The Greenbelt Community Center, originally the Greenbelt Center Elementary School and Community Building, was completed in the autumn of 1937, just in time for Greenbelt's first occupants. From the beginning, residents also used the buildings for meetings, adult education classes, recreation, clubs and sports teams, a town hall, library, and church services.
Greenbelt's principle architects, Douglas D. Ellington and Reginald Wadsworth, designed the building in a streamlined Art Deco style. The glass blocks used in the stairwells for light, the streamlined inverted buttresses or cantilevered struts, and the four Indiana Limestone friezes on the facade are decorative elements typical of this style.
As the number of students grew, the building also grew with a new wing added onto the building's north side (just visible on the left side of the Community Center) in 1967. By 1990, however, the building was inadequate to the school's needs. In the face of proposals either to tear the building down or to rebuild it according to modern school standards, the building closed as a school in 1993. Greenbelt Elementary School relocated to a new facility on the north end of Ridge Road.
In March 1996, this renovated building reopened as a dedicated community center. The building continues to play a central role in the community as a meeting and recreational facility for all age groups including: a nursery school, an adult day-care center, a pottery studio, adult and children's art studio, private artists' studios, the Greenbelt Museum's exhibit room, the Greenbelt News Review's office, a public access television studio, a summer camp facility, and an auditorium/gymnasium.
A forested green space once surrounded the Community Center. The public library to your immediate left was built in 1970. Originally is was housed in a classroom inside the former school and museum.
(Photo captions on left side of marker)(Caption?1)The progressive ideals that went into planning the town were also present in the teaching practices at the school. Under the leadership of Principal Catherine T. Reed, the children learned by doing projects and exploring nature. Prince George's County's first kindergarten began in this building.·(Caption?2)Greenbelt children travelled to school on the pedestrian pathways that connect the center buildings to the nearby houses. Can you figure out where this path was?·(Caption 3)What changes can you see in the landscape and building from 60 years ago?
(Photo captions on right side of marker)(Caption 1)The sculptor of the friezes, Leonore Thomas, worked on several government projects during the Depression. It took Thomas and an assistant over a year to complete the friezes. The carvings represent the Preamble to the United States Constitution. While working on the friezes, Thomas remarked, "We want to keep the designs bold and simple and sufficiently obvious that, with the lettering beneath each panel, any workman or child could understand them. After we finish blocking out the figures we are going to use the workmen around here [as models] for the faces and costumes." Can you see how Ms. Thomas changed the final sculptures?·(Caption 2)Children leaving the school, circa 1942.