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Janice Hayes-Williams: Anne Arundel should honor lost Fourth Ward in naming of Whitmore park

Whitmore garage and park, which completed the decimation of the old Fourth Ward during urban renewal, were named for John Whitmore of Annapolis. He was the first person after the adoption of charter government in 1965 elected to the Anne Arundel County County Council to represent District 6.

Then-County Executive Joseph Alton had tried and failed to obtain Mount Moriah Church at Franklin Street. So he set his sights on the old Fourth Ward, an African-American community, to satisfy the parking needs of the new seat of county government.

Alton's message to the City of Annapolis was essentially: Make this development plan work or Annapolis will not be the seat of county government.

The rest is history.

In 2010, after private entities inquired about buying Whitmore park for possible development as an office building, Bay Engineering checked county land records. What it found was remarkable.

As you would expect there were details about the lots for both the garage and park, as well as about zoning, open space and critical and noncritical areas.

But the records also gave the names of all residents, businesses and fraternal organizations that occupied the area bounded by Washington, Clay and Calvert streets when the county acquired the land for the Whitmore garage and park. The certificate lists 32 deeds of property obtained by the county between Aug. 21, 1968 and Sept. 9, 1970.

Deed 28 caught my attention immediately — the county had purchased a house at Washington Street from William Henry Hebron, my great-grandfather. At the time, the home was occupied by his granddaughter, Annie Simpson Henry, who left Washington Street to build a new home at Kirby Lane in Parole.

Deed 13 for was for the American Legion Cook Pinkney Post 141, which moved to Forest Drive.

Deed 14 was for the site of Lodge 118 of the United Sons of the Morning, Grand Order of Odd Fellows of the City of Annapolis. The name on the deed was a surviving member, Joseph A.C. Brown.

This lodge, founded in the 1800s, had originally met at Acton Lane, now City Gate Lane, as the city’s free black community grew. Former members included John Maynard, William H. Butler and Charles Shorter, prominent entrepreneurs and builders of Annapolis during the 19th century.

The black Order of Black Odd Fellows lodge didn’t survive the sale, and no longer exists in Annapolis.

The deeds, as a whole, read like a who's who of black Annapolis. Many families living in Annapolis today can trace their ties to Mason and Peggy Allsup, Roland and Elsie Brown, Josephine Young, Novain and Lillian Sharps, Lacey and Sylvia McKinney, William and Arastine Dorsey, Philip Richman, Thelma Richmond, Fred and Nellie DeJesus, and Carroll and Adell Hynson, among the many listed.

Recently, at the corner of Clay and Calvert, a memorial has been erected to honor the foot soldiers of the civil rights movement who boarded buses at the site to take part in the 1963 March on Washington and hear the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. give his “I Have a Dream” speech.

When the renovations and upgrades to the Whitmore park are completed, it will be available to the entire community for art, chess, music, feeding the homeless and other activities. The county is now considering a proposal to rename the park next to the garage for King.

I want the county to consider something different. It should remember the former residents of old Fourth Ward who were moved out to make way for progress. Perhaps it should be called the Anne Arundel County Foot Soldiers of a Community Legacy Park.

I also want the county to consider the people who have worked tirelessly to create a vibrant atmosphere with at Whitmore park, perhaps with a Foot Soldiers of the Arts District of Annapolis memorial.

Anne Arundel County, please include us in this renaming process.

Janice Hayes Williams in Annapolis historian and a former columnist for The Capital. She currently works as an ombudsman in the administration of Mayor Gavin Buckley. Contact her at

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