First Saturday in May a municipal holiday in Havre de Grace - John O'Neill Day

The first Saturday in May became a “municipal holiday” Monday night, when the Havre de Grace City Council declared it John O’Neill Day.

It’s a holiday Mayor William Martin hopes goes on in perpetuity, he said during Monday’s council meeting before the members voted for the holiday.

The first Saturday in May should be a day the citizens of the city take action, the city takes action and helps assist residents who want to recognize the holiday.

“John O’Neill is the foundation of what I believe is Havre de Grace’s character,” Martin said.

It’s the spirit of O’Neill, who manned a cannon by himself and fired it against the enemy during the War of 1812 and wouldn’t leave his post, that’s alive in everyone in Havre de Grace, whether they were born and raised in the city or moved there this week.

“That spirit resounds in all of us,” Martin said. “When we look at all the great things the city does, whether it’s the volunteers, the fastest fire department in the nation or volunteers who open the lighthouse every weekend, we should all observe that man’s actions on that day.”

Having John O’Neill Day declared has been a project of the Havre de Grace Historic Preservation for several years, Chairman Ron Browning told the council.

“It’s important for us to recognize the importance of heroism,” Browning said.

The holiday, he said, is a good way to reinforce “something very, very important to the town’s history.”

“We rebuffed the British. We didn’t do very well at it, but we did spare the town, at least a third of it,” Browning said.

The council voted unanimously to create the holiday.

Council members also voted unanimously to create a Havre de Grace Historic Preservation District.

While the federal and state government recognize such a district in Havre de Grace, the city never adopted the district when it was created by the Department of the Interior in 1982, Council member Monica Worrell said during the council meeting.

By adopting the resolution recognizing the district, “we revalidate historic preservation as a priority, and we continue to recognize the collection of historic buildings as well as maintenance and preservation.”

The designation does not come with requirements for property owners in the district, but gives them more access to funding for restoration.

“It’s really a continuation of making sure we are able to help those who want to preserve their historic homes,” Worrell said.

Also at the meeting, the council voted unanimously to reappoint Havre de Grace Historic Preservation Commission members Kathleen Lee, Judy Plitt, Marita O’Connell, Kathy Keen and Browning.

The council also approved the following reappointments: Candice Bossoli to the Board of Appeals; George Cardona to the Ethics Commission; Rocco DiGiovanni to the Marina Commission; and Susan Deeney to the Tourism Advisory Board.

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