Uncle Frank's summer place had mosquitoes, a snake, a bay view and an unforeseen future


MY GREAT-UNCLE FRANK Bosse was a South Baltimore bachelor who liked to take on projects. A jeweler by profession, he worked Mondays through Fridays for some of the city's older firms. But on the weekends, he locked the door on his Light Street rowhouse and headed for the water.

Uncle Frank bought some waterfront lots ahead of the initial development push that accompanied Route 50's construction and enlargement in Anne Arundel County.

Frank's land was perhaps a mile north of the old ferry slip that sat immediately south of today's Bay Bridge. The bridge was only in the talking stage when Frank took title to his getaway spot.

His shore place, as Baltimoreans call those patches of water and marsh grass, was off Log Inn Road beyond Sandy Point State Park. The namesake Log Inn was a locally famous old retreat and restaurant long favored by politicians and those who loved good Southern cooking. I've heard a story that the political shenanigans that led to the 1920s Teapot Dome Scandal were hatched at the tables of the Log Inn by some Washington insiders.

To a 6-year-old, the aging rough-timber hostelry looked more like a setting for a Hardy Boys' detective novel than the once-prosperous resort it had been. At times, it seemed as if it belonged in a wooded national parks setting rather than near the spot where the Magothy River joins the Chesapeake.

Frank's property was close to the inn, but it was not as large or as well-appointed, as the real estate agents like to say. He used his own labor as well as that of his nephews, my uncle Vincent Kelly and my father, Joseph Kelly. Frank and Vin were the main contractors. They put up a main house, a sporty cinder block Cape Cod facing the bay. There was also a separate summer house off to the side. I could never figure out its purpose.

In the 1950s, we treated a Sunday drive to Log Inn Road as if it were a trip to Niagara Falls. Today, that distance would be considered a normal daily commute. Back then, my father's banana yellow Dodge didn't seem to like that trek. The Ritchie Highway's traffic was then at the peak of its dubious reputation as the worst on the planet Earth. I don't know why Route 2 earned its bad name, but Baltimoreans have vilified it mercilessly.

I recall a few landmarks as we cleared out of Baltimore. There were the cemeteries -- Holy Cross and Cedar Hill. Then came the Ritchie Farmers' Market, the Loew's Governor Ritchie Open Air Theatre (an early drive-in), Robinson's department store in Glen Burnie and a couple of restaurants, the Barn and the Wagon Wheel. By the time we passed Fishpaw's Amoco Station (liquor and bait, too), I knew it wouldn't be long before we'd be there.

As we left the Ritchie Highway for Route 50, some wag would remark that the air, instead of growing cooler and delightful, became hotter and the humidity higher. As we edged along Log Inn Road, the dense holly bushes and reedy grasses seemed to touch the car's windows. Within seconds, we also had additional passengers -- metallic-green horseflies, buzzing wasps, bloodthirsty mosquitoes.

Uncle Frank's summer place was far from fancy. The main houses sat back from the water; between them and the bay was a wetland. You crossed this on a rickety raised boardwalk that led to an artificial beach made of sand he'd had trucked in.

On one visit, a snake appeared in the marsh between the house and the beach. My cousin Pat Kelly promptly killed it with an oar. Thanks to some film footage on a home-movie camera, that day has been preserved forever.

On one particularly wretched summer afternoon, my uncle John Evelius went for a long swim in the bay. He emerged with a nasty red sting across his nose and forehead. Uncle Frank's little resort seemed forever plagued by jellyfish. We city dwellers liked to call them sea nettles because it sounds so much more dramatic.

Those who didn't brave the Chesapeake's waters often left the place with other body scars. If you weren't done in by the #F wildlife, the mosquitoes had their way with you. Clothing, fly swatters and chemical repellents did little good if the summer had been rainy. (These trips left me with the sentiment that's it's best not to develop the Chesapeake. Leave it alone.)

By the time the Old Bay Line's steamer the City of Norfolk appeared on the horizon on her trip from Baltimore to Virginia, we knew it was time to leave Log Inn Road and head back to what we knew best, the brick-and-asphalt part of Baltimore. We prayed a tire wouldn't get bogged down on the old road off the property.

Uncle Frank died in 1955. He left his summer place to his niece and nephews. This generation of the family wasn't cut out for its demands. There was a meeting, and the sentiment was to sell it.

Years later, maybe about 1973, my cousin Joe Evelius packed a bunch of us in his car, and we all took off for another look. The once-rutted road was now smooth and paved. The 1940s shacks and summer cottages were gone.

One of the passengers was my grandmother, Frank's sister, Mary Louise Bosse Kelly. A woman who was rarely at a loss for words, she grew silent in disbelief as we located our old property. There, where Uncle Frank's summer home once stood was a new, swanky, waterfront mini-mansion sited in what was now a select neighborhood. The shore place we viewed as a penance was now a model of bay-side affluence.

Pub Date: 8/04/96

Copyright © 2019, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad