Historic Black beach to become city park
The Elktonia Beach area in Maryland was once a summer destination for African Americans during years of segregation.
A five-acre plot of land along the Chesapeake Bay will soon be turned into a water access park where people can come to learn about Black history in the state of Maryland.
According to WTOP, the Elktonia Beach area was once a haven in summer for Black celebrations and entertainment.
Frederick Carr and his wife, Mary Wells Carr, who owned a grocery store in Annapolis, bought 180 acres of waterfront property in 1902. In 1926, their daughters, Elizabeth Carr Smith and Florence Carr Sparrow, created Carr’s Beach on the privately owned and operated land they inherited. In 1931, Carr Sparrow founded Sparrow’s Beach just north of it.
The report notes that during the 1930s and ’40s, both Carr’s Beach and Sparrow’s Beach were summer destinations for African Americans on the East coast, a highlight of Black entertainment during segregation, according to the Visit Annapolis website. Late Black Baltimore businessman William L. “Little Willie” Adams purchased adjacent beachfront property, from where events were held and prominent Black stars of the day entertained audiences for decades, through the 1960s.
“It was really a haven for African Americans to go someplace for leisure, recreation and entertainment, where they felt safe and didn’t have to look at the humiliating signs saying ‘whites only’ or ‘colored only’ and they could have some personal pride,” Vince Leggett, founder and president of Blacks of the Chesapeake, told WTOP.
After integration, the venues lost much of their allure and ultimately were sold to developers and a water treatment plant was built there as well. Sparrow’s Beach is now the site of the Chesapeake Harbor development, and Elktonia Beach was also nearby, the latter what’s known as Bay Woods today. Elktonia’s grounds are where the new park will sit.
The City of Annapolis, Blacks of the Chesapeake, Chesapeake Conservancy and the state of Maryland agreed with the Conservation Fund to acquire the property using federal, state and city Program Open Space funds. They acquired the land for approximately $7 million, according to Leggett.
“This parcel of land is symbolic of a significant part of Black history in the United States, as well as an important part of the City of Annapolis’ history,” Joel Dunn, who serves as president and CEO of Chesapeake Conservancy, told WTOP. “We are so grateful to the many partners and elected officials who helped create what will one day be a city waterfront park open for everyone to enjoy the Chesapeake while honoring our history.”
While there is no set date on the opening of the park, $2 million in congressionally-directed funds for the city of Annapolis were committed to its development Thursday.
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