Waldorf and Southern Maryland’s “Little Vegas” past. Gambling: Few Reminders today.

Today many head home to Waldorf, MD and beyond on US 301 and have no idea of the history that they are driving past everyday.  It was only this week while researching for a project for a client that I learned about this lively side of Waldorf and Southern Maryland‘s history.  This post is not about the pros or cons of gambling.  Instead it is an attempt to point out some of the relics of a time gone by that can still be seen.

US 301 from Waldorf to the Potomac River Bridge was known as “Little Vegas”  or “Slot Machine Alley” during the 1950s.  Las Vegas had nothing on Southern Maryland as far as the number of slot machines and the revenue from gambling at that time.   US 301 was known as Sin Strip — bright lights, lots of celebrities like Guy Lombardo, Paul Newman, Conway Twitty, Dolly Parton. They all performed on the Strip according to an article in the Baltimore City Paper.  Waldorf was the Mecca of this Strip and was described in an article as a tiny little truck stop town along a major shipping route that hosted slot machines in every building and restroom along route 301.  Casinos were legal in Charles County for about 20 years ending in 1968.

There are two icons that can still be seen today and though many of us pass them few have any idea what they are.   One is the sign for Wall’s Bakery with the Tepee on top and the other is the Waldorf Motel which is shown in the video above and one of the pictures below.  Both are on the right side as you enter Waldorf from the north.  Neither will probably be there much longer.

Wall's Bakery sign which was formerly located in the Wigwam.

Wall’s Bakery known for its eclairs was housed in the Wigwam building after it closed in the early 70’s*.  Gambling ended on July 1, 1968 when the last slot machines were hauled out of the bars, taverns, and roadhouses of Southern Maryland, piled onto trucks, and hauled away to be destroyed.1  The Wigwam — originally opened as a Native American themed casino.  The Tepee-shaped building sported dancing girls, fine food, and performances by Doris Day and Brenda Lee according to Louise Lockhart, an 18 year employee.  The Wigwam/Wall’s Bakery building has been recently torn down and this sign is all that remains.  According to Wikimapia apartments are planned for this site.

*Waldorf 301 Landmark comes down: “Wigwam Bakery Being Demolished”   

1-Little Vegas:  What Can Maryland’s Troubled History with Slot Machines Tell Us About the Odds for the future?”

The Waldorf Motel

The Waldorf Motel was a popular gambling casino and motel.  Today it stands empty though in recent years a Rip’s Restaurant occupied space in this building.  It is probably one of the few casino buildings still standing.

Well, it sounds like Waldorf and the 301 corridor have changed quite a bit since the 50s and the many times I have driven to Waldorf never would I have thought of Waldorf as a Little Vegas.  Never!   What about you?   

Lonnie Dawkins is a Washington, DC portrait and documentary photographer


I’m Posting every day for the remainder of 2011

calendar 2011

I’ve decided I want to blog more. Rather than just thinking about doing it, I’m starting right now.  I will be posting on this blog once a day for the remainder of 2011.

I know it won’t be easy, but it might be fun, inspiring, awesome and wonderful. Therefore I’m promising to make use of The DailyPost, and the community of other bloggers with similar goals, to help me along the way, including asking for help when I need it and encouraging others when I can.

If you already read my blog, I hope you’ll encourage me with comments and likes, and good will along the way.


Downtown Washington, DC turned Purple for Pancreatic Cancer Research

I never appreciated the beauty of the color purple until I saw masses of purple T-Shirts and purple and white balloons in downtown Washington this past Saturday. The occasion was the Pancreatic Cancer Purple Stride 5k Walk & Festival. You can go to Pancreatic Cancer Action Network or Shirley’s Angel Foundation to find out more about the event.

Meanwhile enjoy the beauty of purple.

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Purple balloons across Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC

Purple balloons  & US capitol in Washington, DC for Purple Stride 2011

Balloons form as S shape at Purple Stride 5k Walk

Walkers are ready to being Purple Stride 2011 in Washington, DC

Purple fashion with variations were seen everywhere

Walker signs Purple Stride In Honor In Memory Board 2011

Band playing for Purple Stride Walk Washington DC 2011.  A wode variety of selctions.

A sea of purple at the Purple Stride 5k Walk 2011

Support Shirley’s Angel Foundation at Pancreatic Cancer Purple Stride 5K Walk in Washington, DC

In an earlier post we talked about a local organization Shirley’s Angel Foundation (SAF) and the work that it is doing in the community.  See the earlier post.   SAF is the leading provider of research and education to decrease the incidence and mortality of Pancreatic Cancer in the African-American community.

This weekend SAF is participating in the PANCAN Purple Strides 5k Walk in Washington, DC.  The event takes place Saturday June 18 from 8:00 AM to 11:00 AM.  Fee: Adult $30, Youth age 3-12 $10, Virtual Participant $35, Survivor Free

Purple Stride 5K Walk and festival

Join the team!  Even if it is too late to walk or you have other plans for Saturday, your donation can walk and help advance research, support patients and create hope for those affected by pancreatic cancer.  Click here for more info and to donate.

Team Page of Shirley’s Angel Foundation

Shirley's Angel Foundation for Pancreatic Cancel Research

Family working at Shirley's Angel Foundation at NBC 4 Health and Fitness Expo 2010

Shirley's family educating public at NBC 4 Health and Fitness Expro 2010

Shirley’s Angel Foundation website Visit SAF’s website to find out about other SAF events taking place in the community.


Inauguration of Pres. Obama–A year ago today.

It’s January 20, 2010. The inauguration of Pres. Barack Obama took place 1 year ago today. Reflecting on that day I notice that it was much colder last year weather wise but it is much colder this year politically. I also remember the excitement and the effort people went to in order to attend the ceremony. It was a great day for America.


Crowd listens as President Obama delivers his inauguration address

Crowd listens as Aretha Franklin sings

People arrived early at Metro stations

People crowded into metro to get to the inauguration

It was COLD out there! People stood out in the cold for hours

Departing was just as difficult as arriving.

Senator Edward Kennedy funeral procession–Downtown Washington, DC

On Saturday, August 29, 2009, Senator Edward Kennedy’s funeral procession traveled slowly through downtown Washington on its way to Arlington National Cemetery. I had the opportunity to capture these images as it passed along Constitution Avenue near 14th Street. A sizeable crowd of people wanting to pay their respects had gathered in this area which is near the Washington Monument. A thunderstorm was threatening and the hour was growing late, but the crowd wanted patiently. They waved and politely clapped as the motorcade passed.

Click here for more images

Hearse carrying Sen. Kennedy as well wishers applaud his life and legacy

Hearse carrying Sen. Kennedy as well wishers applaud his life and legacy

Kennedy family members of different generations, show regard and gratitude for the public.

Kennedy family members show regard and gratitude for the public.

Family members reaching out to acknowledge public

Family members reaching out to acknowledge public

Kennedy processional passes Washington Monument near White House.

Kennedy processional passes Washington Monument near White House.