Near city, but worlds away from its problems Quiet, crime-free way of life pleases Pumphrey residents

Neighborhood Profile

March 24, 1996|By Consella A. Lee | Consella A. Lee,SUN STAFF

The small community of Pumphrey, 4 1/2 miles south of the city, has a spectacular night view of Baltimore's skyline, hugs the Patapsco River and sits in the middle of a major highway grid.

Yet residents in this northern Anne Arundel County neighborhood that sits on the city-county border said they are rarely confronted with the crime that afflicts some parts of Baltimore.

"I think [Pumphrey] is a very nice community. We don't have any problems such as break-ins," said Wesley S. Booze, 76, who grew up in Pumphrey.

"I can't recall when I heard anything like that."

About the only concern residents in Pumphrey said they have is that the problems of their neighbor to the north could become theirs, too.

"We would like to see less drugs flowing through the city," said Yolande A. Dickerson, who is on the board of directors for the civic association.

"We hope we don't become the catch-all for drugs since we're so close to the city. That's our major concern," Mrs. Dickerson said.

"We would not want that influence in our community, because if that happens, then the community would cease to be a community."

Such worries, though, seem worlds away from Pumphrey, which is sometimes referred to as Patapsco Park because of its proximity to the river and state park.

Mr. Booze lives in the first block of St. Charles Road, where spacious split-levels and ranch-style homes and neatly tended lawns line streets with roadside mailboxes.

The block is more than just a scenic drive through Pumphrey, though.

St. Charles Road and other streets are symbols of the turn the community took 20 years ago, when new homes began replacing rundown wood shanties some hand-built by their occupants before World War II.

Now, very few dilapidated homes dot the streets of Pumphrey, which dates back to post-Civil War days.

St. Charles Road is named after Genevieve E. Edwards' grandfather, Charles Hines, who owned 75 acres in Pumphrey.

The Hines family was a major force in the development of Pumphrey.

Mr. Hines sold land to other families to build homes and gave 14 acres to the Anne Arundel County Board of Education for an elementary school.

Mr. Hines had purchased his land from Mary Susanna Hammond, a member of a well-known North County family, who deeded the mostly undeveloped plot to him in 1912.

Mr. Hines cut down trees and cleared debris during the day and burned it at night until he had cleared more than 70 acres.

He grew cabbage, tomatoes, strawberries, corn, beans and apples. He hired migrant farm workers in the 1920s and 1930s to harvest the land, and sold his produce at marketplaces in Baltimore.

The Hines family stopped farming the land in 1942, land the sixth generation of Hineses live on now.

When the Edwards family moved back to Pumphrey in 1950 after a stay in Ferndale, they built a two-story, split-level in the 5700 block of Belle Grove Road, the former apple orchard of Mrs. Edwards' grandfather.

A part of the Patapsco River Basin filled with freshwater fish runs in back of the homes in that block of Belle Grove Road. Summer days find fishermen casting their rods from small boats or the banks.

At 83, Mrs. Edwards is the Hineses' oldest living grandchild, and she's never thought about moving again. Pumphrey is home.

"I like it because I was mostly reared here and I attended the schools here. Most of my family friends are here," said Mrs. Edwards, who has watched the community progress.

"A lot of parents have been able to send their children to school. A lot of children have gone on to greater things," she said.

Among them is Lloyd Keaser. The community center at School Lane and Berlin Avenue is named after the native son who attended the Naval Academy and went on to win a silver medal in wrestling at the 1976 Summer Olympics.

The third of the county's three all-black Pumphrey elementary schools is now the community center. The county closed the school during the push for desegregation.

The closing of the school was a blow to the community. But learning still takes place within its walls.

Mrs. Dickerson is director of the Pumphrey Achievers, a 2-year-old after-school program aimed at keeping neighborhood youngsters away from drugs and focused on learning.

The program offers youngsters tutoring, field trips, peer support, career planning, exposure to the arts, lessons in black history, the value of community involvement and drug-awareness education.

Neighborhood parents and the Taxpayers Improvement Association of Patapsco Park worked for two years to get the program started.

The community center is the lone social outlet in Pumphrey, besides Community Baptist and St. John Methodist churches, both on Belle Grove Road.

The county paid for converting the school into a community center. The cost of operating and maintaining it is borne by residents.

"It's a place you can go and meet and have any kind of activity, whether you want to have political forums or educational programs," said Mrs. Dickerson, who works at Fort Meade.

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