Eastport's past and future

July 06, 1993

Eastport, the one-time watermen's community that is literally a stone's throw from historic Annapolis, has been celebrating its 125th birthday. But as far as we can determine, no mention has yet been made about one of the Spa Creek spot's rare brushes with national history -- the night it played host (kind of) to George Washington.

The father of our country had been inaugurated in New York City and was traveling South in 1788. After first riding by coach to Rock Hall, the whole expedition was loaded onto a schooner for a trip to Annapolis.

Alas, there was no wind.

When the schooner finally took off after a thunder storm, it ran aground on Hackett's Point. Kedged off that bar, it grounded again on Horn Point, off Eastport. All efforts to float the vessel failed.

When darkness set in, a reception committee, headed by Gov. John Eager Howard, went home and the unfortunate George had to sleep in a berth that, according to his diary, was "too short by the head." In the end, President Washington did make it to Annapolis, where an opulent banquet was held in his honor.

Eastport in those early days was very different from the place it is today. Indeed, the community's leisurely ways continued well past World War II, and it was only in 1950 that it was annexed by Annapolis.

The pace of change in Eastport has been truly head-spinning in the past decades. It has been transformed from a poor and often scorned backwater to a varied community which has its millionaires as well as its paupers. The change would have been even more drastic had all the plans of the 1960s and 1970s to construct huge high-rise towers on the peninsula come about.

"You used to know everyone," said 62-year-old Betty Sadler Meade of the community where she grew up and raised her family. "It's changed now. We have condominiums and the boat people. There are people who live here and work in D.C."

The same forces that led to the revitalization of historic residential areas in downtown Annapolis -- outward expansion of the Baltimore-Washington region as well as heightened interest in the bay -- have changed Eastport and inflated property values. Nevertheless, Eastport today retains many of its ancient ties to the sea.

This is a valuable heritage, one that should be carefully protected and promoted in the future.

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