Greenbelt in 2012

A photo blog about Greenbelt, Maryland in its 75th anniversary year

Prince George’s County Historical Society Library

with 4 comments

October 6

In the basement of the Greenbelt Library is the Frederick S. DeMarr Library of County History of the Prince George’s County Historical Society. It started as the private collection of Fred DeMarr and contains 6,000 books, maps, photos, journals, and newspapers on Prince George’s County history.

The DeMarr Library is open on Saturday from noon to 4 p.m. and by appointment.

Clement Lau works behind the front desk. The library is operated by an all-volunteer staff.

These books by the front door are for sale. The book with a purple cover is the recently published “Historic Prince George’s County: A Confluence of Cultures,” written by members of the Prince George’s County Historical Society. On the right is a black-and-white photo of Fred DeMarr, the library’s benefactor.

Susan Pearl, the society’s historian, gives me a tour. Here she shows a reprint of the 1878 “Atlas of Fifteen Miles around Washington including the County of Prince George Maryland” by G.M. Hopkins and tells that many people come into the library to look at this atlas because it shows the county in 1878.

The 1878 Hopkins map shows the Turner and Walker farms, which are in the present day Greenbelt. (See my earlier post about Turner and Walker Cemeteries today.) College Lawn at the lower left corner is where the University of Maryland is.

This is a reproduction of Simon J. Martenet’s Map of Prince George’s County from 1861. Again Greenbelt’s Turner and Walker properties are marked. Pearl tells that the original map is in the Library of Congress and Martenet made maps for most of the counties in Maryland.

These are some of the books genealogy researchers look for including the 1878 Hopkins Atlas, “Index to the Probate Records 1696-1900,” “Indexes of Church Registers 1686-1885,” and “Index of Marriage Licenses 1777-1886.”

Susan Pearl brings out another atlas used to study Prince George’s County history.

Atlas of Prince George’s County Maryland Published by Franklin Survey Co.

This atlas was published in 1940.

Susan Pearl (right) and Tom Simon look through two atlases.

Pearl says that these are fire insurance maps from 1940 and show the buildings at the time. Here is the Greenbelt map.

The horse-shoe shaped Greenbelt and Greenbelt Lake

Clement Lau brings up on the computer screen a digitized version of Griffith M. Hopkins’s 1894 map of The Vicinity of Washington, D.C. This map is also in the Library of Congress, and Pearl says that it is a detailed map although it does not include the entire Prince George’s County.

Pearl points to the section that deals with Prince George’s County communities.

A few books on Greenbelt including “Greenbelt: History of a New Town 1937-1987” edited by Mary Lou Williamson and “Greenbelt, Maryland: A Living Legacy of the New Deal” by Cathy Knepper

These books lining the wall are filed by the Library of Congress call numbers, different from the county library’s system.

Pearl returns the reprint 1861 Martenet’s Map to the map storage location.

Subdivision plats dating back to late 19th century

Special collections such as family papers and materials on special topics, for example “Peace Cross Bladensburg,” “Paul T. Lanham Papers,” and “The Robert Stanley Bayne Robertson Collection.”

These photos were given to the Historical Society by the Prince George’s Post. The photos in this box lack proper identification so they cannot be filed.

Pearl picks up one that shows likely a groundbreaking ceremony at “Lanham-Seabrook Library.” She says that there is not a library at Lanham-Seabrook and the closest should be the New Carrollton Library.

Pearl shows the society’s photo archive with a box of index cards and tells that volunteers have been digitizing these photos.

Pearl picks out a sketch of the Marquis de la Fayette who visited Washington and Prince George’s County in 1824.

There are not many photos filed under Greenbelt.

Pearl picks out one filed under “Municipal Building dedication.”

The back of the photo says in pencil Frank Lastner and “Photo credit must be given to Cosmopolitan Photo Service Don Patterson.”

Under the subject “Democrats at the Lake” is this photo, showing a man standing on a mule cart.

The photo came from Prince George’s Post and the name Joe Cypriano [sic] is on the back. Joseph “Pop” Cipriano was a well-known character in Greenbelt for marching in Labor Day parades with his mule cart decorated with flowers. There is a note: “See Sept 18/58.”

Tom Simon recognizes a couple of names: Ben Goldfaden and Hal Silvers.

Tom Simon takes out a bound copy of Prince George’s Post from 1958.

Indeed in the September 18, 1958 issue is this photo with the following caption: “PLANNING RALLY—Members of the 21st District Democratic Club will hold a picnic and rally at Greenbelt Lake on Sept. 27 at 2 p.m. Shown here making plans for the affair, and exhibiting one of the “props”, are the committeemen in charge: (l. to r.) Eddie Smith; Ben Goldfaden, general chairman; County Commissioner Frank Lastner, honorary chairman; Maurice Ulmer; Leland Worthington; Martin Holly; Joseph Longridge; Joseph Cipriano; Thomas F. Rosewag; Frank Flury and Hal Silvers. Other committee members, not shown here, are Henry Brautigam, Hilda Lastner and Margaret Blacher.” Pearl says that the P.G. Post gave the bound copies and photographs to the Historical Society about 20 years ago when it went out of business.

Pearl looks in the library’s biographical files for Frank Lastner.

A clipping from Prince George’s Post, January 6, 1967, starts with: “Frank J. Lastner, a three-term Prince George’s County Commissioner who served two terms as Chairman and did not seek re-election last year, will be named today to a newly created County position of Federal Aid Coordinator.”

“The late Frederick S. DeMarr, Society Historian”

Susan Pearl shows me a list of the library’s books. She says that this list is not available online because volunteers are still checking it.

Pearl searches for “Out of the Past: Prince Georgeans and Their Land.”

Pearl tells me that this is a bust of Henry Clay. She says that the library moved around quite a bit from one historic house to another, from Montpelier to Riversdale to Marietta. While at Riversdale House, the bust was on the library shelf because Clay was a frequent visitor to Riversdale in the 19th century. Then for some reason the bust came with the library to Marietta House. The society offered to give it back to Riversdale but it did want it.

I ask Pearl about the move to Greenbelt and she takes me to the store room in the back with more file cabinets.

The society’s newsletters are stored here.

The May-June 2008 newsletter contains an announcement: “Authors to Fete Grand Opening of County Historical Library.”

The July-August 2008 newsletter contains a report of the reopening of the library in Greenbelt: “Society Celebrates Reopening of the Frederick S. DeMarr Library of County History.” There is a photo of then County Executive Jack B. Johnson on the left and one of Fred DeMarr’s sister and brother on the right.

The library also has paper copies of the Greenbelt News Review.

Pearl says that when the library is closed during winter break, Virginia Beauchamp of the Greenbelt News Review saves a copy of the paper for them.

Diane Stultz is a genealogical research specialist. She tells me that she is also a member of the Prince George’s County Genealogical Society which is an independent entity and has its own library in a house in Bowie near Belair Mansion and Belair Stable Museum. The Genealogical Society also holds monthly meetings at the New Carrollton Municipal Center. Here Stultz holds a 1944 yearbook of Bladensburg High School titled Peacecrosser.

A photo of the Bladensburg Peace Cross is on the title page.

There are also a few books for sale.

Clement Lau (right) and Steve Gilbert are both Greenbelt residents and volunteers at the library.

Susan Pearl says that the Prince George’s Historical Society is independent from the county’s library system. It is supported by 300 members and the membership due is $30 a year. There are about ten volunteers and their most urgent task is to put a list of the society’s collections on the internet so users can search it remotely. The society also publishes and sells books, holds fundraisers and receives donations. “The DeMarr family has continued to be quite generous.” Pearl says that she has been a member of the society for 30 years and knew Fred DeMarr well. DeMarr was born in 1928 and was the president of the Historical Society from 1973 to 1984. He collected a large number of book on Prince George and Maryland history which he intended to give to the society. Fred DeMarr died unexpectedly in 1997, and his library was legally transferred to the Historical Society by his sister. The library moved to Greenbelt in May 2008.

Written by eric

October 12, 2012 at 6:00 am

Posted in History

Tagged with , ,

4 Responses

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  1. Fascinating, Eric. Thanks for your very large contribution this year to the 75th anniversary of Greenbelt.

    Judy Bell

    October 12, 2012 at 6:47 am

  2. Well, your fine blog helped inspire me to join the P.G. County Historical Society, and to think more about my desire to study Piscataway Indian history. Thanks!

    Barbara Young

    October 12, 2012 at 1:20 pm

  3. Thanks, Eric! We are pleased to get the word out about the FredericK S. DeMarr Library of County History (of the Prince George’s County Historical Society). We’ll look forward to a lot of new visitors! People who cannot come during our regular open hours (Saturdays, noon to 4:00 p.m.) may call (301-220-0330) or e-mail us at to make an appointment to come in during the week.

    Thanks again!

    Susan Pearl and staff of the PGCHS library

  4. Hi, I’m about to make flight reservations for my brother and I to fly to DC and research the Wilcoxon Heritage there ( late 1600 to 1900) I have checked with MD archives online and have seen the land Thomas Wilcoxon owned around Oxon Hill on the Potomac, ( about 2000 acres) My flight is into DC on Monday 4-25-16, departing on Thurs 4-28-16. Our goal is to find and stand on that land and find out when John Wilcoxon settled there and from where? Do you think this trip is worth our time and yours. We are both retired now and if we don’t find out our kids never will. If you think I should go ahead w our plans I love to meet w someone from the PGHS on that Tues the 26. I feel PGHS is the place to start. Please call me any morning and we can discuss this further.
    Thank You
    Gary Wilcoxon

    ps. I talked w Karen S last fall about this, perhaps she will remember me.


    March 21, 2016 at 11:12 pm

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