In a small, nestled area between Richard Hazel Hall and just off the walking path near John T. Williams Hall sat the former residence of “Prince Leroy,” who had more than a dozen maidens waiting on him hand and foot for all hours of the day.
The regal moniker had no monarchal responsibilities as “Prince Leroy” was a “practice baby,” an infant that Maryland State College home economics students cared after. These were not the five-pound bags of flour or sugar you would see in home economics classes.
“This was a real baby so you couldn’t play around with this baby,” UMES associate professor of history, Dr. Kathryn Barrett-Gaines, exclaimed to a crowd of students, administration members, and visitors. “You had to show up.”
The infant made his home at the “Practice House,” located at the former President’s House, which sat on the UMES campus prior to its removal ahead of the construction of Hazel Hall.
The newly unearthed anecdote of “Prince Leroy” was one of many spun by Barrett-Gaines during an evening ghost tour of the campus as part of Founder’s Week events celebrating the UMES’s 136th anniversary.
The tour started at Kiah Hall, the former Somerset High School, with Barrett-Gaines guiding several dozen onlookers, both real-life and virtual, through the various eras in the university’s history, starting with its inception as Princess Anne Academy.
Other long-gone locations discussed were the former Kiah Gymnasium, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave the commencement address in 1959, DelCon Hall, the former dormitory and instructional building, and “Olney,” which played a number of roles during its 86-year existence on campus.
Barrett-Gaines emphasized the importance of creating moments during their time on campus that can add to the many experiences of the students who preceded them and the ones who followed them.
“We’ve been here for 136 years, so you could imagine all the stories (we) couldn’t get to (and) all the things we didn’t know,” she said. “We just found out about the practice baby! So, imagine all the history we don’t know because no one wrote it down.”