“Memoirs of a Main Street Boy” An Annapolis Reflection, Part 9

| August 30, 2017
Rams Head

Main Street, where I grew up from the early 1930s to the mid-1950s, is not only the emotional and physical center of my recent book, “Memoirs of A Main Street Boy,” it is the beating heart of Annapolis now as it was in my youth and colonial days.

The historic Maryland Inn sits at the top of Main Street. Photo Courtesy of M.E. Warren Photography, LLC

Just a seven- to eight-minute stroll from top to bottom provides an historic walk into the past. Main Street is bounded at the top by the round-about road, Church Circle, dominated in its center by historic St. Anne’s Episcopal Church, and at its bottom by the venerable city dock, structured remains of the harbor that originally defined the city.

In the early 1700s, Main Street, then called Church Street, was a block shorter than in my day because the “dock,” originally a synonym for harbor, extended haphazardly higher into the city. But the link of this maritime economic engine of the area with the power base of the colonies, represented by the Protestant St. Anne’s Church, gave Main Street significance beyond Annapolis.

That significance was abetted by the founding fathers who made the American Revolution a success. For example, in 1783, when George Washington famously resigned his military commission following the revolution, he stayed in a Main (Church) Street hostelry, Mann’s Tavern, riding his horse across Main Street to the State House to tender his resignation.

In 1784, members of the Continental Congress walked from the State House to the Maryland Inn, then as now at the top of Main Street, for a celebratory drink after ratifying the Treaty of Paris, the treaty that officially ended the war for independence and made Annapolis the new country’s first capital city.

Among those delegates could have been two future presidents, Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe, who rented a house near Church Circle at that time.

In my youth, from Church Circle, lining both sides of Main Street to the city dock, the shops and civic establishments supplied almost everything a family needed to live.

Back then, if you scanned Main Street from top to bottom, the store signs hung out over the sidewalks like colorful flags of different shapes vying for attention among the electric poles and utility lines that crisscrossed the street. To be honest, the poles and lines spoiled the view to the dock or St. Anne’s; they were distractions, like food stains on a clean, white shirt. Thankfully, they were removed in the 1990s.

There were at least three grocery stores on Main Street, a meat market, a bakery, jewelers, stationers, gift shops, hat stores, several pharmacies, and the offices and sales floor of the Gas Electric Company. The Elks Club was located on Main Street, as was the local pawn shop and my favorite place, the Republic Theater, where we kids watched the Saturday morning westerns for ten cents.

We even had an Amoco gas station at the foot of Main Street, in the middle of the traffic circle adjacent to the city dock.

The dock back then was full of workboats, including the now famous skipjacks. It didn’t become “Ego Alley” until the 1960s.

Today, the store names on Main Street have changed and a few, such as the movie house, are gone. But most of the store fronts remain as I remember them from my boyhood.

While today Main Street has lost a lot of its economic significance, it still calls its citizens to worship at St. Anne’s and other nearby churches, the city dock continues to thrive on boat traffic, though of a fancier nature, and it continues to draw crowds of diners and drinkers, as it did in colonial days and my childhood days. It’s still fun to walk those few blocks of Main Street as I do every chance I get.

Ralph Crosby will teach a four-session, noncredit course at Anne Arundel Community College this fall. The course, “Exploring Annapolis in the Mid-20th Century,” is based on his book “Memoirs of a Main Street Boy.” The first class is October 2. The last, on October 11, features a walking tour of downtown Annapolis. Registration for the course is available at www.aacc.edu/historyheritage.

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About the Author ()

A native Annapolitan, Mr. Crosby is founder and chairman of Crosby Marketing, a national advertising/public relations firm headquartered in Annapolis.

Mr. Crosby’s book, “Memoirs of a Main Street Boy: Growing Up in America’s Ancient City,” is available at local bookstores (Annapolis Bookstore, Back Creek Books and Old Fox Books) or online at Amazon.com.

Ralph Crosby will teach a four-session, noncredit course at Anne Arundel Community College this fall. The course, “Exploring Annapolis in the Mid-20th Century,” is based on his book “Memoirs of a Main Street Boy.” The first class is October 2. The last, on October 11, features a walking tour of downtown Annapolis. Registration for the course is available at www.aacc.edu/historyheritage.