Richard Friend, 41, who says he grew up "on the other side of the tracks," at Steward Manor apartments at Routes 197 and 198, spends much of his spare time restoring all sorts of artifacts from Laurel retailers, movie theaters and restaurants, particularly places lost over the past half-century. He said his "labor of love" grew from collecting memorabilia documenting life during the 1970s and '80s at the Steward Manor apartment complex.
Friend attended Deerfield Run Elementary and Laurel High, then graduated from the Corcoran College of Art + Design in Washington in 1997. He is now a graphic designer at Woodpile Studios in Centreville, Va., and has lived in Centreville for the past decade.
Friend said he has never forgotten his Laurel roots nor lost his fascination with its history. In 2010, he designed "Laurelopoly," a game similar to Monopoly that featured Laurel icons, which he said attracted about 1,000 Internet players. The following year, he created the popular "Lost Laurel" Facebook page, where Laurelites share memories and upload nostalgic photos and icons; the page currently has 3,800 followers.
Friend began curating his collection of old photographs, restaurant menus, news stories, signs and logos, and started writing a blog "Lost Laurel: Revisiting the Vanishing Retailers of Laurel, Md."
In September, Friend launched an online Kickstarter Campaign for "Lost Laurel: The Book," which he wrote and designed while exploring artifacts (some have never been published) from the Laurel Historical Society archives; The Baltimore Sun; the Laurel Leader, formerly known as the Laurel News Leader; and the personal collections of past and present Laurel residents.
Friend needed to acquire pledges totaling at least $3,000 to have the first edition printed. He offered unique items of memorabilia to "Lost Laurel" followers who contributed more than the minimal $40 level, purchase price of a full-color copy of the photo book. The campaign succeeded, quickly raising $17,567 with 315 backers.
On Feb. 8, Friend's blog plugged the opening of the Laurel Museum's "Lost & Found Laurel" exhibit that was inspired, in part, by his "Lost Laurel" social media.
In addition to loaning many pieces to the exhibit and designing its directory and infographic displays, Friend donated two signed copies of his "Lost Laurel" book to a fundraising raffle benefiting the Laurel Historical Society at the exhibit opening reception Feb. 9.
Friend will talk and sign copies of his book (for sale for $40) at a Laurel Historical Society program, “(Re)collecting Laurel,” March 13 at 7 p.m. at the Laurel Municipal Pool meeting room, Ninth and Main streets.