The destruction of Main Street: Why trains still matter to communities

November 4, 2015

Note: This is the battle line on which the war for the new America is going to be fought. In fact, the first skirmishes already are breaking out. Are we going to continue pursuing the obsolete mid-20th-century auto-centric suburban development model or return to the original Main Street-with-depot model which, in the case of Laurel, Maryland, has worked for 184 years?Website Insert New Passenger Train Service copy

In Laurel, Maryland, a MARC commuter train — the driving force for growing and maintaining the community for close to 200 years — is under attack by a developer who wants to move the train stop to a more preferable location.

And although this sounds like the plot of an old Western, the effects of removing such an important rail line on its surrounding community would be devastating.

An interconnected history

In 1835, when the B&O Railroad was building its first line connecting Washington, D.C., to Baltimore, Laurel was one of the stops. The rail line was responsible for carrying both freight and commuters to and from the Laurel area, specifically to the town’s Main Street rail stop.

The Snowden family, originating from Europe, arrived in America in 1659 and acquired 400 acres of land. The family ultimately purchased several thousand acres of land, which encompassed large portions of four Maryland counties — Prince George’s, Anne Arundel, Howard and Montgomery.

The Snowdens realized factories would soon become the economic lifeblood of Laurel and decided to build a cotton mill on the west end of Main Street, opposite the train stop, which was located on the east side. The two integral end points were separated by something close to a mile, and are from whence the city of Laurel grew.

Sure enough Laurel became Prince George’s County’s first factory town, growing outward from the two endpoints. The development of the town depended entirely on the rail line.

Read author Ryan Clark’s full article in MultiBriefs by clicking here.

 

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