Hundreds of Laurel residents are flocking to social media, blogs and websites to show support for a man who died 101 years ago.
More than 375 community members have signed an online petition to keep the name of Laurel’s second mayor, Charles Stanley, attached to the Laurel Branch Stanley Memorial Library.
The library will be razed this spring and reconstructed in a $17.5 million overhaul. There are plans to drop Stanley’s name from the library’s title to keep it consistent with other library names and streamline GPS or online searches for it.
Dozens of residents have been discussing and debating the topic online through social media, like Facebook.
The controversy started in January when the Prince George’s County Memorial Library System announced it was planning to drop Stanley’s name. Many residents were opposed, including Laurel Mayor Craig Moe and Lindsey Baker, executive director of the Laurel Historical Society, who both wrote letters requesting that the name be kept.
Richard Friend — an amateur historian who grew up in Laurel and created the popular Lost Laurel Facebook page, blog and book — is behind the online petition to keep Stanley’s name attached to the library. His Lost Laurel pages have become hot spots for residents with strong opinions on the issue.
“I basically just wanted to do this in support of the historical society and the mayor to make sure they just don’t drop the man’s name for no good reason,” he said. “I’m trying to mobilize the troops that are on the Lost Laurel page and give them a little more ammunition.”
Stanley was mayor from 1891 to 1893 and also served as a Maryland delegate and comptroller.
Friend said relatives of his donated the land for the library under the stipulation that Stanley be honored in the name. He said this fact alone gives Stanley’s name historical and legal precedence.
“The name should still be on the library,” he said. “It’s been there for 50 years, and more importantly, the [property] deed does say that is why the land was granted to [the county].”
Several community members who signed the online petition left comments on the website, including one user who said he is a relative of Stanley’s.
“Charles Harvey Stanley was my great-grandfather,” wrote the user, who identified himself as William Stanley. “I was present and participating in the groundbreaking ceremony for the Stanley Memorial Library. Give us back the land or use it properly.”
Kathleen Teaze, director of the county library system, confirmed the original property deed specifies that Stanley’s name be associated with the building, but it’s unclear if that condition would apply to a new building. She said the library board has consulted a lawyer, but has not yet received an opinion.
Laurel resident Maureen Johnson, 65, said she favors dropping Stanley’s name from the library title because of his service in the Confederate army.
“The library is adjacent to Emancipation Park,” she said. “If it were any place else, I probably wouldn’t have paid that much attention to it. It’s just a slap in the face to have that in the shadow of [the park and what it stands for].”
Baker said she is glad the community is discussing the issue and taking an interest in the city’s history.
“We spend 365 days a year jumping up and down telling people history matters,” she said. “Now, people are really engaged with thinking about history and how it affects their lives today, and for us, that’s a great thing.”