Galesville houses updated for '90s Former homes of oyster shuckers get indoor plumbing


For Eva Smith, it was like Christmas a few weeks early.

"It's an early gift," she said yesterday as she took state and county dignitaries on a tour through her newly refurbished duplex, complete with central heating, indoor plumbing and running water -- amenities that her home lacked last year.

The home is one of 16 units in the Tenthouse Creek Village in Galesville that was modernized by Arundel Community Development Services Inc. The agency unveiled the renovated community yesterday.

The nonprofit developer used $1.2 million in federal, state, and county aid to replace roofs, install central heating and add bathrooms and kitchens in six single-family and five duplex cinder-block homes the agency bought two years ago.

Kathleen M. Koch, executive director of ACDS, said the agency has been working with the the residents since 1986, when the organization was the county's Office of Housing and Community Development. The agency was privatized three years ago.

"This was one of the areas in the county where people were living without indoor plumbing or running water," Koch said. "The whole idea of the project was not only to provide safe and sanitary housing but also to save a community and save a piece of history."

Woodfield Fish and Oyster Co. built a small cluster of 700-square-foot, cinder-block homes on West Benning Road during the 1950s for oyster shuckers who were mostly black. The sturdy structures, which have electricity and oil-fired space heaters, replaced the one- and two-room wooden shacks the company erected for itinerant workers when it opened in 1917.

William Woodfield Jr., whose grandfather, great-uncle, and uncle started the oyster plant, said his family tried to make the homes more livable, but the ground would not pass the percolation tests needed to install a septic system and the community did not have public sewer service.

And when sewer service arrived in Galesville, the family could not afford to upgrade the homes.

Woodfield said his family sold the properties to ACDS to prevent a developer from razing the community and building luxury HTC waterfront homes that the residents could not afford.

"We didn't want to displace the people, but we knew that we couldn't afford [the sewer system]," Woodfield said.

Now, 14 of the 16 units have been rented, mostly to the tenants who lived in them before the renovation work began and stayed with relatives or found other places to live. Each household will be asked to spend about 30 percent of its income on rent, Koch said. Most of West Benning Road's residents earn less than $22,500 annually, she said.

Many of the tenants are descendants of the original residents. Pamela Moulden, whose parents, James and Thelma Moulden, shucked oysters, said she remembers growing up with eight brothers and five sisters in a home with a backyard well and an outhouse.

"You had to wait your turn," the 30-year-old child-care provider recalled with a laugh. Her parents, she said, "would've really enjoyed this."

Russell Jones Jr. said he relished the idea of drawing water under his roof.

"Whenever it was raining, snowing or muddy, you had to go outside and pump it out," said the 55-year-old, who still packs ice for Woodfield. "It was hazardous."

Many of the tenants said they are grateful for the renovations and echoed a sentiment voiced by Eva Smith.

"All good things come to those who wait," she said. "Every day, I give God and ACDS the praises."

Pub Date: 12/04/96

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