The day he watched the sale sign go up on the homestead his grandfather built a half-block from Annapolis' Back Creek, James Johnson knew he was being priced right out of his neighborhood.
His inability to keep the simple stucco house in the family tells the tale of the transformation of Maryland's capital into a prospering boating and tourist center. Yacht clubs and elegant residences now line the shores from which Mr. Johnson's ancestors fished at the turn of the century.
Once dubbed "Camelot on the Bay" by National Geographic, this city of 33,000 is increasingly divided into two separate, unequal communities -- one rich and one poor, one white and one black.
In the last 25 years, an influx of affluent white professionals, sailors and tourists has left Annapolis' oldest neighborhoods more segregated than ever. Blacks were forced out by the high rents and property taxes of the historic downtown and Eastport, while the income gap between those who remain and the newcomers continues to widen.
"Young black families are not able to stay down here anymore,"says Mr. Johnson, 43, who is black and rents across the street from the house his grandfather built in 1937. "This neighborhood is changing so much. It's hard when you remember how it used to be."
The rebirth of Annapolis' neglected, genteel streets is a phenomenon that has been occurring from coast to coast over the past two decades. From Baltimore's Inner Harbor to Philadelphia's Society Hill, from Boston's South Side to Santa Barbara's Pueblo Viejo, downtown districts are enjoying a comeback.
Still, the redevelopment of once-shabby older neighborhoods has its trade-offs. The up side is clear -- construction, higher property assessments and an in-migration of young career couples have brought much-needed income to cities. The down side is less visible -- the squeezing-out of the urban working class, usually black and Hispanic communities.
When his uncle died and left the property Mr. Johnson's grandfather built to other relatives, Mr. Johnson, a roofer, realized that he'd never come up with the down payment to buy the house. Last month, a white professional couple from New Jersey, who arrived with an architect in tow, signed a contract on the house that was listed at nearly $200,000.
Only a decade ago, most of Mr. Johnson's neighbors were black. Eastport, a marshy peninsula between Back Creek and Spa Creek, had been a stable, racially mixed community of watermen, teachers, domestic workers and employees of the Naval Academy.
Some blocks were all-white or all-black; still all the children played together, and everyone knew everyone's name.
Connections between working- and middle-class blacks andwhites have frayed with urban renewal, historic preservation and the arrival of ever more wealthy commuters from Baltimore and Washington, civic leaders say.
Blacks make up a third of Annapolis' residents, yet their history and presence are often missed by outsiders.
In the downtown areas frequented by tourists, a black community that had a long and rich history was displaced during the 1960s and '70s. The story was repeated in Eastport in the 1980s as developers headed there in search of cheaper land.
Even in the poorest section of the city, black families worry that they see the early warning signs of displacement.
"Everywhere there's water in this town, it becomes prime real estate," says Charles James, 48, who moved from a rowhouse near College Creek that has been renovated. "The whites buy it up, and eventually the lower-income blacks can't afford to live there."
Racial dividing lines
The splintering of Annapolis into racially segregated communities began soon after the Civil War. But it took the city's new popularity as a boating center to dissolve its interracial working communities.
Long before Emancipation, a number of free black artisans and merchants opened shops on Main Street and lived nearby in modest brick and frame homes. Today those dwellings are decorated with wreaths of dried flowers and cost up to $250,000.
As late as the 1970 census, half the downtown residents were black. Most have left.
"No African-Americans have been able to come in as property owners," says Leslie Stanton, one of the last black homeowners on Cornhill Street.
"At one time, I wanted to buy some other property, but the prices are really beyond what I would like to pay."
He remembers when the narrow, crooked streets leading to the State House -- Fleet, East, Cornhill and Pinckney -- were all black enclaves. Now he can count his black neighbors on one hand. Hardly any still live downtown and work at the Naval Academy, state government or the many restaurants, he says.
What happened? The loss of the city's once-thriving black communities and businesses is the result of simple economics and tangled politics.
It began in the 1960s, when boarded-up stores and junky signs lined Main Street. "You couldn't see the street for the signs," recalls historic preservationist St. Clair Wright.
While Mrs. Wright spearheaded efforts to save Colonial buildings, Annapolis lined up federal grants to revitalize its decaying core. It started an urban renewal program that eventually relocated 33 businesses and 237 residents, most from a predominantly black area between Church Circle and Taylor Avenue.
Government offices and a four-story cement parking garage today dominate Calvert and West Washington streets, where the lively Dixie Hotel, a crab stand, drug store, movie theater and other black-owned businesses stood. Rows of tenement homes were razed.
Snowden a harsh critic
Carl O. Snowden, a civil rights activist and city alderman, is one of the most severe critics of urban renewal. He calls it "urban removal" and says city officials re-created ghettos by deliberately scattering blacks to isolated public housing projects the city's edge.
In 1984, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development upheld the criticism that Annapolis knowingly discriminated against blacks by relocating them from the old 4th Ward.
Federal officials found that a stated objective of urban renewal was to break up the concentration of blacks. No provisions were made to return displaced families.
Yet Roger W. "Pip" Moyer, the city's mayor at the time, points out that the goal was to foster integration. New housing built in the midst of all-white areas on the fringes of the city was snapped up by families living in downtown slums, he says.
Many of the families who re-mained could no longer afford the rent by the late 1970s. Property assessments rose sharply, allowing the homeowners on Cornhill, Fleet and East streets to sell at a profit and move to split-levels in the suburbs.
Fashionable pubs have replaced the black barber shops, pool halls and corner grocery stores near the water. Few black-owned businesses are left downtown. Fewer than a handful of blacks are active in the local Chamber of Commerce, which has more than 700 members.
The income gap between the races widened in the past decade. A quarter of black families remain impoverished, compared with 5.4 percent of white, the 1990 Census found. Most of the 5,000 residents of city public housing are black.
Mr. Snowden calls the racial and class tensions that spill over from time to time the inevitable result of the disparity.
"In a real sense, the dissipation of the black community has led to its disempowerment," he argues. "It's also led to polarization and alienation."
City leaders had looked to Eastport as the last stronghold of an integrated, working-class community.
Almost no watermen, white or black, live between 6th Street and Horn Point anymore.
"What I wouldn't give to walk through Eastport again and see a pile of oyster shells," says Mr. Moyer, an Eastport native who was mayor from 1965 through 1973.
The black population dropped from nearly 36 percent in 1980 to 18.3 percent in 1990. The white population nearly doubled, and the price of the average single-family home soared from $76,100 to$187,867.
Families used to be able to rent a comfortable home with a big yard for a few hundred dollars a month. Now, units in a row of renovated factory housing rent for $900 a month.
Annapolis took aggressive steps to preserve the physical character of Eastport after waterfront condominiums, offices and restaurants sprang up in the 1970s and early '80s. The city won the battles against development pressures, but it seems to be losing the socio-economic war, concedes Eileen P. Fogarty, city director of planning and zoning.
Retired teacher reflects
From the front steps of her parents' home, Marita Carroll, 71, watches a steady stream of Volvos, Saabs and BMWs drive into Mears Marina, a yacht and tennis club across the street. A retired schoolteacher who helped integrate Eastport Elementary in 1963, she still waves to neighbors and former students, but sees fewer each day.
"I think with the development of all these condos and town houses, the community has lost its flavor," she says. "This was an all-black street. Nobody wanted to be down here. Now it's the great white way."
She and her neighbor, Ann Shaw, who returned to Eastport to care for her dying mother, say they've been pestered with offers to sell.
"When my mom passed away, I don't know if they literally checked the obituaries or what, but I got fliers all the time," recalls Ms. Shaw, 38, whose parents shucked oysters for a living at McNasby's seafood plant.
While old-time black families say they resent the invasion of affluent whites, the newcomers have a different perspective.
Lee Troutner says a dozen homes that had been on the market for years sold shortly after he refurbished Davis' Lounge in 1986. The bar, patronized exclusively by neighborhood blacks, was dilapidated, hesays, and drug dealers hung outside doing business on the pay phone.
Renamed Davis' Pub, it now caters to a virtually all-white crowd.
Four blocks away, Cyndee and Jeff Scholz sip wine on the deck of their $700,000 home and watch a parade of sailboats at sunset.
Mr. Scholz profited from the city's boom. He remembers being "the first white guy on the street" when he bought a town house for $50,000. Now the home would cost $150,000, and the street is all-white.
Though the paths of the privileged, middle-class and poor cross daily in Annapolis, the groups rarely mingle.
When the sun sets, the young white professionals who dock their boats in Eastport head to Marmaduke's and Davis' Pub. Local blacks hang out at the Peerless Rens, a private club founded in 1949 that's just two doors from Davis' Pub.
A Southern city, Annapolis has long had clubs, business districts and churches patronized exclusively by blacks or whites. Its schools were not integrated until 1963.
The laws have changed, but the divisions remain as stark as ever.
Few blacks patronize the tony restaurants downtown and in Eastport. Even fewer blacks belong to civic groups and yacht clubs in those areas. Churches generally have either white or black congregations.
The Rev. Leroy Bowman, pastor of First Baptist Church, blames the segregation on economics as much as race. The West Street corridor, where his church is located, is now caught between the conversion of more buildings into offices and gentrification near College Creek.
'They feel pushed out'
"Unless something is done, blacks will probably end up gone," he says. "I think that some are offended because of what happened in the past, and they feel pushed out."
Mr. Bowman, 84, says class divisions exacerbate the racial tensions that flare up occasionally in the city. "I think it [gentrification] has made some contribution to the sharpness of racial positions," he says.
For years, city and county officials have argued over preserving vacant Wiley H. Bates High School, once Anne Arundel County's only high school for blacks.
Many blacks were angry when the city denied a zoning change to allow the development of town houses that would have financed the restoration of the asbestos-riddled school as a community center.
Whites discounted race as a factor in a recent report that showed blacks are three times less likely to get mortgages from Annapolis banks, but blacks saw a pattern of bias. The reactions were similar when six black Secret Service agents claimed they were discriminated against at the local Denny's.
In Eastport, the words "black court" were scrawled on a playground sign. The black neighbors of Davis' Pub opposed an attempt this summer to install tables outdoors.
"They felt that blacks had not been allowed to 'loiter' out there, so why should whites?" says Ms. Fogarty, who polled the community before denying the pub's request.
Emily Green, the city's director of community development, blames such tensions on "lack of knowledge of the black community's history."
"I think if people really knew the truth," she says, "maybe there would be improved relations."
CHANGES IN RACIAL MAKEUP
Figures from the U.S. Census Bureau and Annapolis Planning and Zoning office demonstrate the changes in the city's racial makeup and income levels from 1980 to 1990.
CITY RACIAL MAKEUP
.. .. .. .. .. .. White.. .. .. .. Black... .. .. .. .. .. % Black*
1980.. .. .. .. ..20,016 .. .. .. 11,250 .. .. .. .. .. .. 35.4
1990.. .. .. .. ..21,449 .. .. .. .11,009 .. .. .. .. .. .. 33.2
POPULATION BY RACE, AREA, PERCENTAGE
bTC Eastport.. .. ..White.. .. .. ..Black .. .. .. .. .. .. % Black*
1980 .. .. .. ..796 .. .. .. .. 466 .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 35.8
1990 .. .. .. ..1,663 .. .. .. 377 .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 18.3
Historic District .. .. .. ..White.. .. ..Black .. .. .. % Black*
1980 .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 1,394 .. .. 210 .. .. .. .. ..12.8
1990 .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 1,595 .. .. .271 .. .. .. .. ..13.8
West Street corridor**.. .. White.. .. ..Black.. .. .. .. % Black*
1980.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 2,125 .. .. .1,206 .. .. .. .. 36.0
1990 .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 834 .. .. .. 1,342 .. .. .. .. 60.7
*Percent of total population.
**Population shift caused by conversion of housing units into commercial/office space and larger Census map area
.. .. .. .. ..All.. ... ..White.. .. .. .. .. .. ..Black
1980.. .. .. $24,228 .. ..$28,998 .. .. .. .. .. ..$15,289
1990 .. .. ..$49,006.. .. $49,478 .. .. .. .. .. ..$25,249
NUMBER OF HOUSING UNITS AND AVERAGE PRICE OF SINGLE HOME
Eastport* 6.. .. .. .. .. ..Units.. .. .. .. .. ... .. .. Price
1980.. .. .. .. 680 .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..$76,100
1990 .. .. .. .. 1,205 .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. $187,867
* New Census map in 1990 includes larger area
1980 .. .. .. 837.. .. .. .. .. .. .. $106,500
1990 .. .. .. 972 .. .. .. .. .. .. ..$213,000
West Street corridor
1980 .. .. .. ..1,638.. .. .. .. ... .. $80,350
1990.. .. .. .. 1,068 .. .. .. .. .. .. $95,950
Credit: U.S. Census Bureau statistics, from Annapolis Planning and Zoning Department.