Walkway paved with city's memories

April 06, 1992|By Rafael Alvarez | Rafael Alvarez,Staff Writer

This is how the New World looked to little Barbara Grella when she landed at the foot of Broadway from Poland in November of 1952.

"It was market day, a Friday, the markets were wooden sheds then and a lot of the stalls were on the outside," said Ms. Grella, 44, who grew up to own a saloon not far from the market. "It was crowded and I remember rabbits hanging and big hams, and live chickens in cages."

With her mother, Helen Ziemiecki, the youngster was delivered to the end-of-the-line from Locust Point on the old Samuel Taggart steam ferry that docked alongside the Broadway Recreation Pier, the last leg of a voyage from New York by way of Germany by way of Poland.

Barbara Grella's pilgrimage from another part of the world to the oldest neighborhood in Baltimore has been duplicated tens of thousands of times over since Fells Point was founded as a colonial harbor village.

Such adventures are now being memorialized in red brick at the Broadway dock where so many of the journeys ended.

There, workers have been building a pier to fulfill the city's commitment to open an uninterrupted public walkway around the harbor rim from Key Highway in South Baltimore to Boston Street in Canton.

The $1.6 million Broadway promenade, complete with signs detailing the history of the water it shadows, will extend 480-feet into the harbor and will be paved with about 12,000 bricks.

And for the price of $50 or several hours of volunteer work, the public has been invited by the Baltimore Harbor Endowment to buy bricks in exchange for the privilege of having them engraved as they wish.

Bricks have been purchased in honor of everyone from Frederick Douglass to Elvis Presley.

And in Fells Point, scores of Baltimoreans who trace their American origins back to the intersection of Broadway and Thames Street are buying bricks in tribute to their ancestors.

Barbara Grella hasn't done it yet.

But Lillian Bond has -- seven times over.

In addition to buying a brick to honor her parents -- Michael and Catherine Grochowina -- Mrs. Bond has reserved space for her late husband, her son and his wife, a niece in the convent, a grandson, a granddaughter, and a special friend.

"That's $350," said the 81-year-old Highlandtown widow.

Like Ms. Grella's trip, Mrs. Bond's parents did not make it to Baltimore without stops in between.

"They landed in New York on July 4, 1907, but they couldn't get off because of the holiday, they had to wait until the Fifth to get a ship to Locust Point and then the ferry brought them over to Broadway," she said. "They come to Fells Point and they stayed."

In Baltimore, Mrs. Bond's parents found work in the packing houses along Boston Street and later the family fortunes improved when her father was hired on the waterfront as a stevedore.

"We got a little better off than some people," she said. "When he was a longshoreman that got us up a little bit, out of real poverty."

To be a little better off.

That's why Evangelia Maheridis came over from her village on the Greek island of Evvoia in July 1961.

"I love to come here," she said. "Something inside me said come to America."

And although she didn't arrive at the pier by boat, traveling instead by train from New York, the path to Baltimore still led to the foot of Broadway and a little cafe her uncle owned there called J. G. Lunch.

She learned English from night school and newspapers, found work as a seamstress, and within a short time had saved enough money to put a down payment on a little Highlandtown rowhouse and start a family.

The courage to do such a thing, to start a new life in a strange land, is what Mrs. Maheridis' four children wanted to commemorate in a brickbearing the name of their mother and late father.

"I think that she's a lot stronger and braver than us," said her daughter, Dina.

The harbor endowment will be selling Broadway bricks through April 27 and by the time the pier is finished in June, it will have hundreds of names and phrases chiseled into its walkway, some of them crass and commercial, some silly and sentimental, but many to the spirit of old-timers who once walked the waterfront's cobblestone streets for fresh slaughtered chickens at market.

People like Joseph and Amalia Guldan, who came over almost 100 years ago from an area that became Czechoslovakia.

For them, Myrna Guldan bought a brick.

"I just thought, being my husband's parents came over and settled in the vicinity, you know, it would be a nice memory of them," said Mrs. Guldan.

Memorial bricks

WHAT: Memorial bricks for Broadway Pier Plaza.

WHERE: Foot of Broadway, Fells Point.

COST: $50 or 15 hours of volunteer work per brick.

CALL: Baltimore Harbor Endowment, 732-8155.

DEADLINE: April 27.

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