The Town of Bladensburg, adjacent to the Anacostia River, was established in 1742 and became the largest tobacco Port in Maryland. In 1814 the British came through Bladensburg on their way to Washington D.C. The Battle of Bladensburg was fought on the lands that are now Fort Lincoln Cemetery, Colmar Manor, and Cottage City. By 1830s, due to agricultural development in the drainage base on the river, the river silted thus limiting the use of the river for commercial transport. This loss had a major impact on the economic growth of the area. Bladensburg would no longer flourish as a Port Town.
However as the District of Columbia developed, Bladensburg remained a key transportation route between Washington and Baltimore and Washington and Annapolis. Many historic sites still exist in the area from this period including The George Washington House, 1760; The Magruder House, 1740; The Boswick House, 1746; The Market Master House, 1760, and many others sites.
From after the Civil War until the 1930s, Prince George’s county offered more affordable housing and the railroad allowed city workers to live outside of the city and commute for work. The Bladensburg area was able to take advantage of this growth which intensified after the development of the streetcar. During this time the Towns of Colmar Manor and Cottage City were incorporated, adjacent to Bladensburg and across the Anacostia River.
But after the mass production of the automobile and development of roads further outward, people started to move towards areas with more open spaces. The beltway further intensified this outward growth by creating a defined separation between the more densely populated suburbs and the open area suburbs. As office complexes were built around the beltway, the outer suburbs also appeared to be more accessible than the inner beltway to get to work. The towns in the inner beltway were very densely populated and development in areas like the Port Towns was often unplanned and sporadic. Many small shopping centers were developed with no effective design concept and no connection to the area’s history.
In the late 1970s and 1980s Colmar Manor was part of the urban renewal program to revitalize the area. Many poorly maintained homes and business were removed and replaced. A new shopping center was developed that holds a brand name grocery and drug store, and fast food chains were built during this renewal program. This has given Colmar Manor a boost; however, this development did not aid in restoring the history of the area.
The Port Towns – A plan to be the model for renewal of historically rich towns
Over the past 15 years, due to activities of the citizens of the community, business owners, Maryland National Parks and Planning, the Anacostia Watershed Organizations, agencies of the Prince George’s County government, and the state of Maryland, the tide has changed. Many studies have been done on land use and a Town Center is being developed in Bladensburg. Other developments include schools, a “green” street and a train bridge overpass.
Bladensburg, Colmar Manor, Cottage City and Edmonston are “The Port Towns”
A Port Towns Job for Youth program is in place and running. The towns have hosted annual community events – Port Towns Day, and Kite day for the past several years. The Anacostia Paddle Sport Regatta has been held at the Bladensburg marina for the past several years. Port Town banners are erected throughout the towns. Streetscaping has taken place on Bladensburg Road. A Pedestrian bridge was built at the historic Dueling Grounds in Colmar Manor. And most importantly, the Bladensburg Waterfront Park is open and remains a central recreational and environmental centerpiece of the Port Towns Community.
For a personalized tour of the Port Towns and Anacostia Trails