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Maryland's National Register Properties

Photo credit: Jennifer Falkinburg, 09/9/2003
Laurel High School
Inventory No.: PG:LAU-5
Other Name(s): Edward Phelps Community Center
Date Listed: 6/27/1979
Location: 116 St. Mary's Place , Laurel, Prince Georges County
Category: Building
Period/Date of Construction: 1899; 1935; 1950
Architect/Builder: Edward Phelps
Description: Old Laurel High School is a red brick, Georgian Revival structure built in 1899, with several later additions. It is composed of a 2 1/2-story T-shaped central pavilion with a hyphen and wing to either side. Facing south towards Montgomery Street in Laurel, the school is nine bays wide with a central entrance, and three bays deep. A five bay by two bay section on the rear forms a T. It has a hip roof with an octagonal cupola at the peak. The walls are laid in five-course common bond, with rubbed brick on the front facade. All windows have 6/2 sash, stone sills, and brick lintels. A bracketed wooden cornice surrounds the front and sides of the structure; the rear and base of the T have a plain wooden cornice. The building sits on a raised basement of native coursed rubble stone with a watertable of molded brick capped with stone. The front facade of rubbed brick is laid with every fifth row recessed on the first story, to give the effect of rustication. This pattern of recessed rows is continued in the round arch which frames the recessed entrance in the center bay. The entrance consists of a fanlight over a double door. Each wide leaf has two narrow horizontal panels above and below a large pane of glass. Two bricks in each arch are recessed to simulate keystones. A molded stringcourse in the egg-and-dart pattern separates the first and second stories. The east and west sides of the main block are three bays wide. The walls of the sides and rear portion of the building are laid in plain (not rubbed) red brick. The windows have stone sills, rusticated on the front portion and smooth behind, and 1 1/2-brick jack arches. The interior of the central pavilion has a T-plan hall with a classroom on each side in the front and restroom and offices across the back. On the second floor is a two-part library, two classrooms, and a small teachers' room. The west wing, dated to 1935, consist of a one-story hip-roofed wing connected to the main building by a one-story hyphen. It is laid in five-course common bond, with 9/9 sash windows, three bays wide by five deep. The center of the south facade projects an rises above the wall on either side. Two brick pilasters rise to meet a pediment. A round-arched opening with molded keystone concrete and impost blocks, surrounds the recessed entrance. The 1950 east wing and hyphen are two stories tall, as the ground slopes away to the east. They are balanced with the west wing and hyphen, as the roof heights remain the same. Laid up in common bond, the wing is three bays wide by eight deep, with a hip roof. The pedimented projection in the center of the front facade contains three recessed doorways and no other openings. Windows on the ground floor of this section are blocked up. This wing houses a cafeteria and kitchen on the first floor, and a gymnasium and locker rooms on the second floor. A separate low one-story building, not visible from the front, contains three classrooms. Significance: The central portion of old Laurel High School was constructed in 1899, and was the first public high school in Prince George's County. Among other "firsts" for this building include the first water system put in county schools (1908) and first indoor toilets installed in a county high school (1916). Laurel and Hyattsville received the first sewing machines purchased for Domestic Science classes. The original building and later additions housed high school students for 64 years. The 1935 west wing and 1950 east wing conform in style to the original structure. In 1963, all students were moved to the new Laurel Senior High School on Cherry Lane, and this building was used for the overflow of elementary and junior high students, and called Laurel Education Center. For a time it was used as the Northern Regional Center of the Prince George's County Community College, and is now owned by Laurel Boys and Girls Club, who leases it to several community groups. In 1976 the name of the school was changed to the Edward Phelps Community Center, to better describe its current use and the role of the man who was the vital force in its foundation. Edward Phelps, Mayor of Laurel for seven one-year terms prior to 1900, was the moving power behind the legislation which provided for the erection of the school. After the original contractor failed to give bond and then declined the contract, Phelps resigned from the Building Committee and submitted his own bid to construct the building. His offer was accepted and the building was built between July 1898 and July 1899. Mr. G.B. Timanus hauled all the stone for the foundation from Guilford, Howard County. The bricks came from Washington, D.C., and the B&O Railroad gave a 50% rebate on the freight. During World War II, the cupola atop the center of the building was used as a Civil Defense Spotting Station. Laurel High School is the only Georgian Revival building in Laurel, and is among a large group of buildings in the community of comparable age.


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