Saying goodbye to Wagner's Point

March 25, 2001|By ALLISON KLEIN | ALLISON KLEIN,SUN STAFF

Over the past two weeks, the city has demolished all the rowhouses in Wagner's Point, bringing an end to this tiny, tight-knit southeastern Baltimore neighborhood that struggled for years in the shadows of belching chemical companies and a sewage plant.

Former residents, some of them descendants of original settlers from the late 1800s, returned to watch their homes crumble. Some celebrated the leveling of a neighborhood they believe is contaminated, caused cancers and the deaths of loved ones. Others mourned the loss of the only place they'd ever known as home.

Here is what a few who turned out had to say:

Jackie Boykin, 36:

I was born and raised here, at 3810 Leo St. My mother raised 10 of us in that house. Six girls with one bathroom. My mother was born here, too. Lived here for 74 years. She's 75 now. It's really hard to watch this. My dad passed away two years ago from leukemia in that house. He wanted to get out so bad. He was the last one to die in the neighborhood. My father would love to watch the ball hit those houses.

Louise Regiec, 75 (mother of Jackie Boykin):

I walked through the house and found the mop in the kitchen. My husband bought it for me because he knew I couldn't get down on my hands and knees and scrub anymore. He used to wash the floors before he got sick. When I saw it, I thought, `How could I have left that mop here?' Maybe you think this is goofy, but it's sitting right where I can look at it when I eat breakfast every morning. It's the most precious thing I have in my new house. It was an omen that I should have gone back through that house. I love that mop.

Billie Jo Vance, 46:

I was hoping they'd say, "Let's fix these houses back up and let people move back in." My daughter Samantha wanted to have her birthday here. Where I live now is a quiet neighborhood, but I don't feel safe. It's too big. I feel safe now just being back here. I spent most of my life down here. Thirty years.

Becky Harrison, 55:

They were taking down the block and went on lunch, and [my house] was the only one standing in that section. I told them they were tormenting me, making me wait. They just laughed and said they were sorry. I don't think they were really sorry. The house looked lost and lonely. I had a funny, empty feeling. Like my heart was up in my throat. It's the memories, you know, raising the kids there. I miss the house and the people there, but I feel better now that I'm gone. I haven't had my head ache since I moved out.

Jimbo Smith, 35

I love my new house in Brooklyn, but I wish it was down here. It's nice up there, but it ain't like down here. I got a brick from my house. My friend Randy chiseled it out for me.

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