Where We Live: Bladensburg, Md., is a port town with history

August 22, 2014

Carlyncia Peck and her husband have been living in their tidy four-bedroom Colonial in Bladensburg, Md., in a neighborhood with a smattering of vintage Victorians, since 1985.

Peck, like many other residents of the community in western Prince George’s County, takes pride in Bladensburg’s past and present: It played a key role in the War of 1812, which will be celebrated Saturday and Sunday, and is now drawing a diverse mix of newcomers.

“There are so many new neighbors coming in,” said Peck, 46, a vocalist, actress and model. “We have Latinos, African Americans, Caucasians.”

Nearly 10,000 people live within the community’s 1.1 square miles.

John Moss, the town administrator, likes to think Bladensburg’s reputation as a down-to-earth community is drawing people looking for a place with a blue-
collar ethos and sturdy yet reasonably priced houses.

“We have a variety of people, just not a whole bunch of rich people,” said Moss, the town’s former police chief. “We have a lot of folks who are service workers and their jobs are in Washington, D.C. So this is an ideal location for them to live.”


Waterfront Days:
The town’s back story, overflowing with deadly shipboard imagery and a shocking climax, is one for the books. During the War of 1812, British troops overpowered American forces in what is now Bladensburg, allowing the English to carve a direct path from what is today the Anacostia River to the federal city. Once in Washington, they torched the Capitol and the White House.

On Saturday and Sunday, the community will host Bladensburg Waterfront Days at Waterfront Park, commemorating the battle, which occurred on Aug. 24, 1814. The park, along the banks of the Anacostia River near the Peace Cross, provides a paved waterside walkway, a fishing pier, and canoe, kayak and paddle-boat rentals. There’s also a picnic pavilion and a classic B&O Railroad caboose.

“We’re keeping an honest effort to keep [citizens] educated . . . energized,” Moss said about the efforts to remind the town about its starring role in the early days of the republic.


Neighborhood involvement:
Peck has made it her business to encourage newcomers to participate in civic matters and neighborhood recreation programs.

She’s helping to coordinate a summer camp for youngsters in Bladensburg and the adjacent communities that make up the Port Towns: Colmar Manor, Cottage City and Edmonston. Peck also wants everyone to become aware of the bike trail that goes through the towns. “Many people don’t know about it,” she said.

Peck, who has appeared on TV shows including “House of Cards,” said Bladensburg is where she and her husband raised their three adult children. Along with the community’s central location near the District and not far from Baltimore and Annapolis, “we have that beautiful Bladensburg waterfront,” she said. “It’s a small-town feel — quiet enough for intimate time with your family.”

Mario Repole, 62, who co-owns Three Brothers Italian Restaurant in a strip shopping center on Kenilworth Avenue, said he enjoys serving the community. Chicken parmesan and steak-and-cheese subs, he said, are popular with the weekday workforce from the nearby cluster of warehouses, offices and shops.

“We have people from all walks of life,” said Repole, who owns 14 outlets that go as far as Ocean City. “We have senators, judges and soccer players” as customers.

Meanwhile, Moss said he is encouraged by a new level of cultural appreciation in Bladensburg, beginning with this spring’s healthy turnout for Cinco de Mayo and other smaller events. “They learn about all the other cultures and everyone attends everyone else’s event. It’s almost like a Currier and Ives,” he said.


Living there:
The town’s irregular borders suggest a cartoon whale, with a head just east of the Anacostia River and a body and tail curling to the north and east, north of Annapolis Road (Route 450) and west of the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, as far north as Carters Lane.

During the first six months of 2014, 23 homes were sold in Bladensburg, with purchase prices ranging from $65,000 for a condo/co-op to $219,000 for a three-
bedroom townhouse, said Yolanda Muckle, an agent with Long & Foster in Mitchellville. Ten properties are now listed for sale, six detached residences and four condo units. The list price for these units ranges from under $50,000 to $450,000.

“It’s a strong seller’s market in Bladensburg,” Muckle said. “The average days on market is 23, compared to 96 days last year. And the average sale price has increased by 28 percent year over year,” she added.


Schools:
Templeton, Rogers Heights, Port Towns and Bladensburg elementary schools; William Wirt Middle; and Bladensburg High.


Transit:
Metrobus lines run to the Cheverly, West Hyattsville and Prince George’s Plaza Metrorail stations. The Bus, run by the county, offers weekday service.


Crime:
Over the past 12 months, Moss said, there were 82 assaults, 38 robberies, 73 burglaries, 82 motor-vehicle thefts and 224 other thefts in the town.

Tony Glaros is a freelance writer.

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