Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Trout Fishing comes to the Belair Shopping Center

August 29, 1974 (38 years ago today): Fifty cents bought you seven minutes of trout fishing at a "trout stream" in the Belair Shopping Center (now home to the Marketplace). Rod, reel, tackle and bait were provided. The Blue Mountain Trout Pool Company brought this fishing "adventure" to shopping centers and carnivals in the early 1970s.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Levitt Wins Bid to Purchase Belair

August 27, 1957 (55 years ago today): William J. Levitt through his Levitt & Sons real estate development company won a bid to purchase Belair for $1,750,000 from the estate of William Woodward, Jr.  Levitt was believed to be planning to build 5,000 to 6,000 houses on the nearly 2,300 acre property.

The purchase was the culmination of a year long fight to buy the property.  Levitt claimed to have offered $1,500,000 for Belair in September, 1956, even going so far as to deliver a $150,000 down payment to Hanover Bank of New York, executors of the Woodward estate.  Hanover Bank told Levitt at the time that the property had already been sold, but it wasn't until October 10, 1956 that a contract to purchase the property was signed by New York developer Webb & Knapp for only $1,187,500.

The Prince George's County Circuit Court invalidated the Webb & Knapp purchase of Belair in March, 1957 because it was believed that the executors had not made an effort to secure the best price, and a new bidding process was ordered to take place.  The Maryland Court of Appeals later upheld the Circuit Court's ruling, and Levitt outbid the other developers that August.

In "This Crazy Thing Called Loved," a book about the relationship between William (Billy) Woodward, Jr and his wife Ann, author Susan Braudy indicated that the Woodward family worked behind the scenes to block the sale of Belair to Levitt in 1956 because the family did not want a Levittown built at Belair.  Ann Woodward was reportedly saddened that Belair "would be broken up into plots for 5,000 ranch houses."

Regardless of the outcome of the court battle, it was clear that the Belair property was destined to be developed.

Levitt Acquires Belair With Bid of $1,750,000
The Washington Post
August 28, 1957

Appeal of Resale Order For Belair Stud Argued
The washington Post
June 7, 1957

Battle Looms in Belair Sale
The Washington Post
March 9, 1957

This Crazy Thing Called Love
Susan Braudy

Remants of Hurricane Irene Cause Flooding, Downed Trees and Power Outages in Bowie

The New York & Company store in the Bowie Town Center

August 27, 2011 (1 year ago today): Just four days after Bowie was rattled by a 5.8 magnitude earthquake, the remnants of Hurricane Irene brought winds, rain, minor flooding, downed trees and power outages to Bowie.  At its peak, Hurricane Irene was a Category 3 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 120 miles per hour.  By the time the storm hit Bowie, it was no longer a hurricane, but it packed winds powerful enough to bring down trees in the city, and enough rain to close some roadways.

More than 8,000 BGE customers in Bowie were without power immediately following the storm on Sunday morning, August 28th.  That number was down to 5,000 the following morning, and there were still 3,900 customers without power in Bowie 48 hours after the storm ended in the city.

Prince George's County Schools were closed on the Monday following the storm.  It was the second time in less than a week that the schools were unexpectedly closed, and the school year was less than a week old.

Click here to see pictures of the aftermath of the storm in Bowie.

The City of Bowie communicated with residents before, during and after the storm through Alert Bowie, an email and text messaging system.  Residents were alerted to closed roads, inoperable traffic signals, open shelters and power outage reports.  The following are the alerts that were sent during and after the storm.

Saturday, August 27, 2012, 4:41pm: #1168  Important message from City of Bowie
Conditions are beginning to deteriorate in Bowie.  Some wind gusts of up to 40 mph have been reported locally. The storm is moving slowly so we will have several hours of rain and increasing wind speeds as the evening progresses.  Residents can report trees down on roads by calling 301-262-6200.  City staff are on duty at City Hall to address any other public safety issues that may arise.  Power outages should be reported to BGE at 1-877-778-2222.  Do not assume your outage has been reported.

Saturday, August 27, 2012, 5:13pm: #1172  Exit ramp closed
Ramp from Melford Dr onto US 301 south closed due to flooding.

Saturday, August 27, 2012, 7:27pm: #1176  Irene Update #2
Winds speeds are increasing.  The National Weather Service now estimates 4-8 inches of rain will fall this evening.  Scattered power outages have occurred in the City in Pointer Ridge and Whitehall.  Exit ramp from Melford Drive to US 301 south is closed due to flooding.  Governor's Bridge Road is now closed at the gate near the bridge over the Patuxent River.

Sunday, August 28, 2012, 8:00am: #1182  Sunday Morning Hurricane Update - 8 a.m.
Situation Update as of Sunday 8/28 at 8 a.m.
  • BGE is reporting 8000+ customers without power in Bowie.
  • At least 30 trees have come down across streets and in city rights-of-way.
  • Crews worked at clearing trees last night until around midnight when it became too dangerous for them to be out there.  They were back out by 6 a.m. this morning to continue their work.
  • More than 5 inches of rain have fallen in Bowie since the storm began.
  • There may be wind gusts of 20+ mph throughout the day.  Given the saturated ground more trees may come down.
  • Traffic signals are dark at several intersections due to power outages. Please stay off the roads as much as possible until conditions improve.
  • Report power outages to BGE at 1-877-778-2222 or 1-800-685-0123.
  • Report trees down on roads and other public safety concerns to City Hall at 301-262-6200. 
  • Yard waste rules will be relaxed.  Details will be communicated later. Our crews will be very busy with debris removal for some time.  You can help them and save the City money by bundling whatever branches you can or putting small branches in a trash can (not more than 50lbs).
  • Our priority today will be addressing downed trees that are blocking roads and coordinating with BGE on power restoration.

Sunday, August 28, 2012, 8:30am: #1182  #1184  Traffic signals out
As of 8:30 a.m. Sunday, traffic signals are out at the following intersections:

  • MD 197 at US 301
  • Mitchellville Road and US 301
  • US 301 at Excalibur Road
  • MD 197 at Northview Drive
  • MD 197 at Bowie Town Center main entrance
  • Off ramp to MD 197 from US 50 eastbound

Avoid these areas if possible.  Please call 301-262-6200 to report other traffic signal outages in the City.

Sunday, August 28, 2012, 10:30am: #1186  City Hall phones out
City Hall telephones are out of service.  Call 240-216-2071 or email to report tree problems.

Sunday, August 28, 2012, 11:40am: #1190  City Hall phones
Phone service has been restored to City Hall. Please call 301-262-6200 to report problems.

Sunday, August 28, 2012, 2:48pm: #1192  Irene Update and City Hall status

City Hall will be open for business on a normal schedule tomorrow.  Because of rain damage to the City Hall lobby and the Police Department lobby, those areas will be off limits to the public and to employees until the damage can be assessed and repaired.  The administrative office of the Police Department will be closed to the public.  Speed camera bills can be paid at the Finance window.  Visitors to the building are asked to enter through the door near the Finance window.

Refuse and recycling will be collected on a normal schedule on Monday.

Yard Waste Rules Relaxed:
The rules for yard waste have been relaxed.  Residents should bring tree debris to the curb for pickup.  If at all possible, we request that the limbs be cut down to manageable size and bundled or put in a trash can (50 lb limit).  This will speed up the process, save tax dollars and make it easier for our busy crews. Pickup may occur at any time during the week.

Power Outages
BGE is reporting that almost 40% of their customers are without power. In Bowie, 8200 customers are still without power.  Restoring that many customers will take some time, but BGE does have 3400 workers on restoration efforts associated with the hurricane, so we are hopeful that the lights will start to come on soon.  They have restored 4400 outages since the storm began in Bowie.

Monday, August 29, 2012, 10:30am: #1196  Storm recovery info
Hurricane Irene Recovery Update – Monday, 8/29//2011, 10:30 a.m.

BGE had almost 40% of their customers out at the height of the storm.  They have made progress but some people may not be restored for a few days.  We have received no specific restoration information yet from Bowie.  Yesterday we had 8200 residents out in Bowie.  Today it's down to 5000 out in Bowie so we know they are working here and they are making progress.  This was a major storm. BGE did bring in lots of extra help from out of state but the BGE service area was badly hit by the storm.  We will share restoration information via Alert Bowie, our website and will put recorded information on our phone system when it is available.

Trees, branches,etc.
During the weekend our crews worked to make the streets passable.  They are now going back to cut up trees on the side of the road or in the City rights-of-way.  This will take some time to complete.  Please be patient.  The rules for yard waste have been relaxed.  Residents should bring tree debris to the curb for pickup.  If at all possible, we request that the limbs be cut down to manageable size and bundled or put in a trash can (50 lb limit).  This will speed up the process, save tax dollars and make it easier for our busy crews. Pickup may occur at any time during the week.  Large limbs and cut up trees will be picked up separately by crews driving through the neighborhoods.

Traffic signals are out at US 301 & MD197, and US301 & Mitchellville Road.  Bowie Police are providing assistance as they are able.

Job Bank
The Bowie Job Bank maintains a list of teens who are willing to be hired to do yard work and other light tasks.  Call them at 301-809-3033.

City Facilities
City facilities are open today, however because of storm damage the entrance to the administrative offices of the Police Department are closed to the public.  The main lobby of City Hall is also closed.  Please enter through the entrance near the Finance Department.

Monday, August 29, 2012, 3:49pm: #1198  Traffic Update - MD 197 signals
Traffic signals remain out at the following intersections:
  • MD 197 at US 301
  • MD 197 at Mitchellville Road
  • MD 197 at Tulip Grove Drive

Until power is restored MD State Highway is restricting left turns at the 197/301 intersection.  Drivers heading north on 301 will not be able to turn left on 197 and drivers heading south on 197 (toward 301) will not be able to turn left onto 301 north.  Officers will be directing traffic at 197 & Mitchellville and 197 & Tulip Grove throughout the evening rush hour.  Avoid these areas if possible.

Monday, August 29, 2012, 5:37pm: #1202  Signal update
Power restored to signals at 197/301 & 197/Mitchellville.  The signal at 197/Tulip Grove Drive is still out.

Tuesday, August 30, 2012, 11:00am: #1204  Important message from City of Bowie
Storm Update, as of Tuesday, 8/30 at 11 a.m.:

The City Manager's Office has been receiving regular updates from BGE on restoration work and the City is making sure that BGE is aware of all the trouble spots that residents have reported to us. BGE is still dealing with a substantial number of public safety issues throughout its service area. Progress has been slower than we had hoped, although crews are working around the clock.  The number of outages in Bowie has gone from  5000 yesterday morning (Monday) to 3900 early today (Tuesday). The universal restoration estimate is Friday at midnight, although there may be some scattered outages beyond that.  We're hopeful that most of Bowie will be restored before that time, but sometimes as repairs are made, other problems are discovered which delay the full restoration. Almost every city neighborhood still has some outages.  Some of the areas with the largest concentrations of outages are:
  • Tall Oaks Crossing/Devonshire Estates
  • Collington Station/Collington Manor
  • Chapel Forge
  • Buckingham
  • Heather Hills
  • Huntington
  • Kenilworth
  • Longleaf
  • Long Ridge
  • Meadowbrook
  • Pointer Ridge
  • Old Stage

Roads/Traffic Signals
The traffic signal is still out at 197/Tulip Grove. Church Road is blocked by a tree between Tall Oaks HS and Central Avenue.  BGE is aware of the problem and is coordinating with Prince George's County to get the problem resolved, since Church Road is owned and maintained by the County.

Dry Ice
We have received several inquiries about dry ice.  BGE no longer supplies dry ice during prolonged outages.  Safeway stores normally have it in stock at the front of the store, but the Bowie stores are out at present.  According to the Giant at Freestate Shopping Center, Giant does not sell dry ice. We've found a vendor in Hanover, MD (off  Dorsey Road , near BWI Airport) that has dry ice available for purchase today.

Airgas Dry Ice
7504 Connelly Drive, Suites A, B & C
Walk-ins welcome

The County has closed both shelters it operated during the storm. We have a link to a list of pet friendly hotels on our website at

Tuesday, August 30, 2012, 3:29pm: #1206  BGE update
BGE has restored service to 70% of its service area.  The utility is attempting to contact those customers whose power is being restored today by automated call.  However, many customers lost their ability to receive calls when the power out. If you are without power and can retrieve phone messages remotely, you may find that you have a message from BGE saying the power is being restored.  The company is supplementing their response team with another 500 workers who arrived from Alabama Power today.  The full press release can be viewed at

Tuesday, August 30, 2012, 3:42pm: #1208  Traffic Update
197/Tulip Grove intersection still dark.  214/Jennings Mill also dark.  Tree blocking Church Road between Tall Oaks HS & Central Avenue

Wednesday, August 31, 2012, 1:00pm: #1210  BGE Update
Update – Wednesday, 1 p.m.

There are approximately 1,000 power outages remaining in Bowie.  This morning, City officials spoke with a senior BGE representative about the remaining outages in the City. He reported that BGE crews are currently working on several feeder lines in the City and just outside the city limits, which they believe will help the utility move toward completing restorations in Bowie.  Customers who are still out should call 1-800-685-0123 check on the status of their restoration and to make sure that BGE knows that the power is still out at their home or business.

Thursday, September 1, 2012, 1:00pm: #1212  BGE Update
As of 5:30 on Thursday morning, 536 customers remain without power in Bowie.  These outages break down into localized problems on 80 different jobs that still need to be addressed by BGE. They were able to restore more than 900 customers on Wednesday and hope to make substantial progress again today.  Customers should continue to check with BGE for updates on their outages.  They have been updating the automated information for outages when they have specific estimates about power restoration.

Thursday, September 1, 2012, 6:00pm: #1214  BGE Update

BGE Update, Thursday September 1st at 6 p.m.
There are 473 customers in Bowie who remain without power.  There are 65 localized jobs to be done to complete the restoration of all Bowie customers. The crews will be working during the evening and hope to reduce the numbers greatly over night.

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Bowie School Opened 100 Years ago this Fall

One hundred years ago this fall, some Bowie area students started attending classes in a new school on the corner of 8th Street and Chestnut Avenue in the building that is now home to the Huntington Community Center.  In 1912, the Bowie Elementary School had only four classrooms (two upstairs and two downstairs) and no indoor restrooms.  Additional classrooms were added in 1923 for high school students.  The school for the upper grades was known as Bowie High School, but the entire school was commonly referred to as The Bowie School.

The portion of the building closest to 8th Street (pictured here) was part of the original structure from 1912.

The high school was shutdown in 1945, forcing students to attend either Laurel High School or Bladensburg High School.  The elementary school stayed open until 1962 when students started attending classes at High Bridge Elementary School.

Area schools in this era were segregated, and only white students attended classes at The Bowie School.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Twin Houses in Old Bowie

These two houses on the corner of Maple Avenue and 9th Street in Old Bowie are known as the Twin Houses.  According to the Huntington Heritage Society, these are probably the two oldest houses in Old Bowie.  They were originally owned by the Baltimore & Potomac Railroad to house employees.

When the railroad junction in present day Old Bowie was in the planning stages, a land speculator purchased approximately 300 acres of land.  A surveyor was hired to layout a new community to be called Huntington City.  The plans included a grid of streets, parks, and narrow residential lots 2500 square feet in size.  Each of the twin houses sits on one of those lots.  These lots were advertised for $25 each in 1870 ($30 if paying over a six month period).  Some people purchased multiple contiguous lots in order to build larger houses.

Huntington City became the Town of Bowie, and then later part of the City of Bowie.

The house on the right is for sale with a list price of $225,000 (as of August, 2012).

Monday, August 6, 2012

Jersey Mike's Subs Now Open in Hilltop Plaza

I had a late lunch today at Jersey Mike's Subs in Hilltop Plaza.  The restaurant opened August 1st.

My order was made quickly and to my liking, but I didn't care for the customer service experience.

I asked for some advice, and I was told that the most popular item is the #13:  the Original Italian (provolone, ham, prosciuttini, cappacuolo, salami and pepperoni).  The clerk recommended that it be prepared "Mike's Way," which means with onions, lettuce, tomatoes, spices and "The Juice" (red wine vinegar and olive oil blend).  "It will be the best sub that you've ever had," I was told.

I said, "great, I'll have a #13 prepared Mike's Way, but hold the onions."

Another clerk interrupted and said, "sir, I really think you should try it the complete Mike's Way with onions."

I thought that was a strange comment.  I just said, "Thanks, but I don't like onions."  I know - just six simple words, but I was mildly annoyed that I had to say them.

While my sub was being made the Mike's Way sans onions, the first clerk said to me, "sir, I'm really sorry that we have to do this to you!"

So I said, "what?"

And he said, "this sub is going to be so good that you'll be disappointed whenever you eat a sub anywhere else from now on."

Now I know the guy meant well, but I felt like the interaction was scripted.  It wasn't genuine.  Normally I'm pretty chatty in situations like this, but I was just turned off by the conversation. It was also a little bit braggy for my liking. It's one thing to say, "I really think you'll like this," but I just thought this guy was a little over the top.  Over all, I found the staff very attentive, but I was a little turned off by the conversation.

And how was the sub?  I liked it.  The bread was good, but the clerk was wrong.  It wasn't the best sub I've ever had.  It was good, but not the best.  Ha, maybe it needed onions after all.  I'll be back to try some other menu items.  Next time I won't make it such a late lunch, and maybe I'll be less grumpy.