Mosaic by the bay

January 12, 1995

The vote was close in 1950 when Eastport and a half-dozen other communities agreed to be annexed by Annapolis. Forty-five years later, though, Eastport retains its own character. While it has been gentrifying rapidly in recent years, that section of the state's capital city is still a place where millionaires live virtually next door to crabbers and car mechanics.

"There's a balance, symmetry and feel that we don't want to lose. And there always has been a diversity in income levels," observes Roger "Pip" Moyer, a former Annapolis mayor and Eastport native.

The Maryland Commission on Neighborhoods has recognized this diversity by naming Eastport one of 15 outstanding neighborhoods in Maryland. The panel cited good working relationships among the 225 businesses and 4,500 residents of the marshy peninsula between Back and Spa creeks.

Eastport residents have welcomed this recognition, but with some sense of foreboding. Many old-timers are not happy with the changes of the past two decades -- changes, they fear, may ultimately turn Eastport into an enclave that is too expensive to support the diversity that has been its hallmark.

"You used to know everyone," fretted one East porter, who grew up, married and raised his own family there. "It's all changed now. We have condominiums and the boat people. There are people who live here and work in D.C."

So far, Eastport has managed to cling to its character. One shudders to think what would have happened had all the plans discussed in the 1960s and '70s been approved, stacking the peninsula with apartment high-rises. Alas, there is no denying that the ultimate gentrification of Eastport is inevitable. It is a matter of economics. Owners of weather-beaten, ramshackle houses near Chesapeake Bay and the vibrant historic downtown can refuse tempting offers from the well-heeled only so long.

As an employment area, the color of Eastport's collar is changing, too: You're as apt to find a hard disc as a hard crab. Nothing underscores that more than the inability of the McNasby's Oyster Co. cooperative to operate a seafood market and continue the watermen's tradition there. Yet Eastport remains a gem, a neighborhood of contrasts that works in harmony. It is the epitome of what a community should be in an era of increased economic segregation.

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