News & Politics

The End of Blob’s Park

A family-run polka hall in Maryland comes to a close after 81 years.

Photograph of Blob’s Park by Benjamin C. Tankersley/Washington Post/Getty Images.

Among the unintended consequences of the rise of the National Security Agency, headquartered at Fort Meade, is the demise of a beloved polka hall in nearby Jessup. Founded by Bavarian immigrant Max Blob on his 300-acre farm at the end of Prohibition, Blob’s Park served up gute Zeiten for 81 years, reportedly hosting the first Oktoberfest in the US as well as countless whirls across Blob’s parquet.

“At 12 years old, I used to sit at the door on Saturday nights and collect the 25-cent admission,” recalls Max Eggerl, 68, Blob’s grandnephew.

But on March 30, the rambling building with the half-timbered facade was closed. The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Baltimore, which purchased part of Blob’s in 2010, announced it would build a new church for St. Lawrence Martyr parish on the site.

The boom at NSA and the creation of US Cyber Command, as well as nationwide base realignments, have brought tens of thousands of military and civilian jobs to Fort Meade, spurring local development—the 1,144-unit Parkside townhouses are already progressing on another parcel of the old Blob farm.

“Anticipating that and the growth of our parish, we need to be ready,” says Father Victor Scocco, St. Lawrence Martyr’s pastor.

Blob’s has closed before. In 2008, after Eggerl’s mother, the hall’s tireless matron, passed away, the family made plans for the valuable swath of land. It got a reprieve when the recession hit and the real-estate market soured. After a yearlong renovation, Eggerl reopened on a three-year lease. He says the archdiocese told him last fall that he could have another two years.

But the first Saturday in May, Eggerl and his wife, Sandra—who had married at Blob’s on its final day—sat at the bar leafing through a brochure advertising packing boxes. Much of the $25,000 stockpile of booze, which Eggerl hoped to sell off before his liquor license expired at the end of April, was lined up on banquet tables. Patrons can take away tiles from the dance floor for a $10 donation to charity.

“People took Blob’s for granted,” says Vera Majett, 88, a DC resident who danced there for a quarter century. “They thought they would stay away for six months or for years and when they came back, it would always be there.”

This article appears in the June 2014 issue of Washingtonian.