All's Quiet In Rose Haven's Little Corner Of The County

Hometown Arundel

April 10, 1991|By Elise Armacost | Elise Armacost,Staff writer

"Up through the mid-reaches of the Great Bay runs a roadway to ecstasy . . . an enchanted thoroughfare where storm petrels fly in the twilight before morning and great, majestic waves roll in a seafarer's hornpipe to the cadence of the cloud-scud above in an eternal testimonial to the sanctity of Truth and the constant chastity of the Chesapeake Lady!"

An excerpt from a romance novel? One of those pulpy reads with a soft cover featuring some gorgeous young thing in the arms of a swashbuckling hero?

Guess again.

This purple-tinged piece of prose comesfrom the brochure for a 1966 fishing carnival in Rose Haven, a tiny community on Herring Bay in the southeasternmost tip of Anne Arundel. Twenty-five miles below Annapolis, Rose Haven is a speck on themap, a cluster of modest clapboard houses, a restaurant, a shopping center, a large marina and a cinder-block motel all nestled against the water.

"We're just about as far down as we can get in Anne Arundel County," saidQuentin Proctor, 71, who has lived there for 31 years. Only neighboring Holland Point, which pre-dates Rose Haven by at least 20 years and extends along the Chesapeake Bay to the Calvert County line, lies farther south.

The biggest issue in Rose Haven today is whether public water and sewerage will be extended to the community, and if it is, whether Holland Point, which is polluting the bay with its deteriorating septic systems, will connect to the public sewer.

Another hot topic has been whether developer E. Steuart Chaney, who owns virtually everything in Rose Haven except the homes, should be able to close a 50- by 200-foot section of Lake Shore Drive.

Other than that,there isn't much going on.

"We're practically crime-free," says Tom Gill, president of the 150-member Rose Haven Civic Association. "We have about six 911 calls a month, and most of them are very minor things. One former Prince George's County policeman who lives here calls this a 'graveyard.' "

"To some extent we feel forgotten," said Proctor. "People say, 'You live so far downthere.' We go to Annapolisto a meeting, and they say, 'Where is Rose Haven?' They never heard of it."

The Herrington Harbour Restaurant, formerly the Rose HavenYacht Club, is the center of the community, Proctor said. "It's got to be the center, 'cause that's all there is."

Rose Haven dates back to 1947, when the late Joseph E. Rose, an entrepreneur and gamblerfrom Brooklyn, N.Y., bought 300 acres along Herring Bay. Later, he doubled his holdings along the waterfront.

Rose, a big man with a penchant for plaid pants and Hawaiian shirts, appears in the old fishing carnival brochures handing out trophies or posing with bathing beauties. No one seems quite sure how he made most of his money, though everyone agrees gambling profits from operations in Baltimore and North Beach helped finance Rose Haven.

One newspaper story describes Rose vaguely as an "entertainment promoter" and "a man who had spent most of his life fencing with fate in a wide assortment of endeavors."

When he bought the Herring Bay property, Rose Haven Harbor was asalt marsh, known as Red Lion's Pond, with only 6 inches of water athigh tide. Rose eventually dredged a half-million cubic yards of earth from the pond to form a 17-acre harbor. Within 15 years he built amarina, about 120homes, a swimming pool, a motel and a clubhouse forthe Rose Haven Yacht Club.

Through the early 1970s, Rose established a festive tone in Rose Haven by setting up boat races, beauty contests such as "Miss Tidewater," and the fishing carnivals. Older residents remember indoor luaus, oyster roasts and parties galore.

Residents remember gambling, too. Janet Bates, 65, a member of the Holland Point Civic Association who lives about three blocks from Rose Haven Harbor, said the slot machines at the yacht club did a steady "nickel and dime" business. Rumor also has it that at one time Rose Havenhad the only legal gambling wheel outside of Las Vegas.

Joe Rose died in 1974. "He was born before his time," says Proctor, who knew him. "He had foresight and imagination that was just unbelievable. He knew what he wanted to do, but I guess he didn't have the facilities to do it."

Many of Rose's projects weredone in slipshod fashion. He built his motel out of leftover cinder blocks. Other buildings weremade from scrap lumber. His lighthouse, which still stands atop the restaurant, is woefully crooked, though it still works.

"He never updated anything. He just did it and that was it," recalls Bates. "He'd turn over in his grave if he could see how nice everything turned out."

As the Rose Haven of the 1950s and 1960s owed its identity to Joe Rose, the community now bears Chaney's stamp. Along with three business partners, Chaney bought Rose Haven's marina, shopping center, restaurant, motel and all its undeveloped property for $1.1 millionin 1978.

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