Friends of cobblestones win street fight with asphalt

December 02, 1993|By Edward Gunts | Edward Gunts,Staff Writer

When workers began drawing orange lines on the cobblestones outside her shop in Fells Point on Monday, Carn Cahoon was delighted.

But her delight soon turned to dismay. Instead of repairing the cobblestones, she said, the crew was getting ready to cover them with asphalt.

"Cobblestones are what give Fells Point its charm," she said. "People don't come here to see blacktop."

Ms. Cahoon is the manager of Beadworks, one of several storefronts that line the 900 block of Ann St. It's a visual gateway to the Fells Point historic district for thousands who arrive by water taxi.

To merchants such as Ms. Cahoon, it is an area where history means business.

The paving project had not been reviewed or approved by the community, according to Debbie Washington, assistant to the director of the Preservation Society in Fells Point. The group is authorized to review all changes to privately owned buildings in the area to make sure they comply with federal standards for historic preservation.

But the street is public property, and no one thought to alert the preservationists about plans to change its appearance -- even though it is as important to the area as any individual building.

"It would detract from the historic character of the neighborhood," Ms. Washington said. "People come to Fells Point because of its 18th century charm, not its 20th century asphalt."

Ms. Cahoon and Ms. Washington began calling city housing and public works officials to express concern about the paving work, which was due to begin Friday.

They enlisted the support of neighboring merchants Steve Bunker and Nadine Gussio, and landlord David Baird of Belt's Realty Services.

And yesterday, after two days of complaining, the group got the response it wanted.

"That work has been canceled," said Vanessa Pyatt, spokeswoman for the Public Works Department. "We're not going to do anything else, because they don't want the cobblestones disturbed." Ms. Pyatt explained that the paving was intended as a temporary measure that would fill in the potholes until the city could rebuild the cobblestone street in keeping with the surrounding community.

If the merchants and preservationists don't want the temporary repairs, she said, the public works department won't make them.

"Everybody is in agreement that we will hold off on the work."

Ms. Cahoon is happy with the decision, even though she said it means she'll still have to navigate the potholes that turn into "Lake Ann" whenever it rains.

Besides, she said, she was skeptical that the city would ever rebuild the cobblestone street had it been covered in asphalt.

"We've been living with this thing," she said. "We'll live with it a little longer and wait until it's done properly."

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