Sunday, November 17, 2013

Seventeen-Year-Old Donna Dustin Murdered

Memorial plaque in Bowie's Acorn Hill Park
November 17, 1973 (40 years ago today):  A seventeen-year-old Bowie girl was murdered.  Donna Dustin's body was discovered by a hunter that morning in Anne Arundel County not far from the Bowie Race Track.  Dustin's murder remains unsolved.

Pictured here is a memorial plaque that can be found in Bowie's Acorn Hill Park.

Much has been written about the Donna Dustin murder case.  This January, 2000, Washington Post article provides a fairly complete summary:

Although no one has been charged in Donna Dustin's murder, an attempt was made to link the Dustin murder to the 1987 murder of Jacqueline Roberson in Bowie.  Richard McLeod was convicted of the Roberson murder, but in an appeal, McLeod argued that someone else likely committed the Roberson murder.  He named several people that he suspected were involved.  One of the men that McLeod implicated, was, according to the motion filed by McLeod, likely present during the Dustin murder.  No one knows the whereabouts of the man that McLeod identified.

Jeff Krulik created this video in remembrance of the 40th anniversary of Donna Dustin's death.

Friday, October 25, 2013

"Greaser Gang" Attacks Seven Youths at Bowie High

Bowie High School, 1973 (photo by Arnie Miles)
October 25, 1968 (45 years ago today):  Seven Bowie teenagers were beaten by a Lanham/Seabrook area "Greaser" gang while waiting for rides outside Bowie High School following Teen Club.  According to the Bowie Blade, two car loads of youths arrived at the school looking for "Big John," the supposed head of the Bowie Greasers.  After failing to find Big John, the out-of-town boys attacked the Bowie teens with bats, fists and tire chains.  Two of the local youths were rendered unconscious by the attack.

The Bowie Blade reported that "Greaser" gangs existed in many of the area towns, including Belair, and a "considerable rivalry" existed between the various Greaser factions at the time.  The term "Greaser" is derived from the slick, greasy hair style that was popular among the gang members.  According to one source interviewed by the Blade, Greaser gangs were "composed of high school drop-outs and other toughs."

Photos of Bowie Maryland 1973 through 1975 by Arnie Miles is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License

Saturday, October 19, 2013

The First Edition of the Bowie Blade is Published

October 19, 1967 (46 years ago today):  The first edition of the Bowie Blade was published.  The headline near the top of page one was, "Belair's NEWS Newspaper Begins Publication," and Editor Bob Reid declared the paper to be the "first area paper to offer total news coverage."

In his introduction to the newspaper, Reid said, "we are calling The Bowie Blade the 'pajama newspaper.' We desire it to be so well delivered that residents can bring it in without getting out of their pajamas. It should be right at the front door, and if it isn't, we wish you would let us know. It shouldn't happen twice!"

Reid went on to say, "The Bowie Blade will bring to local residents all the news, total and complete. We hope to not overlook anything that can conceivably be of interest to Bowie residents, and in addition, we intend to pack the paper with interesting features, lively photographs, a sprightly woman's page, and a complete sports section covering the local sports picture."

The newspapers staff worked out of offices above J-Mart in 1967.

Here is a sample of some of the headlines from the first edition:

"Wilson, Conroy Clash Over 197"; "Bowie Senior High Enrollment Hits 1,410: Shifting 9th Grad to Junior High Eases Load (Bowie High will double in size with the new edition currently under construction in the read of the existing school.)";  "Students Driving To Bowie Classes Curtailed"; "DuVal Tigers Stun Bowie High With 26-0 Victory: Favored Bulldogs Hurt by Fumbles"; "Mobile Library Use Proves Bowie Readers are Voracious"; "New Home Site for Knights of Columbus"

Here is a sample of some of the advertisers from the first edition:

Mister Chicken, Bowie Volunteer Fire Department and Rescue Squad, The Bowie Inn, Rip's Restaurant and Motel, Belair Theater, Belair Maintenance Company, Dwyer Maintenance Company, Tidewater Belair Realty, Hi-Gear Discount Auto Center, Belair National Bank, Bob's Barber Shop, Levitt and Sons, Keystone Footwear, T&T Liquors, V.M. Razanno, W.F. Mann Realty

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Protesters Arrested at Levitt & Sons Model Homes

The Levitt Manor House on Sussex Lane
September 14, 1963 (50 years ago today):  Eight people were arrested inside the the Levitt & Sons sales office on Sussex Lane after participating in a sit-in to protest Levitt's policy of refusing to sell houses to blacks.  Most demonstrators remained outside while six entered the Levitt office.  The Prince George's County Police arrived, arrested the six protesters, and the police were forced to carry some of the protesters to an awaiting patrol wagon.  After the police left, two more protesters entered the sales office, and they were subsequently arrested.

All eight people arrested were charged with trespassing, and they spent the night in an Upper Marlboro jail after refusing bond. The arrested protesters later claimed that they were held in the "drunk tank" without access to bedding.  Jail officials claimed that the protesters were causing a disturbance in the jail by yelling and singing loudly, and they were put in the "tank" to restore order to the jail.  Officials also claimed that the protesters refused an offer for bedding.

The incident occurred during months of protests organized by the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and other organizations.  Multiple sit-ins took place, including one that turned into a "sleep-in" as three protesters spent a quiet night in the sales office with a guard from Levitt & Sons.  Episcopalian Reverand Reinhart Gutmann, a Belair at Bowie homeowner, organized a protest that included eighteen Episcopalian clergymen carrying signs and singing religious songs.  Although most protesters were opposed to Levitt's discriminatory policies, three men from the Fighting American Nationalists organization carried a sign during one protest that said "Integration Stinks."

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Bowie in the American Revolutionary War

Most people know that George Washington crossed the Delaware River, but who marched down Route 450 (or what would eventually become Route 450 in Bowie) during the American Revolutionary War?  It was Jean-Baptiste Donatien de Vimeur, the Compte de Rochambeau, along with more than 5,700 French soldiers under his command on their way to meet up with George Washington for what would become a decisive battle against the British in Yorktown, Virginia.

The annual commemoration of Rochambeau’s March will take place this Saturday from noon to 4pm at the Belair Mansion.  Read more in this article by Pam Williams, the Historic Properties Manager for the City of Bowie

Bowie in the American Revolution!
by Pam Williams
Historic Properties Manager for the City of Bowie

In July of 1780, French troops sent by King Louis XVI landed in Naragansett Bay off Newport, Rhode Island.  Commanded by Jean-Baptiste Donatien de Vimeur, the Compte de Rochambeau, the army numbered 450 officers and 5, 300 men.  Those troops made their way to Yorktown, Virginia, along a combination of strategic roads and waterways, reaching Williamsburg in September of 1781.  Their invaluable contribution to the three week siege of Yorktown resulted in the surrender of British General Cornwallis to George Washington on October 19, 1781.

As has long been acknowledged, an army travels on its stomach!   This army was no exception – and it needed to be fed.   As the army travelled south, the General’s wagon train did as well – via what we know today to be Route 450!   In September, 1781, approximately 200 wagons, artillery, and approximately 3,600 oxen (for future dining!) and horses – after camping at “Easton’s Plantation” (Sacred Heart/Whitemarsh) made their way past Belair Mansion on their way to Georgetown to cross the Potomac and head south.  The journal of Louis Alexandre Berthier, 1781, describes the route:  “You leave John Easton’s house by a road that reenters the Georgetown Highway 200 paces (1/4 mile) farther on.  You pass quite a fine house on the left…” That fine house was Belair.

Join the City of Bowie Museums in our annual commemoration of this important part of our nation’s past.  On Saturday, August 24, from Noon-4:00 p.m., join both British and American forces as they drill, skirmish and discuss camp life with visitors.  Several “purveyors” of colonial groceries, jewelry, prints and clothing will have items for sale inside the Mansion…and the local 18th century ladies will be gathered in the Hall for sewing and 18th century gossip.  Don’t miss this opportunity to visit the past!

Belair Mansion, which is handicapped accessible, is located at 12207 Tulip Grove Drive in Bowie, Maryland. (Exit 11 N from US 50 E/W).  Rochambeau’s March is free, no reservations are required.  For further information, please call 301-809-3089 or email:

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Bowie Museum Acquires Portrait of Former Belair Resident Catherine Ogle Goodrich

Portrait of Catherine Ogle Goodrich acquired by City of Bowie
A portrait of an Ogle family member who lived at Belair was recently purchased by the City of Bowie. Read more in this article by Pam Williams, the Historic Properties Manager for the City of Bowie.

Homecoming in July!

Welcome home, Catherine Ogle Goodrich!

One of Belair Mansion’s loveliest 19th century residents has come home – and a new painting graces the mansion parlor! 

Born  at Belair on July 9, 1810, to Benjamin Ogle II, and his wife, Anna Maria Cooke Ogle,  Catherine Ogle Goodrich  was the 9th child in a family of 10 girls and 4 boys.  In 1838, she married the Rev. Charles Goodrich, a native of Watertown, Connecticut.  Immediately after her Belair wedding, the couple departed for New Orleans, where Charles had been appointed Rector of St. Paul’s Church.  

During their marriage, the Goodriches had no children; Catherine died in Baltimore in 1848, after a “painful and lingering illness.”  She is buried there, in the famous Greenmount Cemetery.

While her remains rest at Greenmount, Catherine has returned to Belair in the form of a lovely portrait, painted c. 1834, by the noted American artist, Charles Bird King.  A lovely, dark haired young woman, whose bared shoulders are draped in red fabric, she bears a strong family resemblance to her ancestor, colonial Governor Samuel Ogle. The portrait had been in the collection of the Valentine Richmond History Center,  and upon the Valentine’s decision to de-accession the painting,  it became available for purchase by the City’s Historic Properties & Museums Division.

Catherine has returned home in time for her birthday on July 9!  After July 1, she will be on exhibit at the Mansion for several months, while staff plans her restoration and conservation for the future.  Please visit and wish her welcome -  and Happy Birthday.  Surely she would agree there’s no place like home!

Belair Mansion is located at 12207 Tulip Grove Drive and is open to the public (free of charge) Tuesday through Sunday from Noon-4:00p.m.  For information, call 301-809-3089, or email:

Friday, August 9, 2013

Two Bowie Boys Dribble into Record Books

David Price and Richard Pranschke
August 9, 1974 (39 years ago today):  Two Bowie teens broke a world record after dribbling a basketball for nearly four full days.  According to the Bowie Blade, Richard Pranschke and David Price alternated one hour shifts until they completed 92 consecutive hours of dribbling.  Their effort began at 8am on Monday, August 5th, and the dribbling stopped at 4am, Friday, August 9th.  The record was set in Pranschke's garage at 13435 Yorktown Drive.  The boys were inspired after reading that two Springfield, Virginia youths dribbled for a record 60 hours and 45 minutes just one week earlier.

Five people acted as judges including Mark and Tom Price (brothers of David Price), Edwin and Evlyn Hunnicutt, (parents of Richard Pranschke) and neighbor John Jones.

According to the Washington Post, the dribbling record had been broken two times that summer before the marathon session by Price and Pranschke.  Two North Carolina boys dribbled for 50 hours and 24 minutes that July, and Jimmy Harper and Johnny Herrity broke that record a week later in Springfield.

The Bowie Blade article implied that a Guiness Record had been broken.  It's assumed that Price and Pranschke submitted their record to the publication, although Bowie Living was unable to locate any Guiness Record involving two people alternating dribbling responsibilities.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Walmart Supercenter Proposed for Bowie

Walmart is moving forward with a proposal to build a new 186,000 square foot "supercenter" in the future Mill Branch Crossing shopping center in Bowie.  The proposed store would feature a full service supermarket, and it would be located across Route 301 from the site of the current Walmart discount store.  If the plan comes to fruition, the supercenter would replace Bowie's existing Walmart store.

Walmart was required to file a special zoning exception application because "it proposes a department/variety store over 125,000 sq. ft., with a food and beverage component above 10% of the gross floor area," according to a status report presented to the Bowie City Council by City Manager David Deutsch.  The Walmart plan will be on the City Council's agenda this fall.

Along with the retail stores, Mill Branch Crossing is expected to include commercial space and a 150 room hotel.

The Mill Branch Crossing shopping center has been in the planning stages for more than seven years.  The project has been delayed by the discovery of remains of a 1700s era structure as well as other archeological items.  Development of the shopping center has also been delayed by plans for the future Green Branch Regional Park.  The Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission owns 319 acres of land behind the Mill Branch Crossing property, and a portion of that land will be converted into soccer, lacrosse and football fields. The park property is land locked, and the county is requiring the owner of the shopping center property to provide a public access road to the new park as a condition for approval.

A lacrosse stadium is also being considered for the Green Branch Regional Park site as a possible home for the Chesapeake Bayhawks professional lacrosse team.  A study conducted earlier this year concluded that a 22,000 seat stadium was not appropriate, and a follow-up study was funded to consider options for a smaller stadium.

The future Green Branch Regional Park also offers a potential viewing location for the annual City of Bowie fireworks.  According to Bowie City Manager David Deutsch, future city firework shows at Prince George's Stadium will include more higher altitude shells for people viewing the show from outside the stadium.  This may make it possible to view the fireworks from the new park, although Deutsch indicated that the city had not yet considered that option.


Sunday, July 28, 2013

Bank of Bowie Opens

The J. Guy Bell House in Old Bowie, former home to the Bank of Bowie
July 28, 1920 (93 years ago today):  The Bank of Bowie opened in the two front rooms of a home at the corner of Chestnut Avenue and 11th Street (next to the present day Old Bowie Town Grille).  The home was built four years earlier by J. Guy Bell and his wife Ann Augusta Bell.  The first president of the bank was Nelson R. Ryon, and the first cashier was William Luers.  The Bank of Bowie moved into a newly constructed concrete building a few years later.  Through mergers and acquisitions, the bank transitioned multiple times.  At one point it was known as the Bank of Maryland, it was later called the Suburban Trust Company, and it eventually became part of the Bank of America.

The addition on the left side of the house was constructed to house a beer parlor after the Prohibition Act was repealed, and the space was later occupied by a doctor's office.  The home was also used as an antique store at one point.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Man Drowns on the Belair Estate

Foxhill Lake, 1974 (photo by Arnie Miles)
July 26, 1912 (101 years ago today):  Twenty-one-year-old Charles Gentile drowned in the pond that is now known as Foxhill Lake. According to "Belair from the Beginning" by Shirley V. Baltz, Gentile was visiting William Baldwin, son of the manager of the Belair estate, when Gentile, Baldwin and Baldwin's sister ended up in the water after their boat overturned.  By the time William Baldwin rescued his sister, Gentile had disappeared under the water.

The pond was not called Foxhill Lake until after the property was purchased by Levitt.

Charles Gentile Obituary from the Baltimore Sun

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Renowned Thoroughbred Horse Trainer Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons Born

Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons (left) and William Woodward, Sr
July 23, 1874 (139 years ago today):  Renowned thoroughbred horse trainer James Edward Fitzsimmons (Sunny Jim) was born in Brooklyn, New York.  He started his career in horse racing as a stable boy, worked his way up to being a jockey, and then he became one of the greatest thoroughbred trainers of all time as the head trainer for Belair Stud.  Fitzsimmons was the training genius behind Triple Crown winners Gallant Fox and Omaha, as well as the 1955 Horse of the Year, Nashua.

Belair Stud horses were typically foaled at the Claiborne Farm in Kentucky.  After the horses were weaned, they were sent to Belair.   Each spring, Belair Stud owner William Woodward. Sr. and Sunny Jim would inspect all the yearlings at Belair, and they decided which horses would be sold and which horses would be trained.  Many of the selected thoroughbreds were sent to Aqueduct for training - Fitzsimmons' home track.  This was the process followed for Gallant Fox, Omaha and Nashua.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Ghost at the Belair Mansion?

I received the first edition of a new magazine called Bowie Life in the mail last Saturday.  It's published by a company called Hibu, an international organization that also owns YellowBook USA.  I suspect that there must also be a Laurel Life magazine, an Annapolis Life magazine as well as countless others.

The magazine is heavy on the advertisements, including ads from local businesses like Rips, Golden Pavilion and Beall Funeral Home.  It contains general interest stories on topics like personal finance, real estate and health.  Local Bowie stories and announcements are also included. I learned from one article that the Bowie Interfaith Food Pantry is moving to the Kenhill Center.  That was news to me.

Bowie Life asks readers to submit photos and articles to be included in future editions of the magazine.  This edition included a story called "Messages from Beyond the Grave" that was submitted by Rob Gutro, a self described local resident, scientist and ghost hunter.  Gutro can be seen on the cover wearing his "I'm With Ghost" shirt.

In the article, Gutro describes his first visit to the Belair Mansion during a candlelight tour one December.  He instantly got a headache when he walked through the door to the mansion - something that happens to Gutro when he's in the presence of a ghost or spirit.  A little girl approached Gutro.  She told him that she wanted to play in her room, and she pointed toward the stairs.  There was a room on the second floor setup like a nursery, and the girl's ghost told Gutro that the nursery was her room.  No one else on the tour saw the little girl.

Gutro wanted to know the identify of the little girl.  He asked one of the tour guides if a little girl had died in the house.  According to Gutro, the tour guide recommended that he talk to the "house historian," and Gutro took the advice.  He learned that a two year old girl named Anna Marie Ogle had lived and died in the house (1849-1851), and that she was buried in the cemetery at the edge of the Belair Mansion property.  In a different account of the same story on his blog, Gutro's told how his body rapidly heated in the presence of the little girl, and he began to perspire.  Gutro believes that Anna Marie Ogle was sharing the experience of her death, which must have been accompanied by a high fever.

I had never heard of anyone at the mansion described as a "house historian," so I thought I would try to corroborate the details in Gutro's stories with available reference materials.  I confirmed that Anna Marie Ogle did live from 1849 to 1851, and she is buried at the cemetery on the mansion grounds along with her mother, but I found little information about her in the books that I own.

I decided to ask for help from Pam Williams, the Historic Properties Manager for the City of Bowie.  Not only is she an authority on the history of the Belair Mansion and property, but she has had an office in the mansion since 1996.

The Belair property in the mid 1800s was divided into different sections, Ms. Williams explained, and the mansion was just one of several houses on the property.  There was a section known as Bladen, and the house for Bladen was approximately located on the present day site of the Kenilworth Elementary School playground.  Young Anna Marie Ogle and her family lived in the Bladen house, and her aunt, uncle and cousins lived in the mansion.  History is full of uncertainties, and according to Pam Williams, it's possible that Anna Marie Ogle was either born in the mansion or died at the mansion, but it's highly unlikely.

It also turns out that Pam Williams had spoken with Gutro in the past.  He wanted to bring a team of ten people into Belair Mansion to hunt for ghosts, and he offered to donate $150 to the museum for the opportunity.  Pam Williams declined the offer.  Ms. Williams shared the following with Bowie Living.

This house has a long and interesting history on a stand alone history basis.  Lots of people lived here, and lots of people likely died here as well.  I do NOT like to promote “haunting.”  First, having been here since 1996, alone at night and during the day, in spite of saying “Hey, if you guys are here, come talk to me," I have NEVER seen a spirit – or had one approach me.  I’ve had a few headaches here myself over the  years, but they have more to do with budget planning and this kind of stuff than the presence of the dead.  We don’t need an audience delivered by thrill-seekers attempting to dive into the paranormal.    Second.   This house was home to many people.  I feel, on some level, that this is disrespectful to them.  Third.  We don't need $150 that badly.   These were real people, they lived here, and they had peace here.  I think they’re entitled to respect when they’re dead, too.  I’m sure he’s very serious in his study.  We’re just not going to exploit a dead child – or anyone else dead. 

So who was the young girl that approached Gutro in the mansion?  I encourage everyone to visit the mansion, and if you're approached by the spirit of a deceased girl, ask for her name.

The Belair Mansion is open to the public Tuesday through Sunday, noon to 4pm.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Local Band, Cory Drive, Performing Saturday at Town Green Park in Old Bowie

Cory Drive performs at the 9:30 Club in D.C., February, 2013
Cory Drive, an energetic group of young musicians with Bowie roots, will be performing a free outdoor concert on Saturday, July 13th from 2-4pm in Town Green Park in Old Bowie.  The band's playlist includes some original songs like the hard rocking Out of Nowhere and Give Me a Memory, as well as cover songs by groups such as the Red Hot Chili Peppers and the Foo Fighters.

Cory Drive performs regularly in the D.C./Baltimore region, including past performances at the 9:30 Club in D.C., the Baltimore Soundstage, the Greenbelt Labor Day Festival, Bowiefest, Fenton Street Market in Silver Spring and locally at the Old Bowie Town Grille.  The band was a finalist in the 2013 Baltimore Battle of the Bands.

The group is looking forward to playing in front of a hometown crowd this Saturday.  "We'll always be grateful for the support we've received from the Bowie community," said Bobby Cento, one of the band's founding members.  "It's especially meaningful to offer a free concert within shouting distance of the Old Bowie Town Grille, a big-time supporter of Cory Drive and the local music scene."

The band's name - and primary practice location
Cory Drive was formed in 2007 by a group of talented young musicians from St. Pius X Regional School.  The band features Bowie natives Bobby and Ben Cento on drums and bass guitar, Lucas Delgado on vocals; Matt Arceo on guitar and Anthony Policelli on rhythm guitar and background vocals.  They'll be joined this weekend by guitarist Gabe Castro and vocalist/guitarist Matt Ratcliffe, high school classmates of the other band members.

Cory Drive will also be performing Sunday, July 21 at the Union Jack in Annapolis.


Cory Drive performing an original song - "Out of Nowhere"

Friday, July 5, 2013

Piranha Caught at Foxhill Lake

July 5, 1974 (39 years ago today):  Norman Albertson caught a Piranha while fishing in Foxhill Lake.  Blaine Griffith, a conservation specialist with the Mount Calvert Regional Park, identified the fish as a Dusky Piranha - a type of Piranha sometimes purchased at area pet stores.  Ed Lehan, owner of Hilltop Aquarium, told the Bowie Blade that a pet owner probably released the fish in Foxhill Lake after growing "tired of it."

According to on-line aquarium fish profiles, the Dusky Pirnaha originated from the Amazon region, and it has an aggressive temperament.  These fish are best kept in groups without other species present, and they should be fed live food.

This photo is an edited version of a picture taken by Arnie Miles in 1974 for the Bowie Blade.

Photos of Bowie Maryland 1973 through 1975 by Arnie Miles is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License

Monday, June 24, 2013

Ground Breaking for the Bowie Race Track

June 24, 1914 (99 years ago today):  The Southern Maryland Agricultural Association broke ground on Prince George's Park - the horse racing venue that would eventually be known as the Bowie Race Track. According to the Baltimore Sun, the land used by the course was previously part of a tobacco farm.

This photograph was taken for the Baltimore Sun on October 6, 1914 during the track's first week in operation.  It can be purchased on-line at

Grand Stand at Bowie, October 6, 1914

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Bowie Baysox Play their First Game at Prince George's Stadium

June 16, 1994 (19 years ago today):  The Bowie Baysox played their first game at Prince George's Stadium.  Memorial Stadium in Baltimore was the home field for the Baysox during their 1993 inaugural season.  Due to construction delays at Prince George's Stadium in 1994, the Baysox played early season home games in Frederick, College Park and other locations.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Automated Telephone Exchange Goes Live in Bowie

May 26, 1938 (75 years ago today):  The Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone Company activated Bowie's first telephone dial system.  The switching equipment was housed in this building at 13108 11th Street in Old Bowie - the current home of the Bowie Lions.  For the first time in Bowie, a telephone call could be made without the assistance of an operator.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Levitt Transfers Title to Belair Bath & Tennis

May 23, 1963 (50 years ago today): The title to a seven-acre property near the Belair Mansion was transferred from Levitt & Sons to the Belair Bath & Tennis Club.  Property transferred included a brick club house, a Z-shaped swimming pool, a kiddy pool, six tennis courts, a tennis house and a recreational building (the green house).  The estimated value at the time of transfer was $250,000.  The club was built by Levitt & Sons, and it opened a year earlier under the management of Levitt with the promise that title would be transferred to the club once membership reached the capacity of 750 families. The title was transferred to club president Douglas C. Hansen.  Annual family memberships at the time were $42.

Earlier that same month, Levitt gifted nearly 50 acres of land to the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission for a park that would eventually come to be known as Foxhill Park.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Collington Station Burglary Alert

The City of Bowie issued the following burglary alert for the Collington Station neighborhood in Bowie.

John K. Nesky
Chief of Police

April 2013

The Bowie Police Department recently had three burglaries reported in your community. We have put together some safety tips to help you protect your home against break ins.

  • During the day, leave drapes and shades in a normal position - the way you have them when at home. Don’t leave easily movable valuables in sight close to windows.
  • At night, leave on some inside lights - bathrooms and hallways, for example.
  • Consider buying automatic timers that turn lamps on after dark, then off a few hours later or at dawn.
  • Never leave garage doors open - especially with no car in sight. This is a WELCOME sign to burglars.
  • Install deadbolt locks. Make sure locks are firmly screwed in solid wood - not just into a light door jamb. The longer the screws and the longer the lock bolt, the safer your home will be.
  • Burglars often try to find out if anyone is home by phoning. Warn family members, especially children, not to give out information over the phone.
  • Avoid putting your name on mailboxes or on doors.
  • Don’t open your door to anyone you don’t know and trust.
  • Never keep large sums of cash around the house. Keep valuable jewelry that you don’t often wear in a safe deposit box.
  • Don’t advertise your vacation plans. Let a trusted neighbor know you’re going on vacation and ask them to keep an eye on your house and pick up any mail or newspapers left at your doorstep.
  • If you’ll be away from your home for an extended time, tell the Bowie Police Department 301-575-2480.
  • Be a good neighbor. Keep an eye on your neighbors’ homes and ask them to do the same for you.
  • The Bowie Police Department offers free home security surveys. Please contact Sgt. Henderson at to set up an appointment.


Sgt. Bennie Henderson
Community Service Supervisor

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

James T. Woodward, Belair Mansion Owner, Dies after a Short Illness

April 10, 1910 (103 years ago today): James T. Woodward, owner of the Belair Mansion, died after a short illness.  He left the majority of his estate, including the Belair property, to his nephew, William Woodward.

Much of Belair had been sold in pieces during the nineteenth century, and the property had been largely neglected in the years leading up to 1898 when James Woodward purchased the estate.

Despite only owning Belair for twelve years, James Woodward is responsible for transforming the mansion and property, and creating the iconic images of Belair that we have today.  It was during this time that the east and west wings were added onto the Belair Mansion.  Four dormers, two in the front and two in the back, were cut into the roof line.  New stairs and a porch (pictured here) were added to the north side of the mansion.  Woodward also had the sandstone stable building constructed (the present day Belair Stable Museum).  It is believed that the bridge over Foxhill Lake was built at this time as well, although the pond was not known as Foxhill Lake until some time after Levitt & Sons purchased the property.

The size of the Belair estate changed frequently over the years.  The mansion sat on nearly 400 acres at the time James Woodward purchased Belair, and he added approximately 1,000 more acres before his death by buying adjacent properties.  Belair would grow to be 2,300 acres by the time it was sold to Levitt in 1957.

James Woodward's Belair estate was valued at $63,568.54, and the $3,200 inheritance tax paid by his nephew was the largest inheritance tax levied in the history of Prince George's County at the time.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

City of Bowie Press Release on Change in Fireworks Venue

For more information:
Matt Corley, Special Events Coordinator
301-809-3078 or email

April 8, 2013

Bowie’s Fourth of July Celebration will be at Prince George’s Stadium this Year.
The Fabulous Hubcaps will Provide the Entertainment.

The City of Bowie is teaming up with the Bowie Baysox to establish a new Fourth of July tradition in Bowie. Rather than fireworks at Allen Pond Park, this year’s celebration will take place at Prince George’s Stadium on Thursday, July 4th.

The Fabulous Hubcaps Band will kick off the event with a show beginning at 7 p.m. and fireworks will begin at approximately 9:15 p.m. The Fabulous Hubcaps are a popular oldies band, with a large local following. They have performed throughout the US and are known for their fun and entertaining performances. The celebration will be free and tickets will not be required.

“We’re excited about this change and think it will be a great experience for all who attend. In many ways we had outgrown Allen Pond as a venue,” said City of Bowie Special Events Coordinator Matt Corley. The stadium provides more comfort for attendees with seating, more restrooms, and a variety of concessions. Being at the stadium also makes it an easier event to manage. The stadium was built for large crowds and has ample parking and good lighting. “Last year we had some safety concerns with people setting off their own fireworks in the crowd. The setup at the ballpark allows us to better control access, and hopefully eliminate those types of concerns; while at the same time, we expect to spend less money on staffing. I think it’s a ‘win-win’ for everyone,” said Mayor G. Frederick Robinson. “We are very grateful to the Baysox organization for working with us to organize this event.”

This Fourth of July celebration is organized by the City of Bowie and the Bowie Baysox. The Baysox organization will provide ushers, parking assistance, concessions, and other event support. There is no baseball game at the stadium on this date. Parking and admission to the event are free. The main gate to the stadium will open at 6 p.m.


Monday, April 8, 2013

No More Fourth of July Fireworks at Allen Pond

Fourth of July Revelers Dance at Allen Pond Park, July 4, 2011
Bowie Living has learned that the days of watching 4th of July fireworks at Allen Pond are over. Future City of Bowie Fourth of July celebrations will take place at Prince George's Stadium - home of the Bowie Baysox.

According to Bowie Mayor G. Fred Robinson, the crowds have grown larger than can be reasonably accommodated at Allen Pond Park, and traffic continues to be a problem despite trying multiple traffic plans.  The Mayor also indicated that an increased use of unauthorized fireworks at Allen Pond created public safety concerns.

Prince George's Stadium was designed to hold 10,000 people, although approximately 14,000 baseball fans attended the Double-A All Star Game at the stadium in 2000.  Two parking lots can hold more than 2,500 cars, and it's believed that the close proximity to Routes 301 and 50 will create better traffic flow than past Fourth of July celebrations in Bowie.  The stadium provides controlled entrance points which should help keep unauthorized fireworks out.  The stadium will provide Fourth of July revelers with seating, restroom facilities and concessions.  An entertainment stage will be set-up - most likely along the third base line.

The festivities will take place as usual on July 4th.  The Bowie Baysox will be playing a game in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania that night, and Mayor Robinson said that the Baysox have expressed a willingness to make the stadium available to the City of Bowie for future Fourth of July celebrations.  The Baysox will have a fireworks show on Wednesday, July 3rd at the stadium after a game with the Akron Aeros.

Prince George's Stadium is the fourth City of Bowie fireworks venue.  City fireworks displays were originally held at the Bowie Race Track before the annual event was moved to Allen Pond Park.  At Allen Pond, the fireworks were originally set off across the pond from the amphitheater, but housing construction forced the city to move the fireworks display to the athletic fields at the park.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Pac Man Graffiti Artist Takes on City Hall

After an eight month hiatus, the Pac Man graffiti artist struck again - this time taking on City Hall - literally.  City workers found a freshly painted Pac Man on the front of the two-year-old Bowie City Hall building early Saturday morning.

"I don't know how something like this can happen here," said one city official who agreed to speak on the condition of anonymity.  "Bowie Police squad cars are constantly driving by this spot day and night.  The person that did this must have a lot of nerve or is just plain stupid.  Well, we've got a holding cell on the other side of this wall waiting for him or her."

The Pac Man caused a steady flow of onlookers on what would normally have been a quiet weekend morning at City Hall.

"I love it," said 19-year-old Summer Sett, a student at Prince George's Community College.  "It made me smile, and it brought all these people together.  How can that be wrong?"

The "Pac Chart," July, 2012
"Bad parenting is to blame," offered 86-year-old Bowie resident, Ken. L. Worthe.  If I had ever done something like this, I would have gotten the ol' hickory switch.  Parents are too afraid to discipline their kids these days.  That's why stuff like this happens."

Over the last two years, Pac Man graffiti has been showing up throughout Bowie on street signs, park benches, roadways and even U.S. Postal Service mail collection boxes.  The public has been divided over whether the images should be considered art or vandalism.  The Pac Man graffiti artist tried to illustrate that division by creating the "Pac Chart" last July on a noise reduction wall along Annapolis Road in Bowie.  Ironically, the chart showed that the majority of people enjoyed "street art," but the image represented a turning point in public support on social media sites for the Pac Man graffiti.

"I originally thought it was all in good fun," said Rocky Ledge, a Bowie resident since 1966.  "I would see a few extra dots on a street sign here, and a harmless painting on the road over there.  I felt the Pac Chart was different.  I felt like a line had been crossed, and I started to think about our tax dollars being used to clean this stuff up."

Multiple Pac Man images appeared in Bowie during the summer of 2012, but it stopped with the Pac Chart - until last Saturday.

Victoria Hites, a sophomore at Bowie High school, enjoys the mystery that surrounds the Pac Man images.  "People have been talking about it all year at school," she said.  "I've heard a lot of stories.  Some people were saying that it's the work of the GoatMan.  Other people claimed that a priest was doing it.  The most widely accepted story is that an 18-year-old home-schooled boy was the main person, and his friends would serve as lookouts while he did his work.  He supposedly went away to college, and that's why it stopped.  Maybe he came home for Easter," she said with a smile.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Omaha, third Triple Crown Winner, Foaled at Clairborne Farm

Omaha and jockey Willie "Smokey" Saunders at Belmont in 1935
March 24, 1932 (81 years ago today): Omaha, son of Gallant Fox, was foaled at the Claiborne Farm in Kentucky.  Omaha would go on to win the Triple Crown in 1935, thus creating the only father/son pair to both win the Triple Crown to date.

Like his father before him, Omaha was bred and owned by William Woodward, Sr., the former owner of the Belair Stud Farm.  After being sent to Belair as a yearling, he followed in his father's footsteps by entering Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons' training program at the Aqueduct Race Track.  Omaha won only a single race as a two-year old, but he showed promise.  He matured over the winter.  Omaha grew to be larger than Gallant Fox, and he sometimes required a double stall in order to be comfortable.  As a three year-old, Omaha frequently showed bursts of speed, earning him the nickname the Belair Bullet.  He was paired with jockey Willie "Smokey" Saunders.  In the Kentucky Derby, Omaha ran against Nellie Flag, who was ridden by 19 year-old jockey Eddie Arcaro.  Arcaro would later win two legs of the Triple Crown while riding Belair Stud's Nashua in 1955.  On June 8, 1935, Omaha won the Belmont Stakes by a length and a half, thus becoming the third Triple Crown winner overall and the second Triple Crown Winner for Woodward and his Belair Stud Farm.

Special thanks to Kimberly Gatto for compiling this information in her book, "Belair Stud:  The Cradle of Maryland Horse Racing" (available at the Belair Stable Museum and

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Gallant Fox, second Triple Crown Winner, Foaled at Clairborne Farm

William Woodward, Sr. leads Gallant Fox and jockey Earl Sande at Belmont in 1930
March 23, 1927 (86 years ago today): Gallant Fox, the second horse to win the Triple Crown, was foaled (born) at the Claiborne Farm in Kentucky.

Gallant Fox was bred and owned by William Woodward, Sr., the former owner of the Belair Stud Farm.  Shortly after being weaned, Gallant Fox was sent to Belair.  Each spring, Woodward and his long time trainer Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons inspected all the yearlings at Belair, and they decided which horses would be sold and which horses would be trained.  Gallant Fox was selected to be trained at Aqueduct - Fitzsimmons' home track.  In his early days at Aqueduct, Gallant Fox didn't have the personality traits of a typical race horse.  He was lazy, curious and he "enjoyed the company of humans."  He eventually matured into a fine race horse, and in 1930, he was teamed up with accomplished jockey Earl Sande.  Gallant Fox, who came to be known as the Fox of Belair, won the Preakness Stakes, the Kentucky Derby and the Belmont Stakes in 1930, and he became only the second Triple Crown Winner.  Gallant Fox later sired Omaha, the third Triple Crown Winner.  To this day, Gallant Fox and Omaha are the only father/son pair to both win the Triple Crown, and they both did it wearing the colors of Belair Stud.

Special thanks to Kimberly Gatto for compiling this information in her book, "Belair Stud:  The Cradle of Maryland Horse Racing" (available at the Belair Stable Museum and

Friday, March 22, 2013

Bowie part of a food desert or looking for more variety?

NBC4's Prince George's County Bureau Chief Tracee Wilkins filed a news report on efforts to bring grocery stores to Prince George's County.  In particular, she looked at Bowie's efforts to bring Trader Joe's to the city, and the effort to bring Whole Foods to Route 1 in Riverdale Park.  She spoke with City of Bowie Economic Development Director, John Henry King, who said, "The grocery industry is going through a transition.  Wegmans' arrival in the Washington, D.C. region caused a lot of grocers to rethink where they place stores."

I think this story mixes up two different issues:  attracting grocery stores to areas where there are none, and attracting different grocery stores to provide greater variety .  Wilkins discusses this concept of a "food desert" where residents have to travel longer distances to get groceries.  That's not Bowie's case at all.  Bowie lost and gained grocery stores during the last ten years, but there isn't a lack of grocery stores.  The effort to attract Trader Joe's to Bowie is more about local grocery store variety.  University Park and Riverdale residents do have less shopping options than Bowie, but they aren't just asking for any ol' grocery store.  They've set their sites on a Whole Foods.

According to Wikipedia, a "food desert" is a district with little or no access to large grocery stores that offer fresh and affordable foods needed to maintain a healthy diet. Instead of such stores, these districts often contain many fast food restaurants and convenience stores.  As Wilkins states in the news story, the USDA has designated certain areas of Prince George's County as food deserts.  That doesn't include Bowie, but does include some areas not far from Riverdale Park.

Click here to read the NBC 4 story and see the video.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Mystery Boat Appears in Bowie Race Track Infield

Cabin Cruiser in the lake in the infield (The Baltimore Sun)
March 9, 1955 (58 years ago today):  At dawn, a boat became visible in the lake on the infield at the Bowie Race Track.  No one knew how it got there, and no one claimed ownership.  "Bowie at Sea over Cruiser," was the title of the story in the Baltimore Sun.  "Boat in Lake Mystery at Bowie," was the title for the story in the Washington Post.

Bowie Race Track map, June 1952 (The Baltimore Sun)

The pictures above can be purchased from The Baltimore Sun.  Click on the following links for more information.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Belair Village by Levitt and Sons

March 8, 1969 (44 years ago today):  This Levitt and Sons ad for Belair Village appeared in the newspaper.  The following text accompanied the ad:

Brand-new at Belair Village, this spacious colonial has four bedrooms, two complete baths and a powder room, comfortable family room, even a large breakfast alcove. Enough space and privacy for everyone!

Includes air conditioning and appliances!  Kitchen and laundry appliances by G.E. are included in the price... central air conditioning, too.  And there are other touches that add to the value and appeal of this spacious new home.  Like a formal reception foyer with walk-in-closet... paneled family room with exposed ceiling beams... built in vanities... decorator-selected lighting fixtures.  Landscaping is also included, with an ornamental gas lamp on the front walk.

Year 'round recreation!  At the town center lake, there will be boating in warm weather, and concerts at the lakeside band shell.  And just for children - a delightful animal farm... neighborhood parks... and open fields to romp in.  All the basics, too: convenient shopping, good schools, and houses of worship.

Six different models!  Levitt and Sons invites you to see its new colonial home in Belair Village.  And there are other models you can choose from - ranchers, colonials, bi-levels - priced from $23,900 complete.  Remember, with Levitt there are no hidden charges and no closing costs.  Decorator-furnished models are open weekdays 'til eight, weekends until seven at night.  Stop by any time!

Directions:  From Washington, take Capital Beltway to John Hanson Highway (Route 50) eastbound.  Continue on John Hanson Highway to exit at Maryland Route 197.  At end of exit ramp turn left, then drive 300 feet to the Belair Village exhibit area.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Nixon and Hoover visit the Bowie Race Track

Nixon and Hoover at the Bowie Race Track, March 7, 1959 (Washington Post)

March 7, 1959 (54 years ago today): Vice President Richard Nixon and FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover joined a crowd of more than 20,000 people to watch a nine race program at the Bowie Race Track.  The trip to see the horses was a birthday present for thirteen-year-old Tricia Nixon who hoped to one day own a horse. The Nixon party included Tricia Nixon's classmate Peggy Quinn as well as long time Hoover companion Clyde Tolson.  The Vice President presented a trophy to the winner of the Barbara Frietchie Handicap - the featured race of the day.

J. Edgar Hoover was a frequent visitor to the Bowie Race Track.

In this picture, Nixon and Hoover are in the restaurant at the Bowie Race Track watching the horses before the fourth race of the day. This photo was taken by Jim McNamara, Staff Photographer for the Washington Post.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Snow Storm Forces Horse Racing Fans to Sleep at Bowie Race Track

Bowie Race Track, February 23, 1958, Baltimore Sun
February 15, 1958 (55 years ago today): Eighteen inches of snow fell on Bowie, causing a massive traffic jam, and forcing hundreds of horse racing fans to spend the night at the Bowie Race Track. Nearly 14,000 fans came to Bowie for the races despite the forecast for heavy snow. One foot of snow fell by the time the last race of the day was over around 5:00pm. Thousands of cars soon left the parking lot, and drivers found the country roads hard to navigate. Several of the lead cars weren't able to make it up slippery hills, stranding an estimated 3,000 cars behind them. A tractor-trailer overturned on Route 197 making matters worse. People waited in their cars for hours, and many ran out of gas. Cars were abandoned, and some racing fans walked as far as three miles back to the warmth of the clubhouse. Despite the fact that the races were over, heavy betting continued on games of craps, poker and gin rummy. Track officials estimated that 250 gallons of coffee and 6,000 to 8,000 sandwiches were given to the stranded fans. The Pennsylvania Railroad dispatched a special train to the track later that night, and 1,600 passengers were taken to Penn Station in Baltimore. Hundreds of fans spent the night at the race track, sleeping on couches, in the track's infirmary or anywhere else they could find to sleep. A second train came back to the race track the following morning to pick up more passengers.

The picture above can be purchased from The Baltimore Sun.  Click on the following link for more information.

Friday, February 8, 2013

A Record Turnout for Open Day at the Bowie Race Track

February 8, 1958 (55 years ago today): A record 17,971 horse racing fans descended on the Bowie Race Track for what was the earliest opening day at the track at that time. Nearly one thousand of the fans traveled by bus from New York City, and some came by train from Philadelphia. The track was nearly frozen, and fans had to contend with wind and cold temperatures.

Pictured here is a race day traffic jam from August, 1973 (photo by Arnie Miles).

Photos of Bowie Maryland 1973 through 1975 by Arnie Miles is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License