A bright red cube with white box letters welcomes you to Essex. Located at the corner of Virginia Avenue and Eastern Boulevard, the giant cube seems a little out of place -- but for some reason, it works.
"The Essex Cube" -- as locals call it -- is a fitting welcome sign to a transitioning neighborhood that's not quite sure where it fits. However, it seems Essex is on its way to getting a makeover.
Established in the early 1900s, the east Baltimore County neighborhood's first residents were mostly former city folk who wanted a little fresh air and some peace and quiet -- for a reasonable price, of course.
Glenn L. Martin shook things up when he came to town in 1928. During the World War II era, his aircraft manufacturing company brought thousands of well-paying jobs to Essex and Middle River. To the west, Bethlehem Steel and its affiliates also provided employment opportunities.
More recently, the Essex-Middle River area has been the site for many development projects, designed to revitalize Baltimore County's east side. Run-down, often crime-ridden apartment complexes have been torn down. The former Villages of Tall Trees site is now a park, which includes a baseball diamond and a playground. WaterView, a housing development of about 200 single-family homes along Eastern Boulevard, replaced the Riverdale apartment community. A shopping center by the same name was also built on Eastern Boulevard. WaterView Town Center is home to several local businesses and restaurants.
Another big part of eastern Baltimore County's revitalization was the extension of Route 43, which opened to the public in October 2006 and connects White Marsh to Eastern Boulevard. County officials hope the extension will attract local businesses and bring more jobs to the area.
Essex residents celebrate their rich historical past -- as well as their neighborhood's ongoing makeover -- at Essex Day. The annual September celebration attracts thousands of locals to the 400 and 500 blocks of Eastern Boulevard for an all-day party. Essex Day has something for everybody, including performances by local bands, children's rides, appearances by politicians and plenty of shopping.
Location: East Baltimore County
Highlights/Landmarks: Ballestone-Stansbury House, Bengies Drive-In Theatre, "The Essex Cube," Essex Day, Essex Library, Martin State Airport, Waterfront Festival
Schools: Community College of Baltimore County, Essex Campus, Chesapeake Senior High School, Eastern Technical High School, Kenwood High School, Deep Creek Middle School, Middle River Middle School, Stemmers Run Middle School, Deep Creek Elementary School, Essex Elementary School, Glenmar Elementary School, Hawthorne Elementary School, Mars Estates Elementary School, Martin Boulevard Elementary School, Middleborough Elementary School, Middlesex Elementary School, Orems Elementary School, Sandalwood Elementary School, Sussex Elementary School, Victory Villa Elementary School, Our Lady of Mount Carmel Elementary School, Our Lady of Mount Carmel High School, St. Clare School
Trivia: Ballestone-Stansbury House, a mansion in Essex dating back about 200 years, was only saved from demolition because Baltimore County officials were incorrectly informed that the house was on the property of George Washington's great-grandfather. The Essex landmark is also included in the National Register of Historic Places.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun