Hyattsville is a beautiful village . . . Its surroundings are all of the most delightful character, and as a business or residential location it cannot be surpassed, nesting as it does on and around a beautiful chain of Maryland hills. -The Suburban Citizen, 1892
Hyattsville’s founder bought his first piece of real estate at the mature age of eight. His father, Christopher Hyatt, sold to Christopher Clark Hyatt a large tract of land in 1807. The county deed book states:
Christopher Hyatt for and in consideration of the love and esteem he bears for Christopher Clarke Hyatt and also the consideration of five shillings … doth hereby sell … a Certain tract and parcel of land lying and being in Prince George’s County.
The son founded Hyattsville in 1845 when he purchased land near the Baltimore and Ohio railroad, Washington and Baltimore Turnpike, and shipping ports on the Anacostia River. By 1859 the area was known as Hyattsville by the U.S. Post Office and cartographers. The Act of Incorporation of the city was signed in 1886.
Hyattsville, like so many other communities in the United States, has a sad history of racial exclusion. In the 1920s and 1930s, land restrictions that were known as “restrictive covenants” became commonplace in the sale of real estate as a means to further reinforce racial segregation. These covenants required the recipient of the land and all future recipients of the land to require that only white individuals could legally own or use their property. The practice was very common across the country, including in Hyattsville, throughout the early to mid-20th century.
When Magruder Park was donated to the City of Hyattsville in 1927, it came with one such restrictive covenant: the deed indicated that the park was “for Caucasian inhabitants only.” Many Hyattsville houses sold around that time also contained similar wording in their deeds. After all, the U.S. Supreme Court had ruled in 1926 that restrictive covenants did not violate the U.S. Constitution. This practice of racial exclusion continued in Hyattsville and in many communities around the United States until a 1948 Supreme Court ruling finding these types of restrictions unenforceable.
Thankfully today, Hyattsville is a thriving community that proudly embraces its diversity. About a third of Hyattsville residents are Latino and another third are African American. We also have a vibrant lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community. Hyattsville sits at the geographic and cultural center of the Gateway Arts District and has a rapidly expanding local business community. Residents of Hyattsville span the diversity spectrum in terms of racial identity, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, socioeconomic status, and a variety of other identities. This diversity is central to Hyattsville’s identity today as a fun, energetic, artsy, close-knit community we can all enjoy.
In 1982, thanks to the efforts of preservation-minded citizens, about 600 buildings were listed as a district on the National Register of Historic Places. In 2004, the district was extended to include approximately 1,000 structures.
The city of Hyattsville covers just under three square miles. Residents benefit from the many local businesses and proximity to the nation’s capital, two Metro stations, and nearby MARC train. The city is part of the Gateway Arts District and offers varied housing stock; its own police force; and a newspaper, the Hyattsville Life and Times.