As it turns 125, Eastport hopes to heal divisions

June 25, 1993|By Dan Thanh Dang | Dan Thanh Dang,Staff Writer

Ann Shaw remembers a time when everyone in her neighborhood worked at McNasby's Oyster Co., walked to Mount Zion AME Church and shopped at community stores in each other's living rooms.

That wasn't even 40 years ago, when Eastport was mostly home to watermen, tradesmen and employees of the Naval Academy. McNasby's is now the Maryland Watermen's Cooperative, Mount Zion has been renovated, and community stores have virtually disappeared, to be replaced by big supermarkets farther away.

Ms. Shaw, 38, saw other changes in her community as new residents replaced old ones and contemporary two- and three-story homes replaced the modest frame houses she and TC her friends grew up in.

Tomorrow, she and others will celebrate their community's 125th anniversary and mark the changes that have taken place since )) 1868, when the Mutual Building Association of Annapolis bought and subdivided 101 acres of farmland on the southern shore of Spa Creek to start Eastport and built a wooden bridge to connect it to Annapolis.

There will be a parade in the morning, festivities in the afternoon at Eastport Elementary School and a dance in the evening.

But as they celebrate, the residents of the once close-knit community are trying to preserve their neighborhood and cope with the changing times.

"The celebration is good in the sense that it's important to take the time to the learn the history if you're new to Eastport," said Ms. Shaw, who lives with her 8-year-old son in the Chester Avenue house her parents built in 1954. "But things have changed in that it was a small town then; you knew everyone and were friends with all your neighbors.

"Now, a lot of these people are strangers, and there's a division between old and new residents," Ms. Shaw said. "I just hope the anniversary will be a day that neighbors will come together and get to know each other.

Ms. Shaw is not alone in feeling a division in the community. Many old-time Eastporters spoke of unfamiliar neighbors and a growing unfriendly atmosphere as newer residents move in. Kevin Booth, another Eastport native, said he was "looking forward to the celebration" but was not sure "how I feel about it when there's so many new people in the community now."

"It's still a nice community, but you just don't know everyone in it anymore," said Mr. Booth, 34, who lives in the 200 block of Chester Ave. "I haven't had any problems with it, and I've never thought of leaving, but it used to be a friendlier place."

But for "newcomers" such as Peg Wallace, who has lived in her Sixth Street home for 25 years, Eastport couldn't be any friendlier or more close-knit then it already is.

"I admit there have been changes, but this community is very much the same," said Ms. Wallace, 68, a real estate agent who helped organized many of the anniversary festivities.

"People will still wave to you when you walk by, and I still know a lot of my neighbors," she said. "This community has a lot to offer."

For example, if you take the walking tour of Eastport to be offered tomorrow, you will see the Seafarer's Yacht Club, which replaced the old three-room, all-black elementary school. You can try the famous barbecue from the Peerless Rens Club, an old social club that sits between two homes on Chester Avenue.

Visit the Barge House Museum nearby and you can learn about Eastport's history, from its days as farmland to 1949, when the streets were renumbered and to 1950, when the town was

annexed by the city of Annapolis.

Walk a few blocks in almost any direction and you can see the waters and sailboats that gave Eastport its character.

"We love the funky charm of the the different types of homes, the various socioeconomic backgrounds of the residents and the wonderful racial mix of this community," said Judy Leichtman, 46, a real estate agent who moved into her new Second Street home a year ago with her husband. "This neighborhood will accept anyone who wants to be accepted.

"We've only lived in this house for a year and we feel like we've meshed in with the community very well."

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