The Decatur Street Bridge
Working Class Roots and American Dreams in Edmonston, Maryland
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, street paving, 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. 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 Edmonston’s first black-woman Mayor, along with the swearing in-of our first ever Latina Council Member. 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.