Hilltop Housing celebrates its second Heritage Day

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Hilltop Housing in Ellicott City celebrated its second Heritage Day with an old-fashioned community picnic July 25 and 26.

The county's only public housing complex was built on Mount Ida Drive in 1969 and 1970, to replace a handful of old wooden houses without indoor plumbing on Fels Lane. Heritage Day - which began July 25 with a choir concert and homemade cakes and pies, and continued with a festival July 26 - was a celebration of the Hilltop Housing community.

"Raymond Johnson got the county to build the property," said Art Downing of the Howard County Department of Recreation and Parks, who attended and helped stage the celebration. "He was called the firecracker of Fels Lane. They used to live in shacks on Fels Lane, and every time it rained, they would get washed out. His was one of the first families to move there. ... They got decent housing for low-income people."

"I was 2 when we moved here," said Yonetta Johnson, Raymond's niece. "I'm raising my son here, for the time being. I love this community. It's home to me."

The party included display boards with clippings about the community's history: "How Mr. Johnson got it started, how the NAACP helped them, how they got the money," Downing said. "Fels Lane was actually nicknamed the smallest ghetto in America. It was just four or five houses."

Included in the display was an article about the 1895 lynching of a black man, Jacob Henson, who was hanged from a dogwood tree; and a training book that belonged to the first black volunteer firefighter in Howard County - Mansfield Fuller, who attended the party.

Local dignitaries spoke. Stepping Out Productions of Baltimore performed and then signed up children and adults for dance classes to be held in the parking lot.

"And then ... they cooked everybody's specialty: fried fish, pork barbecue, funnel cakes, fried chicken. A lot of people pitched in to make everything go real well," Downing said. " ... A couple of local guys who'd grown up and moved out of there came back with their band, and from 7 to 9 o'clock they played. I was out there" dancing.

- Fay Lande

Living history shows at B&O; railroad museum

The Ellicott City B&O; Railroad Station Museum will sponsor two performances by a living historian portraying Laura Ingalls Wilder, author of The Little House children's book series, at 12:30 p.m. and 1:30 p.m. Saturday.

She will tell stories about her characters, talk about raising her family in Missouri and answer questions.

The museum is at 2711 Maryland Ave., in the Ellicott City historic district. Admission is $4; $3 for students and seniors. Children to age 13 pay $2; age 3 and younger get in free.

Information: 410-461-1944 or www.ecbo.org.

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