through the reservations):  “Lewis?”

Man:  “Yes.  Lewis.”

Sherman (after searching through the reservations again):  “I don’t have a reservation for Lewis.”

Man:  “Lewis Brown.  You don’t have a reservation for Lewis Brown?”

Sherman: “Lewis is your first name?  Why are you giving me your first name? I don’t care about your first name!  I don’t have a reservation for Lewis, but I do have one for Brown!”

The man breathed a sigh of relief, and a few of us in line laughed.

A few minutes later, I was walking out of Best Pie unscathed with my Pumpkin and Lemon Chess pies in hand and a few stories to share.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

#TBT Samuel Ogle Junior High School Under Construction, 1966

Apparently the original name planned for Samuel Ogle Junior High School was Chapel Forge Junior High School, but the name was changed by the time the school opened. The school is now called Samuel Ogle Middle School.

These photographs were taken by Mary Lynch Giddo in 1966, the year after she and her family moved into their new house at 4025 Chelmont Lane.. The house backed up to the school property, so they had a close-up view of the construction. These photos were graciously provided to Bowie Living by Mary’s daughters.

Samuel Ogle Junior High School construction photo.
The school was going to be called Chapel Forge Junior High School.
Credit: Mary Lynch Giddo, 1966

Samuel Ogle Junior High School construction photo.
Credit: Mary Lynch Giddo, 1966

Samuel Ogle Junior High School construction photo.
This is a view from the backyard at 4025 Chelmont Lane looking across the field toward Crosswick Turn.
Credit: Mary Lynch Giddo, 1966

Samuel Ogle Junior High School construction photo.
Credit: Mary Lynch Giddo, 1966

Samuel Ogle Junior High School construction photo.
Credit: Mary Lynch Giddo, 1966

Samuel Ogle Junior High School construction photo.
Credit: Mary Lynch Giddo, 1966

Samuel Ogle Junior High School construction photo.
Credit: Mary Lynch Giddo, 1966

Samuel Ogle Junior High School construction photo.
This is a view from the backyard at 4025 Chelmont Lane looking across the field toward Crosswick Turn.
Credit: Mary Lynch Giddo, 1966

Samuel Ogle Junior High School construction photo.
Credit: Mary Lynch Giddo, 1966

Thursday, April 30, 2015

The last day of races at the Bowie Race Course, July 13, 1985

A track employee makes his rounds for the last time
after Bowie writes the final chapter in its history.
July 13, 1985: According to the Baltimore Sun, more than 12,000 fans gathered at the Bowie Race Course for the final day of horse racing - seventy-one years after the track first opened.  The last race ended, and General Manager Al Karwacki passed out trophies in the winners' circle.  Some of the race track employees were recognized, and "Thanks for the Memories" played over the public address system.  A Guy Lombardo version of "Auld Lang Syne" played next, and the infield board began flashing the message, "Bowie:  1914-1985,  Thanks.".  The emotion was too much for Karwacki and his wife Lorraine, and they both began to cry.  Racing at the Bowie Race Course was no more.

Baltimore Sun photographer Gene Sweeney, Jr. snapped this picture of a race track employee in the grandstands after all the fans had left.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

The Cakery Reopens Under New Ownership

Freddy Trujillo, new owner of The Cakery in Bowie
Pastries are for sale once again in Bowie's Hilltop Plaza.  After being closed for two months, The Cakery is back in business.  According to the new owner, Freddy Trujillo, customers can expect to see the same treats that have been available at the store since the 1990s - cookies, cupcakes, danishes, croissants, tarts, pies, cakes and more.  Many items are available for immediate purchase, including pies and cakes, but Trujillo recommends ordering pies and cakes two or more days in advance.

The Cakery is open from 8am to 5pm, Tuesday through Friday, and 8am to 3pm on Saturdays.  Trujillio may expand the hours in the future.

The Cakery is located on the back side of Hilltop Plaza, 6776 Race Track Rd, Bowie, MD 20715.