Park's renewal to begin with old trolley station

July 18, 1993|By Robert A. Erlandson | Robert A. Erlandson,Staff Writer

Once upon a time, the old photos show, women in long dresses with big hats and parasols and men in suits and ties with bowlers or straw hats stepped off the Red Rocket -- the No. 26 trolley from Baltimore -- to stroll the tree-lined paths.

Past the splashing fountain they walked toward the music of the dancing pavilions or the restaurant, called the Mansion House, where a seafood dinner cost 75 cents. Perhaps they took a spin on the carousel or enjoyed the scary delights of the roller coaster.

Others made a beeline to rent bathing suits, the funny-looking kind with long arms and legs that covered most the body, to dispel the heat of a Baltimore summer in the cool waters of Chesapeake Bay.

This was Bay Shore Park in southeastern Baltimore County, from 1906 in the gracious Edwardian era to post-World War II. In 1947, the Bethlehem Steel Company sent its wrecking crews to demolish the place.

For some reason, the wreckers left the trolley station and yesterday, after 46 years, Bay Shore Park began its rebirth with a ceremony launching the station's restoration. It will be the centerpiece of the new North Point State Park, adjoining the Blackmarsh Wildlife Refuge, in Edgemere. The ceremony took place at the front of an old Dundalk to Bay Shore Park trolley, No. 5347, on loan from the Baltimore Streetcar Museum.

Over the decades, the wooden slats of the station's roof and some of the supporting pillars have rotted. They and other parts of the open-sided 208-foot long, 48-foot wide and 34-foot high structure became unsafe and will be replaced, said Ron Rafter, chief of in-house construction for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

The state has allocated $150,000 for the restoration, which Mr. Rafter said will take about two years to complete. Volunteer woodworkers are invited to help.

Through the years trees and heavy growth have obliterated the form of the amusement park. However, the paths which led from the central fountain to the pavilions, the restaurant and the station remain and eventually will be cleared.

The fountain will be restored and a multipurpose building, to function as park headquarters, will be built on the site of the restaurant, said John Wilson, a senior DNR planner. The 1,000-foot pier that juts into the Bay will be stabilized and cleaned up for fishing and daytime boat mooring. The project will take several years and cost an estimated $6 million, Mr. Wilson said.

The initial state proposal to create a mini-amusement park drew fierce opposition from people concerned that it would jeopardize the natural environment both at the site and at Blackmarsh.

The Bay Shore Park part of the total plan now involves less than 20 acres of the 1,310-acre tract, Mr. Wilson said, and the renovation and new construction will be superimposed on existing roads and foundations.

Happy times at Bay Shore Park have been only memories for nearly 50 years, but they were shared at the small gathering yesterday. Jim Larduskey, 74, curator of the Baltimore Streetcar Museum, said his mother made him stand near the door as the trolley approached the park "so I could run and get a picnic table in the shade. That was my sole function in life, to get a table in the shade."

The United Railway and Electric Co., which operated Baltimore's trolleys, founded Bay Shore Park as a way to expand its revenues, said Mr. Larduskey, who wore a streetcar dispatcher's blue uniform. "This project is very dear to my heart. It's one of things kids are missing today." Fares ranged from 3 cents to a dime, depending on the year, he said.

Zelda Enoch McCardell, 65, recalled the trip as a 7-year-old accompanying her father, Ben, a novelty salesman at the park. It was a ride from East Baltimore to paradise. "I used to enjoy myself so much. I haven't been here since I was a girl and I was hurt when I got here today and saw all those trees and growth. I think it's wonderful that they're going to restore it," said Mrs. McCardell.

Frank Wesolowski, 71, used to come from Sparrows Point to work as a pin-boy in the bowling alley. He recalled rushing to place the pins and the mad leap to safety before the next ball rolled down the alley toward him. But it wasn't all work; many times his family came to the park to picnic and swim, he said.

Southeastern Baltimore County has long been a blue-collar area and most of the people who came to the park from that area brought their own food. "They called the restaurant the Mansion House and a dinner was only 75 cents, but most people couldn't afford meals there. They were Depression times," Mr. Wesolowski said.

During the 1920s, Charlie Echols, 75, of Dundalk, came to Bay Shore Park many times on church picnics. "I couldn't wait to get here. They had a thousand picnic benches and all the churches and companies used to come here," he said.

Lauren Bowlin of the Maryland Historical Trust said that when the trolley station restoration is completed in 1994, "people will see what people saw in 1906."

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