Throngs will converge on Old Town this Saturday, May 12, as Laurel celebrates the Main Street Festival. The day kicks off with the parade at 9 a.m. It will be led by grand marshal Msgr. Michael Mellone, the pastor of St. Mary of the Mills Church, which this year is observing its 175th anniversary.
There are some interesting historical notes thatmay be of interest to Old Town readers.
The first is that St. Mary of the Mills, whose original chapel dates to 1843, does indeed still retain something “of the mills” – namely, its bell. The church and the mill, located just blocks from each other, swapped bells in 1890. The church’s original bell, given to the mill, has never been found, said Mitzi Betman, a lifelong parishioner who is updating the church’s history book in its anniversary year.
The original mill bell, meanwhile, still sits proudly atop the St. Mary’s bell tower and was blessed in January as parish anniversary celebrations were inaugurated. It was known for its powerful boom – strong enough to shatter glass and long the subject of complaints – but has more recently been wrapped and housed in a way that makes its toll more tolerable.
St. Mary’s is connected to the larger Old Town community in other ways, too.
The Rev. Joseph Myer was pastor at St. Mary’s from 1911 to 1943 and a prolific carpenter. In 1913, he had the church’s rectory moved on greased skids from St. Mary’s Place to 611 Montgomery St. He built a new rectory himself, the parish history book notes, “just to have something to do.” The original rectory, now on Montgomery Street, still stands, while Myer’s 1913 rectory was razed in 1965 to build the present rectory.
The parish’s history book – published in 1993 to celebrate its sesquicentennial – also briefly notes that Myer built a pulpit for St. Mark’s United Methodist Church, the 127-year-old church located just two blocks south of St. Mary’s.
Longtime parishioner Tony Spezio today carries on Myer’s tradition of handcrafted church furniture. In 2003, he built an altar, pulpit, candle holders and tabernacle stand for the St. Vincent Pallotti High School Chapel with wood from a walnut tree that fell on the Pallotti property. Later, a neighbor who was an elder at Laurel Presbyterian Church offered Spezio the wood from a large oak tree that came down on Laurel Presbyterian property. He used that wood to build new presider’s chairs and portable kneelers for St. Mary of the Mills Church and, later, a portable altar for the Msgr. Keesler Parish Center.
“One of the nice things about doing woodworking is that it has a life of its own,” Spezio said. “It serves people over a relatively long period of time.”
Pallotti Early Learning Center at St. Mary of the Mills will hold an open house on Wednesday, May 16, from 9 to 11 a.m. at 800 Main St. Registration for 2018-2019 preschool programs will take place then. There are openings available in the 2 , 3t and 4f-year-old programs. Please call PELC at 301-776-6471 with inquiries.