It was 1870 when Laurel, Maryland, was officially incorporated as a town. Originally named Laurel Factory, the city’s name was changed to Laurel in 1875. Laurel grew up around a grist mill that was expanded into a cotton mill by Nicholas Snowden in 1824. This mill flourished and came to be successful for a few years before business waned with the death of Nicholas Snowden. Just over a decade later, heirs of Snowden began a new project, the Patuxent Cotton Manufacturing Company. This is the business that ebbed and flowed through decades of Laurel’s history, largely responsible for the town that grew up around it. Today, Laurel continues to be a thriving community, located between Washington, D.C., and Baltimore, Maryland. Many historical structures still stand in Laurel, a testament to the rich history of this city.
With the success of the Patuxent manufacturing company, a community of homes were built in Laurel to house people working in the factory. Some of these homes remain standing in Laurel today. During the 1840s, three churches were built in Laurel: St. Mary of the Mills, St. Philip’s Episcopal Church, and Old Stone Church, which was a Methodist church built by the Snowdens. St. Mary of the Mills Catholic Church was built in 1890, and it is still present in the city. St. Philip’s Episcopal also continues to stand, and its claim to fame is the presence of a bell that rang out in 1812, warning residents of the British army’s movements.
Lauren has many other landmarks that tell stories of the city’s history, too.
- The Montpelier Mansion was built by the Snowdens in the 1780s. This Georgian-style mansion housed four successive generations of the Snowden family. The Snowdens also kept slaves while they occupied the mansion. During the 1980s, a local group called the Friends of Montpelier organized a restoration project to renovate and restore the mansion. It is now a museum that visitors can tour. The grounds around the mansion sprawl over 70 acres, and guests can also explore the gardens and paths.
- The Laurel Museum is housed in one of the old mill workers’ homes that were built during the 1840s. The structure was originally a building with four separate living units in it. Later, it was renovated to be a two-family home, and then it was renovated for commercial use. The Laurel Historical Society opened the museum in 1996 and manages it, and it is open to the public for tours. Exhibits include photographs, personal artifacts, and more.
- The Laurel Baltimore and Ohio Railroad station is the only railroad station that has survived in Prince George’s County, Maryland. The Washington Branch was completed in 1835, entering Laurel and continuing to the southwest. This station was designed by E. Francis Baldwin, who designed several other stations as well. The renovated structure shows off the distinctive Queen Anne-style architecture that was popular during this time period.
Transportation infrastructure around the city is extensive, with major state roads connecting the city to both Baltimore and Washington, D.C. The Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport is within 25 miles of Laurel, and public transportation is also available via commuter trains and bus service. Laurel, Maryland, continues to thrive and expand in the 21st century, but it has managed to retain its rich history while looking into the future with anticipation.