MPT looks at 3 1/2 centuries of Anne Arundel history

Program airing tomorrow traces county's changes

November 17, 1999|BY A SUN STAFF WRITER

A program tracing Anne Arundel County's 350-year history -- from the earliest Puritan settlement known as Providence to the intense development late in this century -- will premiere tomorrow night at 8 on Maryland Public Television.

The nearly hourlong project, "Anne Arundel's Legacy," won an ovation Monday night in a preview showing at a popcorn-and-soda reception at Loews Annapolis Hotel. The audience of about 200 included public officials, corporate sponsors and some of the program's stars -- longtime county residents.

Among them was 90-year-old Melvin Upton, born and raised -- and still living -- on land that he, his father and grandfather farmed, off what is now New Cut Road in northern Arundel.

"I'm a little hard of hearing, but other than that, I enjoyed it," said Upton, who is interviewed in the program with recollections about hiring pickers for the small family spread -- one of about 2,000 truck farms that characterized much of the county early in this century.

The program includes scenes of sparse traffic moving down a straight ribbon of highway through a landscape of rolling pasture. With nary a car dealer, supermarket or strip shopping center, it falls to the narration to identify the road as Ritchie Highway.

The novelty of the lack of development there underscores the growth of Anne Arundel, from a population density of fewer than 100 people per square mile a century ago to more than 1,000 per square mile today.

Along with some of the county's longest-tenured residents are its oldest surviving buildings -- from the restored stately homes of Annapolis once threatened with demolition to the rugged 18th-century farmhouse of Hancock's Resolution in Pasadena.

Woven in are the histories of the people who lived and made their livelihoods in and around those landmarks -- merchants, watermen, tobacco farmers, domestic workers -- and south county's first woman doctor, Emily Wilson, who offers recollections of her career.

Raymond L. Langston said he was particularly pleased at the program's attention to Highland Beach -- perhaps the nation's first African-American vacation resort, founded in 1893 after Charles Douglass, a son of abolitionist Frederick Douglass, was turned away from the white resort at Bay Ridge because of his race.

"I think it was wonderful," said Langston, mayor of Highland Beach, which was incorporated in 1922. "It's telling a part of our history that is not widely known, statewide."

In addition to tomorrow night, the program will have an encore broadcast at 6 p.m. Saturday -- but it will be available on demand throughout the county.

Robert J. Shuman, president and chief executive officer of Maryland Public Television, said videotape copies of the program will be given to every school and library in the county, and that an Arundel Legacy Web site -- an additional resources for teachers and students -- is being planned for the spring.

"Anne Arundel's Legacy" is the fourth in a continuing Maryland history series by MPT. Previous programs were on Baltimore City and Frederick and Prince George's counties.

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