Laurel, Maryland

Laurel Maryland

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lauel.jpgLaurel Maryland, is located midway between Washington, D.C. and Baltimore. Incorporated in 1870, the city maintains a historic district including its Main Street. In 2006 the  population estimate for Laurel city was 21,945.

While the city proper is located entirely within Prince George’s County, Laurel spreads eastward into Anne Arundel County, northward into Howard County, and west toward Montgomery County.  If you include all of the areas with Laurel postal zip codes, the population was 87,810 per the 2000 census.

Laurel is a short distance from Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory, Fort Meade US Army base and the National Security Agency (NSA). It is also adjacent to Laurel Park Racecourse, a horse racetrack in Anne Arundel County.


Pre-20th century

Laurel, Maryland was formed from land borded by the Patuxent River owned by the Snowden family, which also owned Montpelier. A grist mill on the site in 1811 expanded to a small cotton mill by the 1820s. In 1835, with the opening of the rail line from Baltimore to Washington, the Patuxent Manufacturing Company was created and the mill expanded even more.The mill built housing for close to 300 workers, and and continued the expansion of the cotton mill. Cotton duck from the mill was shipped down what would become Laurel’s Main Street then by rail to Baltimore. A substantial dam was built in 1850.

laurel-boys-girls-club.jpg The area was originally known as Laurel Factory, and was a true company town, with a school, and shops, and many of the mill workers’ homes owned until the 1860s by the company. The 1840s brought three historic churches to the community: the Methodist, St. Mary of the Mills (Roman Catholic), and St. Philip’s (Episcopal) established what are still-active congregations.

During the Civil War, Laurel Factory, reflected the divided views of Maryland, both southern and union sympathisers in its community. Union soldiers patrolled the railroad, and for a time there was also a Union hospital. During the latter half of the 19th Century, Laurel began to change. Laurel evolved into an early suburban town. Many of its citizens commuted by rail to jobs in Washington or Baltimore. The town was finally incorporated in 1870 and in 1890 added a new electric power plant and paved streets.

Citizens National Bank put a branch on Main Street in 1890 as Prince George’s County’s first nationally chartered bank, and remained with the same name until acquired by PNC Financial Services in 2007. Branch services are still provided from the original building.

In 1899, Laurel’s mayor Edward Phelps succeeded in constructing the first high school in Prince George’s County.  The original building, now known as the Phelps Community Center, still stands on the corner of Montgomery and Eighth Streets.

20th century

From 1948 to 1990, Laurel had harness racing track named Free State Raceway. 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 strip mall.

A former 1840s mill workers’ home at the corner of 9th and Main Streets was renovated and opened as the Laurel Museum on May 1, 1996. The museum exhibits highlight the history of Laurel and its citizens. A gift shop is available and museum admission is free. The museum’s library is open to researchers by appointment.

21st century


On September 24, 2001, a rare tornado passed through Laurel.  The tornado left some property damage, including the roof of Laurel High School.

On August 29, 2005, Laurel adopted Laurel, Mississippi as a sister city.  Laurel Maryland helped its sister city with Hurricane Katrina relief and recovery. In the two years following adoption, “the government, businesses and residents of Laurel, Md. … raised more than $20,000 for Laurel, Miss.”


Laurel is located at 39°5′45″N, 76°51′35″W. This positions it on the bank of the Patuxent River, which was the power source for the cotton mills that were the early industry of the town.

Though the incorporated portion of Laurel is located entirely within the northern tip of Prince George’s County, three other counties — Anne Arundel, Howard, and Montgomery — are adjacent to the city limits and also considered as part of the community.

The ZIP Codes for the community of Laurel are 20707 through 20709 and 20723 through 20729. Although served by the Laurel post office, Montpelier is not within the city limits; the same is true for the communities of Scaggsville and Whiskey Bottom in Howard County, and Maryland City and the recent community of Russett in Anne Arundel County.


For statistical reporting, the Census Bureau identifies four adjacent unincorporated areas:

  • West Laurel (upper west)
  • North Laurel
  • Maryland City (to the east)
  • South Laurel


Route 1 runs north and south through Laurel.   On the west the city is bordered by Interstate 95, and beyond the eastern border lies the Baltimore-Washington Parkway. Crossing all of these highways is the east-west artery of Maryland Route 198, which intersects with U.S. 1 in the heart of Laurel.

Other major state roads in Laurel are Maryland Route 216, which connects the city with southern Howard County, and Maryland Route 197, which runs from Laurel to Bowie. The eastern end of the proposed Intercounty Connector will lie just south of the city limits.

Suburban Airport, a one-strip general aviation facility, is located off of Maryland Route 197, in Anne Arundel County.  Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport and Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport are both within about 25 miles of Laurel.

Public Transport

Two MARC train stations on the Camden Line to Baltimore and Washington, D.C. are located in Laurel: Laurel Station and Laurel Racetrack Station, the latter with minimal service. Laurel Station is a notable because it is an excellent example of the stations designed by E. Francis Baldwin for the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad.

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) Metrobus service provides four lines into Laurel, and local Connect-a-Ride and Howard Transit bus service is available. Several taxicab and shuttle services also support the region.

Emergency services

The city of Laurel has its own police force, and is part of the Sixth District of the Prince George’s County Police Department. The Maryland State Police patrol Route 1, Route 198, and Interstate 95, which pass through the area, and the United States Park Police patrol the Baltimore-Washington Parkway and its connectors.

The primary emergency services providers for the City of Laurel and surrounding parts of Prince George’s County are the Laurel Volunteer Fire Department (Company 10) and the Laurel Volunteer Rescue Squad (Company 49). Both companies are part of the Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Department.

The Laurel Volunteer Fire Department was formed in 1902. Today the department is located at 7411 Cherry Lane. Volunteer staffing is supplemented by five career personnel from 7:00am to 3:00pm Monday through Friday excluding holidays. The company operates three fire engines (Engine 102, Engine 103, and Engine 104); and an aerial tower (Tower 10). Ambulance service began December 11, 2006. The City of Laurel Emergency Command Unit is also located at the station.

The Laurel Volunteer Rescue Squad was formed in 1952. Today the department is located at 14910 Bowie Road. Volunteer staffing is supplemented by four career personnel from 7:00am to 3:00pm Monday through Friday excluding holidays. The company operates one heavy rescue squad, one rescue-engine, three basic life support ambulances, and a swiftwater rescue team. A paramedic unit staffed by career personnel is also assigned to Company 49.

Laurel Regional Hospital, managed by Dimensions Health Corporation, is located on Van Dusen Road.

Municipal government

Laurel is governed by a 5-member city council and a mayor. There are two political wards in the city. The first ward is generally the area north of Maryland Route 198 and the second ward is to the south. Two council members are elected from each ward, and a council member is elected at large. Residents vote for all five council members, who must reside in the respective wards they represent.

Nonpartisan city-wide elections are held every two years on the third Monday in March at Phelps Senior Center on the corner of Montgomery Street and 8th Street/St. Mary’s Place.

The council elects one of its members to serve as president. The president of the city council presides over council meetings and can act in a limited capacity as mayor if the mayor is unavailable. Council members serve for two years each term; the mayor serves for four years.

Media and culture

Stanley Memorial Library, the Laurel branch of the Prince George’s County Memorial Library System, is located at the intersection of Seventh Street and Talbott Avenue. The “Maryland City at Russett” branch of the Anne Arundel County Public Library is also available to Laurel residents.


Television arrived in Laurel with the establishment of the first TV broadcast stations in Washington in 1946. For decades, Laurel has been served by the VHF TV channels 4, 5, 7, and 9 from Washington, and channels 2, 11, and 13 from Baltimore. In addition, there are dozens of UHF TV stations from Washington, Baltimore, and Annapolis. From these three cities, scores of AM and FM radio stations reach Laurel.

There are two local newspapers: Laurel Leader and The Laurel Gazette. In addition, there is one mediumwave AM radio station, WILC (Viva 900) serving the Hispanic community.

With its location between Washington and Baltimore, Laurel is also served by their daily newspapers The Washington Post, The Washington Times and The Baltimore Sun. Many Laurel residents also read a free newspaper, the Washington Examiner.


Laurel’s movie theater, the Laurel Cinema 6, shows first-run American movies and Bollywood movies. Local performing arts outlets include the Laurel Mill Playhouse, Central Maryland Chorale (formerly Laurel Oratorio Society) and Montpelier Arts Center, which also features an art gallery. Another local exhibitor is the WSSC Art Gallery.


The city government supports an annual LakeFest in May and Independence Day celebration each July. Since 1981, the Laurel Board of Trade has sponsored a Main Street Festival (held on Saturday of Mother’s Day weekend) each May, and since 1995 a RiverFest each October. The Montpelier Mansion grounds have hosted an annual festival the first weekend in May since 1971, updated in 2007 to focus on an “herb, tea and arts” theme.

Laurel in popular culture

There is a line in the novel The Dead Zone by Stephen King, consisting of “Laurel, Maryland” repeated over and over. Presumably this represents a psychic allusion to the attempted assassination of George Wallace in 1972.

In addition, in Tom Clancy’s novel The Cardinal of the Kremlin, an FBI agent pretending to work for DARPA comments to her target, a Soviet mole, “This is so much nicer than living in Laurel!”

X-Files episode, “Talitha Cumi”, references a street in West Laurel when Mulder says, “Off the I-95, uh Bond Mill Road,” while designating a location to meet with Scully.

Famous people

Future President and Mrs. Dwight D. Eisenhower and their first son (Doud Dwight, about 5 months old) lived at Mrs. Ray’s Boarding House at 327 Montgomery Street and Halverson’s Boarding House in Laurel in March 1918 during the couple’s second year of marriage.

Hall of Fame race horse jockey Ron Turcotte trained at Laurel Park race course in the late 1960s.

Rap artist Biz Markie moved to Laurel in 1996.

Former Megadeth lead guitarist Marty Friedman attended Laurel High School in the 1970s.


Primary and secondary schools

Public schools within city limits

Prince George’s County Public Schools serves residents within Laurel’s city limits.

City residents are zoned to Laurel Elementary School or Scotchtown Hills Elementary School, both within the city limits.

Two public middle schools in the Laurel area, Dwight D. Eisenhower and Martin Luther King Jr. Middle Schools in Prince George’s County, serve the actual city of Laurel.

Laurel High School serves the city of Laurel.

Public schools nearby

Nearby elementary schools serving areas outside of the Laurel city limits include Bond Mill, Deerfield Run, James H. Harrison, Montpelier, Oaklands, and Scotchtown Hills Elementary Schools in Prince George’s County; Brock Bridge and Maryland City Elementary Schools in Anne Arundel County; and Forest Ridge, Gorman, Hammond, and Laurel Woods Elementary Schools in Howard County.

Areas near Laurel in adjacent counties are served by MacArthur and Meade Middle Schools in Anne Arundel County and Hammond and Murray Hill Middle Schools in Howard County.

Other public high schools which serve the adjacent areas outside Prince George’s County include Meade High School in Anne Arundel County and Atholton, Hammond and Reservoir High Schools in Howard County.

District of Columbia alternative school

District of Columbia Public Schools operates an alternative middle and high school near Laurel called Oak Hill Academy.

Private schools

St. Vincent Pallotti High School is a private co-ed Catholic high school located in Laurel.

Colleges and universities

Prince George’s Community College and Howard Community College share a campus in Laurel called the Laurel College Center.

Capitol College is located south of Laurel.

Sports and recreation

Laurel’s Department of Parks & Recreation sponsors seasonal sports leagues for adults, with youth leagues in the area offered by the Laurel Boys and Girls Club. Events are held among eleven city parks, three athletic fields, and three community centers. The city also operates a municipal swimming pool and tennis courts. Four indoor facilities and seven outdoor facilities are available for private rental.

The Fairland Sports and Athletic Complex on the grounds of the Fairland Regional Park, southwest of the city limits, is operated by the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission. These facilities offer a broad variety of activities including swimming, gymnastics, tennis, racquetball, weight training, child sitting, and massage therapy.

Also located within Fairland Regional Park, The Gardens Ice House skating facility offers three rinks for ice skating lessons, public skating, figure skating, hockey, speed skating, and curling. Recent additional activities include basketball and lacrosse.

The Laurel Roller Skating Center, just north of the city limits, provides a location for public roller skating.