Greenbelt Museum Lecture
The Greenbelt Museum was established in 1987 as one of the many projects to celebrate the city’s 50th anniversary. It includes an original Greenbelt house from 1937 at 10-B Crescent Road and an exhibition room in the Community Center. Throughout the year, the museum hosts a series of public lectures and programs on topics related to Greenbelt history, and on January 17, a lecture is held at the Community Center by Megan Searing Young, the museum’s curator, on a Greenbelt photo book she recently coauthored.
The title of the lecture is “Behind the Scenes of ‘Images of America: Greenbelt,’” and it is held at Room 201 of the Greenbelt Community Center. The book has just been published in November 2011 by Arcadia Publishing in its Images of America series (this is a series of local history photo books), and the Greenbelt book is coauthored by Jill Parsons St. John and Megan Searing Young, former and current curators of the Greenbelt Museum. This lecture is also on the official calendar of the Greenbelt 75th Anniversary Committee.
Young says that Arcadia Publishing has been interested in publishing a local history book on Greenbelt for a number of years, and the coauthors finally got around to doing it as the 75th anniversary approached. The book proposal was submitted in November 2009, and the contract was signed in January 2010. The cover was due in March 2011, and the final text in May 2011. The book was published two months ago on November 21, 2011. Here Young talks about choosing the book cover: they wanted one of President Roosevelt looking at a map of Greenbelt (which can be seen on page 20 of the book) but the publisher preferred this one showing two mothers walking with their children on one of Greenbelt’s signature inner pathways.
In this lecture Young shows a series of photos which could not be included in the book for one reason or another. They include a photo of the sculptor Lenore Thomas carving Mother and Child statue (at Roosevelt Center), numerous photos of Schrom Airport in Greenbelt East, photos by Paul Kasko who was a Greenbelt resident and took many picture around town, photos contributed by long-time residents such as the Labukas (see pages 80 and 91), Cooley (page 97), and Maffay (page 98) families. Here she talks about the photo on the left which she thinks may depict a New Year’s Eve celebration, with the table covered with beer bottles, and the one on the right which shows Johnny Philip Morris, a famous dwarf actor, with a Greenbelt policeman. Young does not know who the policeman is, and the audience members offer some guesses, including former Police Chief George Panagoulis.
About forty people attend tonight’s lecture.
There are a few questions from the audience after the lecture. One is about Langston Terrace, a New Deal housing project for African Americans in Washington, D.C. (Greenbelt was for white only). Young mentions its architect Hilyard Robinson, its European modernist style, and a related project for African Americans—Aberdeen Gardens in Newport News, Virginia. Someone from the audience says that Lenore Thomas, the sculptor for some of Greenbelt’s best known New Deal sculptures, also did work at Langston Terrace, and another mentions a thesis and video by Kelly Quinn on the project. Young says that the museum has the video and will try to show it.
Kelly Quinn’s 2007 University of Maryland Ph.D. thesis “Making Modern Homes: A History of Langston Terrace Dwellings, a New Deal Housing Program in Washington, D.C.” is available as a pdf file here.
After the lecture, the new Greenbelt book can be purchased for twenty dollars (the cover price is $21.99). On the left is the 75th Anniversary Committee chair Dave Mills. Other 75th anniversary souvenirs available are posters, mugs, T-shirts, tote bags, pens and pencils.
Mayor Judith “J” Davis (second from right) says that she treats her copy of the new book as a yearbook, and she goes around the room asking those pictured in the book to sign it for her. Here John Henry Jones (left), long-time head of the Greenbelt Garden Club, signs next to his photo on page 125.
Megan Searing Young signs books after the lecture.
James Giese (second from right) signs next to his photo on page 112 for Mayor Davis (right). Giese was Greenbelt’s city manager from 1962 to 1991 and the recipient of the city’s outstanding citizen award in 2010. He has also volunteered with the Greenbelt News Review for many years, and after this lecture, he is heading to the paper’s office for its Tuesday night editorial meeting.
John Henry Jones (left), Megan Searing Young (center), and James Giese look at a photo on page 105. The caption reads: “Sports and recreation continued to be an important part of life in Greenbelt for residents of all ages in the 1970s. Pictured above, proud winners of a kite-flying contest show off their trophies.” Jones discovers that his wife Elaine and three children are in the photo.
Many continue to chat long after the lecture. Second from left is Sheila Maffay-Tuthill, the Greenbelt Museum’s Education/Volunteer Coordinator. The Maffay family is one of Greenbelt’s pioneer families and their photos are featured on page 98 of the book.
John Henry Jones (left) and his wife Elaine Jones smile for the camera. His photo, showing him as the head of the Greenbelt Garden Club doing a seed exchange in front of Roosevelt Center, is on page 125. Her photo, showing her with their three children Nicholas, Nathan, and Corita, is on page 105.