Meet the Mayors!

Not that long ago, Kevin Leonard, Pete Lewnes and I were having lunch at the Tastee Diner, discussing potential people to interview for our new Laurel History Boys project. Half-jokingly, I said, “How cool would it be to get all of the living ex-mayors of Laurel together, and film them reminiscing?”

Lo and behold, in what will be our very first public program, we’re getting ready to do just that.

I’m thrilled that each of the living former Mayors of Laurel—along with current Mayor Craig A. Moe—will be participating in a fun, informal roundtable discussion, reminiscing on their time in office.

question-teaser

Dani Duniho, who was Laurel’s first and only female mayor (from 1986-1990) was planning to join us via Skype from her home in Tuscon, Arizona. Unfortunately, she has some family commitments this weekend and won’t be able to join us live. However, Kevin spent a good deal of time with her on the phone, and she provided a wealth of anecdotes that he’ll be sharing. So she will still very much be part of the discussion.

Joining Mayor Moe at the table will be former mayors Robert DiPietro (1978-86), Joe Robison (1990-94), and Mike Leszcz (2001-02)—the latter being the only mayor in Laurel’s history to hold the office after the death of a sitting mayor, when he completed the second term of the late Frank Casula.

We’ve got some interesting questions for these guys, but the real fun will be seeing where the conversation goes when we turn them loose! Time permitting, the mayors will also be taking some questions from the audience.

This free event will be open to the public, and takes place tomorrow evening:

Saturday, December 12
5PM
Laurel Police Department Partnership Activity Center
811 Fifth Street

We’ll also be filming the discussion and posting it on laurelhistory.com, as well as sharing it with Laurel TV.

I designed a program brochure for the event, and Bob Mignon of Minuteman Press on Main Street graciously donated the printing. If you’re attending in person, you’ll get one!

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Also, a big thanks to Jeff Dudley—who wrote a wonderful piece on the Laurel History Boys in his Old Town Laurel column in this week’s Laurel Leader!

old-town-laurel-lhb-column-dec10

Pete will have a table set up displaying some of the vintage political pieces from his extensive collection, and we’ll also have some t-shirts, vintage posters, and Lost Laurel books for sale. (Perfect stocking stuffers!)

Come join us tomorrow night, and meet the Mayors of Laurel!

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Laurel TV Episode 7: The Stefanie Watson Cold Case

This has been a long time coming due to an increasingly busy schedule, but I’ve finally completed my latest episode of Lost Laurel for Laurel TV. It was by far the toughest one I’ve produced—but the most gratifying. It’s a full recap of the improbable journey helping to reignite the Stefanie Watson cold case back in 2012, and the unlikely arrest that was made the following year.

Todd McEvers, who was a 17-year-old Pallotti student back in 1982, was the lone witness who saw a man throwing something into the woods at the dead end of Larchdale Road. Moments later, he made the startling discovery—Stefanie’s partial skeletal remains. Three days after graduating, his family moved to Reno, Nevada—convinced that the killer knew exactly where they lived.

For the past 33 years, Todd had kept that harrowing tale to himself, speaking only to detectives. After the 2013 arrest of John Ernest Walsh, whose DNA was found in Stefanie’s bloodstained Chevette, Todd contacted me and shared his story. Now a high school teacher in Arizona, he graciously recorded an interview segment for this episode. Thank you again, Todd.

It’s a difficult subject, to be sure, and a dark chapter in Laurel’s history that I’m grateful to have helped bring some closure to. Walsh’s trial for first degree murder is now scheduled for March of next year, and I’m looking forward to proudly attending that beside Stefanie’s incredibly strong family.

Click here to watch in HD on YouTube.

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Coming Soon…

What do you get when you combine the creator of Lost Laurel, the “History Matters” columnist from the Laurel Leader, and the owner of the largest private collection of historical Laurel memorabilia? A trio of hyper-local history buffs eager to share the stories and images you don’t always discover in the newspapers and museums. Details coming soon about an exciting new joint project that will go BEYOND Lost Laurel… Stay tuned!

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Main Street Time Machine

The next time you’re traveling along Main Street, (preferably walking, rather than driving) do yourself a favor and stop in front of Minuteman Press at 335 Main Street. Even if you don’t have anything to be printed, just do some proverbial window shopping—you’ll be in for a historical treat.

A few months ago, owner Bob Mignon expanded his longtime corner business. You might’ve noticed the “Future Home of Minuteman Press” banner… ironically just steps away from what was then the current home.

(Photo: John Mewshaw)

(Photo: John Mewshaw)

Bob didn’t simply move into the larger space next door, he consolidated the building—much as a distant tenant from the early 1920s did, when it was the Ellis Market grocery store.

IMG_3719

Laurel News Leader ad, 1948

Laurel News Leader ad, 1948

(Laurel News Leader ad, 1953)

(Laurel News Leader ad, 1953)

(Laurel News Leader ad, 1954)

(Laurel News Leader ad, 1954)

Being a Laurel history buff himself, (and a tremendous supporter of the Laurel Historical Society) Bob had a unique vision for decorating the expanded storefront windows. He was interested in showcasing historic photos of the town, and worked with Beltsville’s Jay Williams Design Company to create a display that takes the viewer back nearly a century.

(Photo courtesy Greater Beltsville Business Association)

(Photo courtesy Greater Beltsville Business Association)

Included are larger than life images of the Harrison-Beard Building at Montgomery and 9th Streets, Laurel’s train station, (very much relevant, given the current controversy over a new Howard County stop threatening to take its place) St. Philip’s Church, and the electric trolley station at 6th & Main Streets (site of the current Oliver’s Old Towne Tavern—quite the historic little building in its own right.)

But the centerpiece of the design—literally—are the photos and narrative covering the door to the 337 entrance.

Last August, while Bob and Jay were still planning the display, an elderly woman and her family happened to be across the street from Minuteman Press, seemingly admiring the building. Bob went outside to say hello, and found himself meeting 90-year-old Shirley Ellis Siegel, who was visiting with her sons to reminisce about the house she grew up in during the 1920s.

This serendipitous meeting resulted in the photos now featured on the door, which the Ellis family happily shared. The large image showing the market’s interior is used perfectly—it’s as though you’re looking through the door into the building’s past.

IMG_3721 IMG_3716 IMG_3718  IMG_3723 IMG_3725 IMG_3726

Kudos to Bob Mignon, Jay Williams, and the Ellis family for creating a fantastic visual tribute. It’s a wonderful new way to share the city’s history right there on its most historic street.

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Lost Laurel… in Hyattsville

You could say that the Prince George’s County Library System is in my DNA. Since I was a kid, I’ve loved libraries; it’s no wonder that my very first job was at the Stanley Memorial Library, where I ended up working as a clerical aide from 1987 to 1997. Not only that, but just before I was born, my mom worked at the Hyattsville Branch. (We actually lived in Hyattsville just before moving to Laurel in 1976). That was the first library I’d ever visited—and I literally thought it was out of this world:

(Photo:  © Prince George's County Memorial Library System)

The Hyattsville Branch’s iconic “flying saucer” entrance. (Photo: © Prince George’s County Memorial Library System)

I made the trek to the Hyattsville Branch today for a very special reason. My book, Lost Laurel, was recently added to the PGCMLS collection—and a reference copy is now on the shelf in the historic Maryland Room! It sounds cheesy, but I wanted to visit it.

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Sure enough, tucked between larger, older volumes, there it was—bearing Dewey Decimal System label MDR 975.251 FRI.

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I spent a few quality minutes browsing the other shelves, too. The fact that I had the Maryland Room all to myself today made the visit all the more special. (And yes, the clerical aide in me couldn’t resist re-shelving a few books I spotted that were out of place. Old habits die hard…)

I’m still sad that the old Stanley Memorial Library where I worked is completely gone now, although Laurel certainly did need an upgrade. And significant progress is finally being made on the new Laurel Branch. PGCMLS has an official Flickr album with frequent updates.

(Photo: © Prince George's County Memorial Library System)

(Photo: © Prince George’s County Memorial Library System)

Admittedly, I’m much more excited to see it completed now than I was a few months ago. I’m even more excited to see some Lost Laurel books on those brand new shelves.

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Big News!

lost-laurel-5000

Lost Laurel reached an amazing milestone this weekend—5,000 Facebook fans! To celebrate, I’ve designed over 50 t-shirts inspired by long-gone Laurel landmarks with even more to come. They’re available on-demand exclusively at Spreadshirt.com, and a portion of each purchase helps support the Lost Laurel project—including the sneak preview below…

book-sneak-peek

Since the Lost Laurel book came out, several people have asked if there’ll be a sequel. Not exactly; but my next book project promises to be even more fun. It’s a collaboration with Laurel Leader “History Matters” columnist Kevin Leonard, and highlights an absolute treasure trove of rare photos and artifacts from the Berman family—the visionaries who built Laurel Shopping Center in 1956 and have made so many other contributions to our town in the years since. Stay tuned, as this one is just starting to take shape!

In other book news, I was thrilled to learn that Lost Laurel was officially added to the Prince George’s County Memorial Library System‘s collection, and a reference copy is now housed at the prestigious Maryland Room in the Hyattsville Branch. As a former clerical aide who re-shelved books for nearly 10 years at the Laurel Library, it’s such an honor to have a book of my own in the collection.

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Thanks to everyone for continuing to spread the word and share the nostalgia!

https://shop.spreadshirt.com/lostlaurel/

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Wearable Lost Laurel!

As hard as it is for me to believe, the Lost Laurel Facebook Page is inching closer to a pretty incredible milestone: 5,000 fans! When I started this thing back in 2011, I honestly thought that maybe a handful of my oldest friends would take an interest—I had no idea this many folks would share my enthusiasm for this kind of hyper-local, hometown nostalgia.

That being said, I’m trying to do something special to celebrate. I’ve been asked quite a few times about designing Lost Laurel t-shirts, and I think this is the perfect time to do so. And I’ve finally created one that I think anyone who lived here in the 1980s will especially appreciate. Inspired by one of my favorite places in town growing up, the old Laurel Centre Mall logo perfectly symbolizes what Lost Laurel is all about.

lost-laurel-centre-inspiration

But that’s only the beginning.

What’s more, I’d been thinking long and hard about how so many of Laurel’s places past have faded away without leaving a souvenir, so to speak. The phrase, “Been there, done that, got the t-shirt” also sparked an idea—if I could go back in time and design t-shirts for the places we once knew and loved, what would they look like?

In some cases, certain businesses actually had shirts made for their employees, but most of those have long since disappeared—sadly relegated to thrift stores and used as rags in the years after they’d served their purpose. Those of us who shopped there never had the chance to buy one of our own; and let’s face it—who really would’ve wanted one at the time? But in the decades that have followed, we realize just how strong this nostalgia stuff can be.

I thought of simple places like Keller’s and Bob’s Cab—places that we took for granted all those years ago… And then I had fun re-imagining what their respective brands might look like today… on a t-shirt.

kellers-shirt-inspiration

bobs-cab-montage

Sometimes all it takes is a hint of familiar typography, or an architectural element from an old sign; and suddenly, you’ve got a t-shirt that visually pays tribute to these beloved, long-lost places past. And the idea of seeing them on the streets of Laurel again after all these years is quite a trip.

Here’s a sampling:

shirts-collection

It’s a unique chance to bring back some wonderful memories in a whole new way, and to spread the fun.

I do have to point out that I’m not doing this for profit. Nor is there any infringement of trademark rights that were abandoned years ago, had they ever existed at all. None of these shirts are being mass-produced—I’m simply creating new designs and making them available through Spreadshirt.com, where we can order them on-demand. (Yep, I have to pay the same price you do.) Most of the shirts are $20, nearly all of which goes to Spreadshirt for fulfillment. I’ll only receive a small commission for having produced the designs, which will still go a long way in helping support the Lost Laurel project.

It’s something that I can continually add to, as well, which makes this extra exciting. Maybe we’ll have polls to vote on which Lost Laurel shirt I should design next… or perhaps vote on which design you prefer, like this 1960s matchbook cover concept for the Turf Club:

turf-club-options

Of course, this is also the perfect opportunity to remake a classic Main Street bootleg shirt from 1993, when it seemed imminent that Jack Kent Cooke was going to build his new stadium right there at the corner of Whiskey Bottom and Brock Bridge Roads in Laurel. (Fortunately for us, the U.S. Patent Office recently cancelled the Washington Redskins’ trademarks, meaning that a “Laurel Redskins” t-shirt no longer even qualifies as “bootleg,” ironically). If you missed your chance to own one 20 years ago, you’re in luck. You can even have it in time for the regular NFL season!

laurel-redskins-inspiration

(Photo: John Mewshaw, 1993)

Some of the other design highlights so far include:

  • Pal Jack’s Pizza: with faithfully-recreated lettering based on the hand-carved sign
  • Laurel Pop Festival: completely recreated from the rare original poster
  • Laurel Hotel: a re-imagined vintage typographic treatment
  • Herb’s Carry-Out: an artistic rendering of the iconic building
    … And lots more to come!

It’s also that time of year to start thinking about Christmas gifts, and any of these shirts will make awesome stocking-stuffers for the Lost Laurelites on your list. I’ve already bought a few of them myself to make sure the printing quality is good and that they hold up in the wash, and I’m extremely happy with them. Plus, Spreadshirt has a 30-day return policy, should you need it.

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So, get ready to start sporting your favorite little slice of Lost Laurel like never before! And be sure to take and share photos when you’re wearing them out in the old neighborhood!

Visit the Lost Laurel shop on spreadshirt.com
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2001 Tornado Footage

In “Ripped from the Headlines: Laurel in the News,” the current exhibit at the Laurel Museum,  there’s a panel in the Disasters section that covers the tornado that wreaked havoc through the Fairlawn neighborhood and beyond in September 2001—less than two weeks after 9/11. Remember, this was a town already on edge after learning that some of the hijackers had stayed in Laurel… and then a tornado literally blew through.

The panel features the cover of that week’s Laurel Leader, which included a stunning image of the funnel cloud moving just beyond Laurel Shopping Center and the Middletowne Apartments high rise.

tornado-panel-sm

The image wasn’t a photograph, but a video still from footage shot by Brian Alexander—shot from the fourth floor office of the former American National Bank building, which was demolished in 2012 to make way for a new Walgreens.

(Photo: Richard Friend, 2012)

(Photo: Richard Friend, 2012)

Until today, that was the only image I’d ever seen of the tornado itself, although there are plenty of photos of its aftermath. The tornado briefly reached the F3 category, with winds up to 160 mph. Laurel was fortunate that there were no casualties that day, although there was plenty of damage—portions of roofs were blown off Laurel High School, and the historic Harrison-Beard Building at Montgomery and Ninth Streets was nearly lost; one house along the 1000 block of Tenth Street was completely destroyed.

As yet another September is upon us, it’s hard to believe it’s been 14 years since this happened. And it all came back vividly today when Steve Jones sent me the following footage—these appear to be the actual Brian Alexander video clips themselves, as well as some bonus footage of the aftermath.

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Farewell, Pallotti Playground Fire Truck

Some things just have a way of becoming part of the landscape, whether they’re intentional landmarks or not. Even if it’s a place you never visited—if you saw it routinely for over three decades, you just got used to it being there. And it’s always a bit of a shock when it disappears.

Ordinarily, I’d be talking about a store, a restaurant, or some other long-time Laurel business that’s shuffled off into the sunset. But this time, it’s a piece of playground equipment.

(Photo: John Floyd II)

(Photo: John Floyd II)

Not just any old swing set, sliding board, or merry-go-round, though—this was originally a real, working fire engine for the Hillandale Volunteer Fire Department. But in the summer of 1980, it somehow ended up in the Pallotti Early Learning Center’s playground. And ever since, the unmistakable red fire truck had remained a truly unique piece of equipment for kids to explore and enjoy.

After 36 years, the corner of Montgomery Street and St. Mary’s Place is going to look quite different without it.

Laurel resident John Floyd II probably knows far more about fire trucks than you or I ever could, and he was there last Monday when the old truck was excavated and hauled away. Former volunteer firefighter Dave Hilliard plans to use its parts to restore a similar fire truck in his possession; and he agreed to take the truck now that now that Pallotti’s daycare staff and children have left the area and moved into a new building nearby.

John posted the following recap on Facebook earlier this week:

On Monday morning, 24th August 2015, a battered and forlorn-looking old fire engine that had been a familiar sight in Laurel MD’s Old Town district for three-and-a-half decades was dug out of its earthen plinth in Pallotti Day Care Centre’s playground, hoisted aboard a heavy-duty roll-back truck after some careful manoeuvres, and taken away to its new home between Gambrills and Crownsville MD.

The fire engine is a 1955 American LaFrance 700 Series pump that was delivered new to Hillandale VFD in Montgomery County and served there until the early 1970s. After a few years of private ownership, the scruffy-looking and slightly-rusty engine was donated to the Pallottine Sisters for use in their children’s playground and it arrived behind a tow crane in June of 1980. Soon, the engine was “planted” in just the right spot with decorative stones all around, painted bright red, and kitted out with wooden platforms topside for the children to climb and play on.

Every few years, the school’s maintenance staff would slather a fresh coat of red paint on the engine by hand with brushes and this has preserved its sheet metal and inhibited rust over the decades. The rig’s bronze 750 gallons-per-minute fire pump and Continental 6-cylinder motor were left intact and have remained un-disturbed. Eventually, those charged with keeping the engine painted started cutting corners and painted over everything: chromium trim, headlamps, running boards – fresh, bright red on everything except the bumper!

Saint Vincent Pallotti High School, in whose building the day care centre had operated, has been expanding with increased enrollment and needed more space, requiring the day care and playground to be moved to the northern end of the city block-long property. Alas, the fire engine was too large to be placed in the new playground area so it had to go. Some time ago, I suggested that Hillside VFD fireman and vintage fire engine collector David Hilliard contact the Pallottine Sisters to see what they intended to do with the engine and earlier this summer, they graciously decided to give it to David with the proviso that he remove it from the property when the time came . . . and that time finally came!

With the assistance of Berwyn Heights MD fireman and fellow collector Jimmy Woodhouse, N&S Towing of Beltsville MD, and Larry Frederick along with days of digging around the engine and other preparation work, all was ready for the move. Several of us arrived at 9 am and soon, we were joined by Sister Karen Lester, Hillandale VFD fireman Earl Clime who’d worked with the engine long ago, Laurel Leader newspaper reporter Andrew Michaels, the day care centre’s director, several school staff, and a whole bunch of little kids, some of whom were quite sad to see “their” fire engine going away!

Here, then, is my picture gallery of the departure of this familiar and interesting piece of local history that’s been part of Laurel MD since 1980. A typical American fire engine of the mid-20th Century gets a new chance at life – enjoy! JDF II

Photos: John Floyd II

Laurel Leader coverage: Fire truck leaves Laurel learning center after 36 years

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Laurel Regional Hospital… Closing?

For the past few days, I’ve been excited about the very real prospect of seeing a fitting, lasting tribute to Stefanie Watson at Laurel Regional Hospital. The former emergency room night admissions clerk who was murdered in 1982 was originally honored by having the lobby’s family room officially dedicated in her memory; but sadly, that seems to have fallen by the wayside in the subsequent decades as the hospital expanded under new management. (That’s not the least of which has fallen, but we’ll get to that in a moment.)

After my Laurel Historical Society program on the cold case being solved, I wrote to Laurel Mayor Craig Moe and City Council Member Fred Smalls about an idea I had to rectify this. Rather than another lobby plaque which may once again be misplaced with future expansion, I proposed that the street behind the hospital—the as-of-yet-unnamed road that leads to the emergency room; the very road that Stefanie used to drive to and from her work shift—be officially named “Stefanie Watson Way”.

STEFANIE-WATSON-WAY-1 STEFANIE-WATSON-WAY-2

I added that the street name dedication ceremony would also be an excellent opportunity to commend the Laurel and Prince George’s County Police Departments for having the foresight to preserve the evidence that ultimately solved her murder 31 years later. Moreover, it would bring great closure to Stefanie’s family and the community, as the original tribute was also made at the beginning of what would become an agonizing 30-year cold case.

That case has now been solved, and I can think of no better way to reinstate the lost tribute to a much-loved hospital employee who brought so much comfort and kindness to emergency room patients and families in her short time here. I think it would also be a tremendously positive story for the hospital itself—which, let’s face it, needs all the positive press it can get. (It’s currently a 2-out-of-5-star facility on Google Reviews, and most of the stories you hear from patients are literally the stuff of nightmares.)

That being said, I was thrilled when I received replies from both Mayor Moe and Mr. Smalls this week—and they’re in favor of the street naming idea!

Mr. Smalls has sent my request to Laurel Regional Hospital President John Spearman and Dimensions Healthcare Chairman Judge Phil Nichols for review.

Well, imagine my surprise when I saw this headline today:

Screen Shot 2015-07-31 at 11.25.23 PMScreen Shot 2015-07-31 at 11.25.39 PM

Um, what?

Evidently, that was the reaction of Laurel’s city leaders, as well. This “decision” was apparently made unilaterally by Dimensions Healthcare without any notice to the community at large. That includes Mayor Moe, who responded with this assessment:

 Laurel Mayor Critical Of Plan To Close Laurel Regional Hospital

Today the City of Laurel government along with residents and businesses of the Laurel-Beltsville area learned of a decision to close the full service Laurel Regional Hospital. This decision was made in closed door sessions with no community involvement and without discussions with local elected officials. It was based on a consultant’s report that contained no evaluation of the potential to sell the hospital and the campus.

As the Mayor of the City of Laurel, I am deeply concerned about the tremendous impact on the safety and well-being of the residents of northern Prince George’s County and surrounding areas, and I am also troubled by the loss of many jobs for Prince George’s County/Laurel residents that would follow this closure. I believe this action is a direct result of poor leadership and management on the part of Dimensions Healthcare System.

Dimensions Healthcare System is a not-for-profit hospital system that was formed in 1982 to serve the residents of Prince George’s County and surrounding areas. Throughout its history, Dimensions has been plagued by financial and operational issues that the leadership failed to address. The decision to close this full service hospital is yet another failure of Dimensions executives to operate their facilities in an efficient manner. I question why the Dimensions leadership failed to provide the public with full disclosure of the information contained in the consultant’s scope of work. Why was the local Laurel Regional Hospital Board of Directors kept out of the discussions regarding the future of the Hospital? Was the closing of the full service Laurel Regional Hospital part of the justification of need for the new regional medical center?

We understand that the plan of Dimensions Healthcare leaders is to re-open the facility as a limited service facility. Until the Dimensions Healthcare System is replaced I believe this poor substitute will fail as well. Turning this hospital into a limited service facility will also adversely affect the already stressed ambulance service in the region. Ambulances will be required to go out of service for significantly longer periods of time to transport patients to other facilities.

I support the Prince George’s Regional Medical Center plans but not at the expense of closing the full service Laurel Regional Hospital. The Laurel-Beltsville area and Prince George’s County residents deserve better. I call upon all affected residents, employees and businesses to contact County Executive Rushern Baker, County Councilmember Mary Lehman and Dimensions Healthcare Board of Directors to express dissatisfaction with this tragic decision and request that the hospital be sold to another hospital management organization, either for profit or not-for-profit, or even look into bringing  more specialized healthcare to the current hospital.

I look forward to future discussions about OUR regional hospital.

Craig A. Moe

Laurel Mayor

Needless to say, it was like a punch to the gut. I expected to encounter some red tape in my quest for “Stefanie Watson Way” to become the newest street in Laurel; I did not expect the very hospital itself to suddenly announce its intent to cease operations (no pun intended).

Granted, this is all very new information, (much like the recent and ongoing snafu with Laurel’s historic Main Street train station) but from what I’m hearing, the hospital as a whole isn’t planning to completely disappear—but it is proposing to drastically downsize and essentially change to an outpatient only facility. According to the Laurel Leader, the Dimensions board voted to replace the hospital with a new, $24 million ambulatory care center by 2018:

“The change is an effort to curb the multi-million dollar losses Laurel Regional has seen in recent years, and will result in limited hospital services as well as considerable job loss in Laurel as the new facility will only provide 30 inpatient beds.”

“The move is part of a state trend to move health care out of inpatient hospitals and into outpatient facilities, Dimensions said. The new Laurel facility would continue to provide emergency services, outpatient surgery and diagnostic services currently offered by Laurel Regional. The county has plans to create a Prince George’s Regional Medical Center, which would provide the full-service medical support no longer found in Laurel.”

Nope. That doesn’t make any sense to me, either.

Admittedly, I don’t know the first thing about hospital administration, health care, or any of that stuff. But I do know this: you don’t close a functioning hospital in a growing town for any reason. What they’re proposing sounds like a glamorized urgent care center, which Laurel doesn’t need. What it does need, evidently, is a complete hospital overhaul to weed out the people who’ve steadily ruined this once proud facility.

Stefanie Watson moved to Laurel in 1981 in order to work at what was then called the Greater Laurel-Beltsville Hospital. The hospital, which had just opened in 1978, was a much different place back then—before Dimensions Healthcare would take over, and change the name to Laurel Regional. In hindsight, that was probably the first clue that things weren’t going to get any “greater”.

Ballpoint pen, circa 1980s.  (Lost Laurel collection)

Ballpoint pen, circa 1980s.
(Lost Laurel collection)

Obviously, the first priority is to ensure that Laurel’s hospital retains its complete functionality. Not only that, but it must improve its quality of care across the board. Its mismanagement cannot be allowed to continue to the point where it’s only serving patients in an ambulatory, outpatient manner. Remember—urgent care centers are terrific in a pinch, when you want to avoid the emergency room; (heck, there’s a brand new one at the new Towne Centre at Laurel) but they’re no substitute for a real, bona fide hospital if, God forbid, you should ever need one.

Regardless of what happens with the hospital itself, it would be a shame if the consideration for “Stefanie Watson Way” now gets overlooked in the wake of this larger dilemma. Let’s name that street after Stefanie Watson already, and keep it there throughout whatever changes come. Let her name serve as a constant reminder of the way Laurel’s hospital should be run.

As the September 30, 1982 Laurel Leader reported—at the time of her original memorial:

“The memorial, said a staff physician who worked closely with the murdered woman, was fitting, for she considered her job as an admitting clerk as more than filling out insurance forms. Watson never failed to take the time to console families of the sick and injured, bringing them coffee while she worked throughout the night shift and giving them a chance to talk about their anxiety and grief.”

She was “…always caring and concerned for all the people she met… ingenious and never cynical, even when patients or their families seemed undeserving of her patience and thoughtfulness.”

Contacts for both the hospital and street naming issue:

RUSHERN L. BAKER III, County Executive
Office of County Executive
County Administration Building, Room 5032
14741 Governor Oden Bowie Drive,
Upper Marlboro, MD 20772 – 3070
e-mail: countyexecutive@co.pg.md.us

MARY A. LEHMAN, Prince George’s County Council, District 1
County Administration Building, 2nd floor
14741 Governor Oden Bowie Drive
Upper Marlboro, MD 20772 – 3070
e-mail: malehman@co.pg.md.us

DIMENSIONS HEALTHCARE SYSTEM
Board of Directors
Prince George’s County Hospital Center
3001 Hospital Drive
Cheverly, Maryland  20785

Additional sources:
http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/howard/laurel/ph-ll-laurel-regional-replaced-by-outpatient-facility-20150731-story.html

http://www.nbcwashington.com/news/local/Laurel-Regional-Hospital-Downsizing-to-Become-Ambulance-Care-Center-320317391.html

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