Laurel | MD
Laurel is a city in Maryland, United States, located almost midway between Washington and Baltimore on the banks of the Patuxent River. While the city limits are entirely in northern Prince George’s County, outlying developments extend into Anne Arundel, Montgomery and Howard counties. Founded as a mill town in the early 19th century, Laurel expanded local industry and was later able to become an early commuter town for Washington and Baltimore workers following the arrival of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad in 1835. Largely residential today, the city maintains a historic district centered on its Main Street, highlighting its industrial past. The Department of Defense is a prominent presence in the Laurel area today, with the Fort Meade Army base, the NSA and Johns Hopkins’ Applied Physics Laboratory all located nearby. Laurel Park, a thoroughbred horse racetrack, is located just outside the city limits.
Many dinosaur fossils from the Cretaceous Era are preserved in a 7.5-acre (3.0 ha) park in Laurel. The site, which among other finds has yielded fossilized teeth from Astrodon and Priconodon species, has been called the most prolific in the eastern United States. From the Late Glacial age in 10,700 B.C. to 8,500 B.C., Laurel’s climate warmed and changed from a spruce forest to a hardwood forest. In the Late Archaic period from 4,000 to 1,000 B.C., Laurel would have been covered primarily with an oak and hickory forest.
In 1902, the City and Suburban Railway with the City and Suburban and Washington, Berwyn, and Laurel railway started single line electric trolley service. Laurel Park Racecourse, a thoroughbred racetrack, opened in 1911 and remains in operation. In the book, Seabiscuit: An American Legend, Laurel is mentioned several times as an important horse racing venue. Laurel also hosted a horse trotter (harness racing) track named Freestate Raceway from 1948 to 1990; it was located in Howard County on the west side of US Route 1, south of Savage in an area that now includes a CarMax dealership, Weis supermarket, and a strip mall. In February 1913, Laurel was a stopping point in the Suffrage hike led by Rosalie Gardiner Jones. She was joined by a Laurel-based colored women’s suffrage group and sent a parcel with a flag and message ahead to President-elect Wilson. In 1954, Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory built its campus west of Laurel in Howard County, using a Laurel address.
By 1960, Laurel anticipated massive growth from Fort Meade and NSA. The town still used the Patuxent River to drain sewage, and filed urban grants for water and sewage infrastructure. 5,000 houses were planned in the adjacent 1,200-acre Maryland City development. City Planner Harry Susini anticipated the National Capitol Planning Commission would use clustered development to prevent tightly massed population in Laurel by the year 2000. In 1982, developer Kingdon Gould III bought 3,539 acres of Laurel property (539 in North Laurel) in two deals for $15 million. The largest parcel lies between Laurel and Beltsville to be developed under the name Konterra, buoyed by access to major highways via the construction of Maryland Route 200. The Elizabeth House, a nonprofit food pantry and soup kitchen, was founded in 1988 to serve low-income residents of the Laurel area. This later grew to include emergency financial aid and transportation.