For more than a decade, the Four Rivers Heritage Area has worked to preserve, protect, and nurture our stories for today's community and future generations. The Heritage Area includes museums, maritime communities, waterfront parks, and a scientific research center focused on our environment. Visitors can find a wide variety of hands-on experiences, exhibits, art galleries, cultural and sporting events, historic homes, and more, reflecting Maryland’s rich historic, cultural, and natural legacy. Most recently, Four Rivers has created an African American Heritage virtual tour so that it can be accessible to anyone!
Four Rivers is an area rich in African American history, featuring historic structures, sites, landscapes, and cemeteries that have been forgotten over time or lost due to neglect and development. While creating the trail, they uncovered so much that they added 200 more sites had had to divide the Four Rivers Area into six different peninsulas. Significant and meaningful sites await discovery, and not to mention, can be found in unexpected places! One of these accounts is Betty Turner discussing her time working at Lady Ellen’s Beauty Corner in Galesville.
In the late 1930s through the early 1950s, it served as a Jailhouse, then a Frozen Custard shop, later Lady Ellen’s Beauty Corner, and next a Barber Shop. Now it exists as Jailhouse Antiques, but remains a location of African American owned businesses since the Civil Rights Era. When the shift in ownership first happened, it was a significant change from the deed restriction in the 1930s which prohibited the occupation by people of African descent. The beauty shop operated by Ellen Jane Watkins was the first African American licensed beauty shop in southern Anne Arundel County. Subsequently, a longtime community barber, Harvey Tucker, owned the building. At one point, it was the first African American barbershop in southern Anne Arundel County. This location became a place of community for African Americans. The building currently remains in commercial operation as an antique store, with one of the original jail cells downstairs.
Another amazing site we were able to visit was The Galesville Hot Sox’s home field. The Hot Sox were a semi-professional sandlot African American baseball team founded in 1915. Several players, including Chester Turner and John Makell Jr., went on to try out and play for Major League teams.
For years, efforts to document African American heritage are guided by the voices and experiences of families and residents of locals across the Four Rivers Heritage Area. They believe it is important to preserve these sites for future generations to appreciate and acknowledge their past! The trails allow people to hear or read first hand from earlier generations who were a part of establishing these communities.
Everyone is encouraged to check out this amazing online trail HERE!
Photography and videography courtesy of Patrick McNamara of Drawn to the Image