Another Friend… From Way Back

Thanks to the Maryland State Archives, I’ve begun to uncover a series of deeds and other land records pertaining to Steward Manor. I’m still in the early stages of deciphering and organizing them, (I’m not fluent in real estate jargon, so bear with me) so I’ll have a more detailed post on this topic in the near future. However, suffice it to say that documents of this sort tend to open lots of other doors and uncover even more intriguing pieces of information. For example, a brief reference to Ben Dyer Associates led me to discover that not only is Ben Dyer Associates, Inc. still in business today, but they still have a treasure trove of original survey drawings documenting the construction of Steward Manor Apartments… which they were happy to share with me! (And given the enormity of that discovery, it too definitely warrants its own post—coming soon!)

But without getting into too much detail, I’ve started by simply collecting everything I can find, and then trying to connect the dots. Typically, each deed lists a previous deed, as well as land and highway surveys that are associated with it. It’s literally like genealogy—but with land rather than relatives. In this case, however, it’s turning out to be a bit of both.

Below is one of the first contemporary deeds showing ownership of the parcel of land that Steward Manor Apartments rests upon, by the company that built it—Pollin Development Corporation. It lists the coordinates of the land boundaries, and cites State Roads Commission Plat No. 6384. These are exactly the kinds of linked documents I like to find to help make sense of the bigger picture.

Luckily, Plat No. 6384 is also available online at the Archives, and I was able to download it. Drawn in 1946, it predates Steward Manor Apartments by a good dozen years. But it’s interesting for a number of reasons, chiefly because it mentions the name “Steward Manor”, and Dr. N.B. Steward—for whom this area was named. (The original name “Steward Manor”—as we’ll also learn in yet another future post—was given in 1946 to the area comprised of Irving Street and what is essentially that whole intersection of Irving St., Rte. 198, and Rte. 197).

As I scanned Plat No. 6384, I noted Lafayette Ave. and the railroad tracks—clear landmarks that are still in place today. Again, I’m neither a real estate pro or an architect (or a cartographer for that matter), so it takes me a few moments to get my bearings on things like this. Recognizing familiar things like Lafayette Ave. and the railroad tracks helps immensely.

So then I looked for more information in the slug at the bottom right, which typically contains the date and other key facts about the drawing. That’s when a completely unexpected name jumped off the page:

“Friend”. The Chief Draftsman was “Walter A. Friend“. How bizarre is that?

I have a fairly unique name, and I can safely say that I’ve never known another person named Friend in the Laurel, Maryland area—or associated with Laurel in any way—for as long as I’ve had anything to do with Laurel, Maryland myself. And now, out of the blue—and on the oldest survey I’ve found to date of this specific parcel of land I’ve become so interested in—I learn that a likely relative of mine actually drew it 65 years ago.

It’s funny how odd coincidences like this sometimes surface in one’s research. For me, it’s also a sign that I must be doing something right. This project has literally had my name on it from the very start. 🙂


About Richard Friend

I'm a graphic designer and creator of "Lost Laurel"—a collection of photos and print ephemera chronicling the countless stores, restaurants, and other long-lost merchants of Laurel, Maryland. I'm interesting in hearing from any former/current residents, especially those with vintage photos, literature, and recollections of the community.
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