Ask the residents of Laurel what they like most about living there, and many of them will say the ease with which they can get away. Laurel's inhabitants love both its small-town feel and proximity to bigger cities.
"If you can't find whatever you want in Laurel, you can go to Northern Virginia and Washington in a half an hour. Or to Camden Yards in 30 minutes," said Lyle Wolinsky, a Laurel resident for 21 years.
Bounded by Interstates 95 and 295, with U.S. 1 bisecting it, Laurel has been a commuter town since the late 19th century. Travelers have the option of Laurel's three MARC trains, bus lines or traveling by car. Residents can make it to Baltimore in 40 minutes or Washington in 30 minutes.
Laurel's city limits are in Prince George's County. The area encircling the town touches four counties: Anne Arundel, Prince George's, Howard and Montgomery.
Many residents who live in the area are government workers who commute to Fort Meade, the National Security Agency, the U.S. Agriculture Department, Goddard Space Flight Center or the Internal Revenue Service. The Laurel Park racetrack, built in 1911, employs 800 people.
Laurel and its surrounding area has one million square feet of office and retail space, said Ken Duncan, president of the newly formed Laurel Economic Advancement Commission, an organization created to market Laurel and attract businesses and industry to the office, retail and industrial space in the area.
Mr. Wolinsky started his business, Advertising Ideas, in Laurel because the area is family oriented and he has the convenience of servicing his clients up and down the Baltimore-Washington corridor.
He and his wife, Joanne, live in a split-level home along a tree-lined street. They moved from Silver Spring and raised two sons, Jeffrey and Robert, in Laurel.
"It's a close neighborhood," Mr. Wolinsky said. "We have met people through activities and have a lot of friends. And, our religious synagogue is here. We could move anywhere we want to but we are happy here."
The population within Laurel's city limits is around 20,000. Skirting the town are more than 130,000 people, who at one time or another visit the heart of Laurel.
"Others outside the city limits consider Laurel their town," said Elizabeth Compton, a lifelong resident of the city and volunteer with the Laurel Historical Society.
"They go to the churches, the stores and come to the town for most everything," she said.
Candy DiPietro has also lived all her life in Laurel. Her grandparents, the Andersons and Nichols, helped put Laurel on the map. Each was instrumental in erecting homes and other buildings in the town. Ms. DiPietro's mother, Peggy Nichols, lives in the original home built on Nichols Street -- named for the family.
"Our family has lived on the same street for 100 years," said Ms. DiPietro, who works at the family business, Laurel Realty. The company oversees family-owned properties.
"We're a dying breed, I think. There may be more people than I realize that stay in their hometown. It's still a small town. I still see people I knew from grade school," she said.
Adding to the family's involvement in the community, Ms. DiPietro's grandfather, Julian Anderson, was mayor of Laurel in the 1930s.
She married a man who also become mayor. Robert DiPietro -- at age 25 -- was mayor for two terms beginning in 1978. The couple had met as children and walked together to school. Mr. DiPietro's father, a musician and original member of the U.S. Army Field Band at Fort Meade, kept the family in Laurel through his tour of duty at the installation.
Mr. DiPietro, a general partner in a development firm, began his political career as a 6-year-old handing out fliers on a Main Street corner. He was briefly an aide to former Gov. William Donald Schaefer.
Newer members of the community have embraced the town and are trying to preserve its character. Within five years of moving to the area, Karen Lubieniecki became president of the Laurel Historical Society.
She came to Laurel after marrying Kenneth Skrivseth, who owns a 94-year-old Victorian home on Prince George Street, one block off Main Street. The couple has been restoring the dwelling for the past few years.
"The historical area of Laurel has the largest amount of Queen Anne-style homes in the county. The historic society works to preserve the flavor of the community," Ms. Lubieniecki said.
"There has been a lot of renovations on the homes lately. We try to get people to keep the old-town flavor and the renovators can get a tax break, too," she said.
The turn-of-the-century Victorian homes range in price from $130,000 to $190,000.
"I have never before felt such a sense of community," said Ms. Lubieniecki, who grew up in Ramsey, N.J., a small town that also centered its livelihood around its Main Street.