TOWN OF EDMONSTON

5005 52nd Avenue - Edmonston, MD 20781  *  Phone (301) 699-8806  *  Fax (301) 699-8203  *  townhall@edmonstonmd.gov

“A Bridging Community”

TOWN HISTORY
Wedged among the thriving town of Hyattsville to its west, fledgling Riverdale to its north and east, and
historic Bladensburg to its south, the land which was to become Edmonston could have taken on a different
name, had not the founding fathers sought to assert their independent nature when choosing what to call
their community when it incorporated in 1924.

In 1742, Capt. James Edmonston purchased 60 acres of land in the area which is now called Edmonston.
It is believed that Capt. Edmonston was a resident of Bladensburg and a member of a prominent and
wealthy family of that time.  The Edmonstons also reportedly owned a farm in Beltsville. Being a religious
family, they attended the Paint Branch Episcopal Church when they were in Beltsville and St. Matthew's
Church in Seat Pleasant when they were in Bladensburg. The road they traveled between the two churches
was later named Edmonston Road, after the family.

By 1835, the Baltimore and Ohio (CSX) Railroad had been constructed through Prince George's County, and
the tracks ran just to the west of the Northeast Branch of the Anacostia River. It was on the side of those
tracks where they intersected the Washington and Baltimore Turnpike that Christopher Hyatt built a mansion
and opened a store in the mid-1850's. By the late 1800's, Hyattsville was a prosperous and growing town,
Adam Francis Plummer
One of the first permanent
Settlers in Edmonston
having achieved municipal status in 1896. The success of Hyattsville was due in part to its location along the railroad and street car
tracks and the turnpike, all three of which were convenient commuter routes for people working in Washington, D.C., and residing in
the growing area north and east of the Nation's Capital.

As the federal government grew, so to did the federal work force, and the absence of plentiful affordable housing in the District prompted
workers to look outside of the city for a place to live.

As Hyattsville grew, development which had begun to move northward also began to move eastward,
across the railroad tracks and across the Northeast Branch into what is now Edmonston. By the early
1900's, the area east of the tracks was being called "East Hyattsville." Many of the first residents of the
community on the east side of the tracks were working class families, with many of those being
immigrants from Europe.

After native American inhabitation of the area, the next permanent settlers of present-day Edmonston
were the Plummer Family. The patriarch, Adam Francis Plummer, was an educated slave freed from
the Calvert Family's Riversdale plantation. With some savings and many marketable skills, Mr.
Plummer established the Mt. Rose settlement for himself and family on the west side of the river in the
area that is presently Lafayette Place. Adam Francis Plummer has become a figure of major historical
significance when his diary was found to be the only known living diary of any slave in US history. The
diary is now in the care and possession of the Smithsonian.

Later on, other black families lived on the east side, one of which was that of Mr. Chin, who had a small
farm where the levee is now. Mr. Chin reportedly grew bamboo on his farm, and allowed children to cut it
for use as fishing poles. He also had a barber shop in Hyattsville, where he cut hair for five generations of
Customers.

In 1903, two prominent Hyattsville men, J. Harris Rogers (a noted inventor) and Dr. Charles A. Wells (mayor of Hyattsville), purchased
land for development in what was to become Edmonston. Rogers' land, consisting of about 70 acres, was called "East Hyattsville.
" Wells' tract, which was known as "Palestine Farm," consisted of about 90 acres and was located between the river and the railroad
tracks. The former Edmonston Elementary School, which faced Wells Avenue (Decatur Street), was located on land which comprised
part of the Palestine Farm. Rogers and Wells began to sell lots on their respective subdivisions, although their approaches were
different.
B.M. McQuin
First Mayor of Edmonston
Elected 1924
A 1940’s Red Cross First Aid Station
Was also used as Edmonston
Town Hall
Wells reportedly had several houses built on his properties to entice prospective customers to
buy his lots. Rogers, on the other hand, sold only the lots and the purchasers constructed their
own homes.

By 1915, Edmonston Elementary School was built along Wells Avenue (Decatur Street).
Reportedly the cornerstone for the school was purchased from a stone yard in the District of
Columbia by one Harry McLeod and transported by the Tooneyville Trolley to Bladensburg Road,
where it was transferred to a wagon and brought to the school, which had three rooms.

Wells Avenue (Decatur Street) in the early 1900's was a dirt path leading from the few homes
that had been constructed in East Hyattsville to a wooden bridge which crossed the river into
Hyattsville.4 Residents could cross the bridge to catch the train or trolley or to shop in some of t
he Hyattsville stores. A few stores and a post office station were in East Hyattsville, located at
the intersection of Wells Avenue and 49th Street.

By 1924, the residents of East Hyattsville were taking notice of the prosperity and development
which was occurring immediately to their west. Lacking funds to improve the dirt paths which
constituted the community's streets, the residents decided to incorporate in June of that year.
It was during that time that the question of what to call the new municipality arose. The founding fathers
apparently wished to express their uniqueness and independence from Hyattsville, and settled on the
name "Edmonston." Although it has not been verified, the name apparently was taken from that of Capt.
Edmonston of Bladensburg or perhaps from the road which runs along the new town's eastern border
and bears his family name. Either way, Edmonston had arrived as the newest town in Prince George's
County.

In achieving incorporation, the town adopted the mayor and council form of government, and B.M.
McQuin was elected the first mayor. Meetings of the mayor and council took place in the homes of the
mayor or council members. Tops on the new town's agenda were better surfacing of streets,
Installation of street lighting, construction of a concrete bridge over the river and installation of water
and sewer mains by the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission, which was in operation by then.

In 1925, Robert Funkhouser became one of the first mass builders within the town, purchasing part of
the Palestine Farm property and constructing about 40 homes on lots just south of Wells Avenue
(Decatur Street).

The town, which had been settled by a real mixture of nationalities and races, elected Kinjiro Matsudaira as its mayor in 1927, making
him reportedly the first Japanese-American elected to that office in the United States. Matsudaira, the son of a Japanese father and an
American mother, was born in Pennsylvania and was a descendant of a noble Nipponese family.

Kinjiro Matsudaira
Elected Mayor in 1927
And again in 1943
Flooding of the Anacostia River and its tributaries caused much damage in the whole
Hyattsville-Bladensburg-Edmonston area for a number of years. As early as 1938 the town
minutes reflect conversations of town officials with the War Department about the flooding
problem.  In 1940, the town's streets were paved, and the following year the street names were
changed all over the area. It was then that Wells Avenue became Decatur Street.

A first aid station was built in 1942 next to the old gas company. It was used by the Red Cross,
and also by the elected officials as town hall. By then, World War II was proceeding in all its fury.

Defying the odds and bucking a national trend, the citizens of Edmonston returned Kinjiro
Matsudaira to the office of mayor in 1943, despite the presence of the war and his Japanese
Ancestry.

That same year the town records reflect that the mayor and council were discussing trying to
have the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad remove the railroad tracks at the western portion of the
town after the war. The discussion was prompted by pedestrian and automobile traffic tie-ups
created by long or stalled trains which used the tracks. One such train reportedly tied up traffic
for 40 minutes.

A road block of another kind occurred literally in 1946 when attempts were made to widen
Decatur Street. Four of the property owners whose property abutted the road would not dedicate
the 10 feet of their properties necessary to do the job. Eventually the road was widened.
About that same time the road was closed due to unsafe flooding conditions. That circumstance
made it difficult for Edmonston residents, since Decatur Street was the main thoroughfare in the
town, and there was no Kenilworth Avenue at the time. Many photos exist which show residents
rowing boats or wading in high water along Decatur Street.

The Northeast Branch of the Anacostia River was dredged, the stream path was widened, and
earthen dikes were constructed along the edges of the paths.
In 1949 the town established a police force. Prior to that time law and order were
maintained by marshals, one of whom had been a Mr. Page. Mr. Page's son,
George W. Page, Sr., had served at one time as a volunteer policeman, purchasing
his own uniform and using his own car. He was named police chief when the paid
force was established. Typical of the diversity of Edmonston's residents, George
Page later became a council member and mayor of the town. The town still has its
own police department.

The current town hall was constructed in 1957, underwent some additions in
subsequent years, and finally, in 1992, was renovated. The building holds police
offices, a conference room, reception area, storage space, administrative offices
and a large meeting room.  The picture to the right was taken in 2009.  Not shown
in the picture is the public works building located directly to the rear.

Long overdue flood relief came in the 1950's, when the U.S. Army Corps of
Engineers initiated a flood control project which included parts of Hyattsville,
Edmonston, Riverdale, and Bladensburg.

In the 1960's, the beginning of a political tradition began when Mary Giannakis was elected town treasurer, a position she held for 10
years. Her husband, Z. Steve Giannakis, became a council member and, later, the first finance officer for the town. In 1983, voters
elected their daughter, Paulette Horan, as the town's first woman mayor. A short time later the mayor's husband, Joseph, was elected
to the town council, making them the first wife and husband mayor and council member team in the state.
Members of the Edmonston Volunteer Fire Department
Were also civil defense workers in the 1940’s.
The department disbanded after World War II
Members of the Edmonston Volunteer
Fire Department Were also civil defense
workers in the 1940’s.  The department
disbanded after World War II
The first apartment project in the town was the Fountain Park Apartments, a 156 one- and two-
bedroom unit development facing Kenilworth Avenue and constructed in 1965.

The town's recreation building, known locally as the "Little Alamo," was built in the 1980's.
Children go there after school to enjoy indoor and outdoor activities during the summer. The
Recreation Council sponsors various holiday activities, including appearances by Santa Claus.

"Edmonston Has A Heart" became the motto of the town in 1985, when town residents raised
thousands of dollars for a liver transplant needed by a baby whose grandparents lived in the
town. While the operation was not successful, the community spirit generated by the project
was transferred to other charitable projects in subsequent years.

In 1986 the town annexed land on the east side of Kenilworth Avenue, taking in several business
in the process. Then, in 1991, Elizabeth's Landing, a 30-unit single-family town home project,
was constructed on Kenilworth Avenue.

By 1993, the first African-American was seated on the council. Tracy Farrish was appointed in
that year, winning the office outright in the next year's election.

Today, Edmonston continues to be a quiet community whose residents refuse to leave or who
return to raise their own families if they do leave.

Town officials hope that the closeness of the Edmonston community will linger into the next
century and that those who start new families there will have the same affection for their home
town as did others before them.

Floods and other adversities could not break the will of the citizens in the past, who stepped up
to the challenges and met them head-on. The diversity and spirit of independence which
characterized those early settlers of Edmonston still hold forth in the town today.

The Bridge:

Working Class Roots and American Dreams in Edmonston, Maryland.
Paulette & Jospeh Horan
Former Mayor and Council team.
In the early 1900s, a neighborhood of closely-knit working families lived together among a collection of modest farmhouses and
bungalows along the lowlands of the Anacostia River between Bladensburg and Hyattsville. In the year 1924, with an ambition to
establish an improved quality of life, the people of this community decided to form an incorporated municipality to address a variety of
community needs. Chief among these were streetlights, streetpaving, and most importantly, the building of a new Decatur Street bridge
across the Anacostia River. It was named Edmonston, after a prominent Prince George's family in the region. Shortly afterward, a
simple structure of steel and concrete replaced rickety wood to become the Decatur Street Bridge.

In addition to being one of our community's founding purposes, the bridge has become symbolic for other reasons.  As listed on page
one, Adam Francis Plummer (a freed, educated slave) and his family settled in present-day Edmonston, and established an area
known as the "Mt. Rose" settlement.  Mr. Plummer's working class ethic and determination to succeed has been echoed by Edmonston
residents since he lived here. The town has always been an affordable destination for working people and immigrants, set on planting
their feet to achieve the American dream.

One notable example is Kinjori Matsudairi, the Japanese American who served two significant periods as Edmonston's Mayor, and
according to historians, was the first Japanese American Mayor in our nation's history.  Interestingly enough, his second period of
Mayoral service was during the time of Japanese internment of World War II, a time when Americans harbored deep hostility toward the
people of Japan.  Yet the residents of Edmonston looked beyond the issue of ethnicity, and elected the person they felt was most
qualified to lead the town government.  A powerful statement for the times, and indeed, a tradition that continues to this day.

Most Edmonston residents come from modest means and work hard to build
their bridge to the American Dream. The population is comprised of those who
can trace their heritage to the American Colonies as well as those who are
recent arrivals from Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, among others.
Many have also settled here because they enjoy a community of such diversity.
The government reflects this as well: it has bilingual staff in every department,
our current Mayor is one of the first Latino-American executives in the state's
history, and key laws and community information are translated into Spanish,
so all can participate in the civic life of our town.

Our diversity is our strength. We attend community events together, look out for
our children and elderly, and care for our common quality of life. We are building
our bridge to a prosperous and inclusive future for the next generation of
Edmonston residents.

The bridge as the focal point of the Town Seal represents our collective and individual pursuit of the American Dream.  The rising sun
represents optimism and bright futures. And the town hall building represents a single community among our diverse population.
The current town hall was dedicated in 1957.  It now houses
the Administrative Staff, Police Department, Mayor's Office
and Town Administrator.
The Edmonston Recreation Center Building
on Tanglewood Drive, referred to by some
residents as "Little Alamo"
The Carter Motor Car Corporation - Tanglewood Drive, Edmonston, Maryland

The "Carter Twin Engine" and the "Washington" automobiles were manufactured by the Carter
Motor Car Corporation at Hyattsville (later changed to "Edmonston"), Maryland. The company,
whose general offices were in Washington, D.C., was an established manufacturer before
moving to Hyattsville. They established offices in Baltimore, Maryland; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania;
New York, New York; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and other cities.    

In 1907 the officers of the company were seeking a Maryland location for a new
manufacturing plant. Business leaders in Berwyn, Maryland were anxious to have the factory
located in their town. In June of 1907 the Board of Directors decided to reject all bids from the
leaders of Berwyn and to locate the factory at Hyattsville, Maryland. Reasons given for the selection of the Hyattsville site were: closer proximity to
Washington, better shipping facilities, and larger area of the site offered.

The plans announced called for the building of three separate structures of brick, steel, and concrete measuring 60' x 200'. Buildings were to cost
approximately $10,000 each. The three buildings and machinery were estimated to cost $100,000. A company spokesman claimed that it would be the
most modern automobile factory in the world. Plans were to produce 3,000 automobiles per year with a value of $9,000,000. Other revenue was
anticipated from the manufacture and sale of auxiliary equipment.

In addition to automobiles, trucks, ambulances, and fire engines were to be made. A large force of skilled workmen were to be employed. Construction
started in mid-1907 under the direction of their own engineer and a supervising architect. Building materials were bought in Baltimore and Washington.

In mid-1908 the first building was completed and equipped with lathes and other necessary machinery for automobile production. Gasoline engines
were used to power the machinery and also an electric generator which was used for lighting the factory, offices, and tool room.  The first cars to be
made in the Hyattsville plant were listed as 1909 models. Roadsters, tourings, and limousines were made in the Carter line with a price tag of $4,000,
$5,000, and $6,000, respectively. A unique feature of this car was the use of two separate four cylinder engines, each having its own ignition system
and cooling system. This was advertised as being the most dependable car on the market. The car could be driven by either engine separately or both
combined. By using only one engine, fuel consumption was greatly reduced.

In addition to the "Carter Twin Engine" automobile, the firm also manufactured a lower priced line of automobiles called the "Washington." Prices ranged
from $850 to $2,500 according to style and horsepower. Engines ranged from an 18 horsepower, double opposed model to a six cylinder model which
developed 60 horsepower; the larger engine being used in the seven passenger car.

Production of the Carter Twin Engine automobile seems to have been discontinued in 1909. The Washington was continued with improvements and at
higher prices. By 1911 the touring Model D-40 was listed at $2,250 and the limousine at $3,250.  Engines used in 1911 were 40 horsepower with a
bore of 4 1/8 inches and a stroke of bV< inches, the cylinders being cast in pairs; ignition by magneto and batteries; multiple disc clutch; sliding
selective three speed transmission; drive by shaft. Internal expanding brakes were used on rear wheels; steering wheel was on right; tires front and
rear 36"x4" on quick detachable rims; frame of pressed' steel; springs, front semi-elliptic, rear, three quarter scroll elliptic; wheelbase 118 inches.

MARYLAND AUTOMOBILE MANUFACTURERS
In 1912, the last year of automobile production, prices were reduced, the roadster being listed at $1,750, the four passenger at $1,775, the five
passenger at $1,800, and the seven passenger at $1,850. Model designation was E-40 on all body styles. Specifications were almost the same as for
the 1911 models, Bosch magneto and Rayfield carburetor were used. Both internal expanding and external contracting brakes were now used on the
rear wheels. A three ring disc clutch was now used. This was a large car, the chassis without body weighing 2,500 pounds. Equipment offered was
a speedometer, five lamps, gas generator, horn, tool kit and jack. Baumann and Lilly, Catonsville (Baltimore suburb), Maryland were agents for the Carter
and Washington automobiles. Commercial vehicles were manufactured in the Hyattsville (Edmonston) plant until 1917.

Community members are encouraged to submit historical photographs or information they possess
Regarding the history of the town. Edmonston is a great town.  Help us preserve its past,
to ensure a prosperous future.

Most of the above information about Edmonston's history was obtained
from the book entitled "Proud Past Promising Future," and
was reprinted with the permission of the author,
George D. Denny, Jr.

For more information on
Proud Past Promising Future
or to purchase copies of the book,
please contact: George D. Denny, Jr. at 301-641-3147
or at jean.denny2@verizon.net
CARS MANUFACTURED IN EDMONSTON