Housing complex may bear new name

Bloomsbury Square homes were rebuilt in Whitesville

March 28, 2004|By Jason Song | Jason Song,SUN STAFF

The new Bloomsbury Square - the controversial and long-delayed Annapolis public housing complex - was once labeled a model of "what not to do" by Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a "tragedy" by Comptroller William Donald Schaefer and "more trouble than it's worth" by one of its residents.

So when officials with the city's housing authority found out that the 51-unit complex on the banks of College Creek doesn't actually lie on the historic Bloomsbury Square property, the agency was quick to begin a search for a new name.

"We'd like to be more historically correct and perhaps move on from the `Bloomsbury Square' name," said Trudy McFall, chair of the housing authority board, which is examining historical documents and will poll residents about a possible new name, which could be chosen within several months.

Until last fall, the name Bloomsbury Square was historically accurate. The complex was built in 1941 near the corner of Bloomsbury Square and Rowe Boulevard, the former site of a racially mixed neighborhood named for the tony Bloomsbury Square neighborhood in London.

In a complex $6.5 million deal brokered between officials of then-Gov. Parris N. Glendening's administration and the city's housing authority, the state built plush new townhomes along College Creek for residents of the old Bloomsbury Square. In exchange for title, the housing authority gave the state the old housing complex, which the state plans to raze to make way for a parking lot.

Frustration

After a gala groundbreaking ceremony in summer 2002, the project did not go smoothly. The work went over budget - the state had to approve an extra $800,000 - and the move-in date was delayed numerous times, frustrating residents.

The parties began bickering among themselves. The state, developer and housing authority took turns blaming each other for delays at public meetings. When residents finally moved into their new homes in November, all sides were so exhausted that they didn't hold any type of celebration.

Amid all the finger-pointing, housing authority officials didn't spend much time thinking about the complex's new name and simply called the community the "new Bloomsbury Square housing community."

But local historian Janice Hayes-Williams told housing authority officials this month that the new Bloomsbury Square is actually on the site of the Village of Whitesville - also known as "Whites Row" - named for local resident John White, who owned many of the homes in the area. According to U.S. Census data, most of the residents were black, Hayes-Williams said.

Whitesville

"Whitesville" does not have any racial overtones, Hayes-Williams said. She didn't advocate "Whitesville" as a new name and said any choice "should reflect the area's African-American heritage."

Housing authority board member Howard Pinskey agreed that a name change could be in order. "If it's more historically accurate, I'd be in favor," he said.

The housing authority is in the process of renovating some of its properties, and board members said others may be renamed if it turns out they do not have historically accurate names.

"We want them to look like private sector apartments, and I want them to have names like private sector apartments," McFall said.

The housing authority still needs to poll residents to see if they want a change. But Bloomsbury resident Horace Byrd said he wouldn't mind dropping the housing complex's old name. "It's good to have change," he said. "Besides, as long as you're living in the facility, that's all that matters."

If the housing authority does rename the housing complex, it appears the old name will die.

"There are no plans to name the parking lot `Bloomsbury,'" said Anne Hubbard, a spokeswoman for the state Department of General Services.

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