1920s to 1930s: Creating Neighborhoods

Baldwin family, Owings Cliffs 1928Courtesy of Ed Becke

Fair Haven Cliffs
Fair Haven on the Bay
Owings Cliffs


Lloyd Tibbot. It all started when, in the spring of 1919, Lew Keiser observed an abandoned boat hull on the shores of Town Point and obtained permission of Manton Leitch, the owner of the property, to build a shack over this hull for a weekend retreat. Before the tarpaper shack was roofed over, a terrific rainstorm partially filled the boat and made the first night's stay there most uncomfortable for US. By us, I mean Lew Keiser, Clarence, and myself. The next day the shack was completed. Mama Lew and Clarence's cousin, Jessie Hill, were met at the Owings railroad station. Driving back to Town Point, we told of the storm and shortly thereafter a second deluge pinned us all in the shack for several hours. When the rain slackened, Clarence and I dashed out to the spring house for food. The first thing we saw was a bottle of olives, so we ran back yelling, "The flood is over---here is an olive branch! Thereupon the boat shack was named the Ark.
The "Ark" circa 1920, Courtesy B. Tibbott

Lew, who was never one to keep a good thing to himself, invited friends, neighbors, and relatives to enjoy the Ark, and many of the first Arkhaveners were among them. When Manton Leitch sold his store, we had to abandon the Ark. Lew, Bob Service, and Grant Leet rented some ground from Captain Crandell and built a more substantial cottage there. In memory of the Ark, this was called Ararat. But this was rented ground and Lew wanted something more permanent. So while the rest of us were playing, Lew was poking around looking. Then he found it ---an abandoned 4-acre field covered with blackberry bushes so dense as to be almost impenetrable, but it fronted the Bay and could be purchased for $1,500. Lew was looking not only for himself but for his friends, so he invited 15 others to put up $100.00 apiece and the property was purchased. Lew drew up a plot calling for a waterfront reservation with a center reservation and a roadway on each side. These reservations were to be, as they are today, for the common use of all members.

The remaining area was divided into 26 lots, of which 16 were set aside for the original members to be allocated by a drawing. At this point, everyone agreed that Lew should take the first choice, but Lew wouldn't hear of it---he insisted this was a joint undertaking and that everyone should be treated the same. In the end he prevailed and the drawing was held to determine just which lot should go to whom.

At this meeting is was decided that in view of the sequence which had been followed from the Ark, to Ararat, to the present location, the place should be called Arkhaven the place where the Ark had found a permanent haven.

As might be expected, Lew Keiser was the first to build. It was a small but sturdy cottage---the the starting point for the spacious Keiser structure that stands there today. Within three years, nine of the original sixteen had been built, namely Keiser, Leet, Service, Tibbott, Conway, Lindstrom, Money, Maggie and Dunnington, while five others---Offutt, Simpson/Troth, Peacock, Brehm and Denton---had built on lots purchased from the original sixteen or from the club. Subsequently, the Beaches, Tullars, Thatchers, and McCallys built, making up the total of eighteen cottages that comprise Arkhaven today. Five of these eighteen are still occupied by the original owners or their descendents. While the other thirteen have changed hands once or twice, all of the subsequent owners have fitted right into the Arkhaven pattern.

As soon as the blackberry patch was cleared, two wells were dug---one at the west end of the center reservation with an old fashioned hand pump and the other in the southeast corner down by the Bay. This was a flowing well and it was here that the men would gather with their pails. It became a sort of common meeting place where the men, waiting for their buckets to fill, would exchange stories and bits of news. It was such good company no one seemed to mind having to hand carry the family water supply---but of course economy was practiced in the use of water.

Somewhere around 1930 the electric company undertook to run power lines in to Arkhaven. This was given a mixed reception some were anxious to get electricity, some were afraid it would end our closely knit community way of life. But when it was learned the company planned to put the poles right down the middle of the reservation, the opposition knew no bounds---few wanted electricity at this cost. At this point Lew Keiser suggested a committee headed by Taylor Chewning to confer with the power company. This was a most fortunate suggestion as Taylor knew just how to deal with corporation representatives and in short time the company gave up and asked, "Where do you want the poles?" Taylor suggested the present back locations and that was it. The beauty of our reservation was saved and we got electricity. (July 22, 1972, Courtesy of Bob Tibbott) Return to Top

Fair Haven Cliffs

1927 water view of Fair Haven and Owings CliffsCourtesy of F. Wright
Martha Ross. Several of the family friends in Brookland Methodist Church were buying vacation properties in Anne Arundel County at a place called Fair Haven, a community being developed by Senator Lansdale Scasser who had a country residence there. Dr. Conklin, the family physician, and his wife had purchased a tract that included shoreline and wooded area. The Carltons had chosen a hilltop lot and built their cottage. The Rosses [Ray and Sara] decided to spend a vacation in the rented Carlton house while they were away and come to a decision about making a similar investment. It was such a pleasant place!....

The exact site of the property chosen was selected after much discussion. Ray favored the waterfront area, but Sara held out for the hilltop with its superior view and both offshore and land breezes. Furthermore, she reasoned, there would be room for a garden.

So, in 1929, a lot having been purchased, the dream cottage plans began to take shape. Ray, a gifted cartographer, and Sara, a practical realist, took pencil in hand and sketched. Later, enlisting the able services of Sara's brother-in-law, Clarence O. Colvin, an unemployed World War I veteran caught in the depression and a competent carpenter, work was begun on construction. Ray assisted greatly in dealing with local lumber companies in the purchase of quality materials, lending a hand as he could.

When the cottage was sufficiently enclosed and roofed, they camped at FairHaven, Clarence working on construction, Ray commuting to his office at the Coast and Geodetic Survey in the Commerce Building, and Sara providing all sorts of culinary goodies, meanwhile beginning to plant fruit trees, berries and shrubs on the newly acquired property.

In the relatively small back yard of the house being built, three kinds of grapes, purple, red and white, were started on their way, and three fruit trees were planted, a peach, a cherry, and an apple.

The cottage was ready for occupancy in 1931 and the concrete slab at the back step carried the inscription Top o' The World.

Each summer from then until Ray's death in 1947 the Ross family shared their cottage with friends and relatives, always continuing to improve both interior and exterior as resources became available. Many social events, American University fraternities, Epwortrh League groups, Brookland Church outings, friends, neighbors and family by the dozens flocked to the cottage and the beach all summer long. But at season's end, Labor Day, everything had to be closed for the winter, not to open again until Decoration Day, May 30th. The family would gather up pots and pans and linens and go back to the city.

Fair Haven Cliffs community pump, 1931Courtesy of Ed Becke

The community was supplied by water from a hand pumped well at the corner of the Carlton and Prentiss yards. Four buckets of well water were used at the Ross cottage for cooking and drinking. These were supplied by a young man, Mutt Ford, from the adjacent farm across the road. Two buckets in the morning and two at night he toted from the pump to the bench on the back porch. Toilet waste was carried from the lonely bowl, without tank or fixtures, through a terra cotta pipe into a lined septic tank by buckets of rainwater carried in from the rain barrels located at the downspouts at the four corners of the house. It required a full bucket and a quick dumping for each flush. A very stringent rule was that each time a bucket was flushed, it was to be replaced immediately.
Each summer vacation was spent at the cottage and frequently a day or two at a time the Ed Rosses went down to assist with the lawn, garden or property improvements. Sara loved to plant and harvest but was finding the growing trees allowed little garden space. It was decided to buy a second lot, the one on the south side of the house.

The entire new area was planted in summer vegetables, bordered by flowers, and ear early crop of garden peas was the source of great pride. No one ever had peas earlier than Sara's! Many a time Edwin offered to give her a package of frozen peas which would be about the equivalent of the harvest, but the offer was always indignantly rejected. All summer long the family was treated to a great variety of deliciously fresh garden produce and at the end of the summer cupboards overflowed with pickles, jellies, preserves, and canned fruits and vegetables, a joy to behold and tasty beyond compare, Sara's annual gift to her family. (Christmas 1981 letter, courtesy of Anne Ross Stewart)
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Fair Haven On the Bay

Clagett Ave, circa 1920s Courtesy of R. Wallace

Paul McDonald. My parents bought a lot at Fairhaven, Maryland, in 1929 and had a house built on it in 1930. This property was in a subdivision of farm property that provided access to the Western shore of Chesapeake Bay. There was shallow water suitable for swimming. There was a working pier with deep water being used to ship agricultural products and seafood to Baltimore and Annapolis and bring back materials such as lumber and fertilizer. There were sand beaches along the shore on both sides of the pier. The developer of the subdivision my parents bought into was Irvin Owens, Landsdale Sasscer was developing the adjacent Fairhaven Cliffs. They started in 1928 and 1926 respectively. Their probable source of borrowed funds was The Bank of Annapolis. The name of Cramer comes up in some of the land records and a Mr. Cramer was CEO of that bank. The Bank of Annapolis was privileged to be the bank of choice of the graduates of the Naval Academy and their income was not reduced by the depression.

The depression was deeply effecting the local people. Farmers were getting as little as three cents a pound for the tobacco they packed in hogsheads and sent to Baltimore. You couldn’t live on that. In September of 1932 we were in Fairhaven for the weekend. On Sunday afternoon while we were loading the car to go home a man approached my dad and asked if he wanted to buy some oysters. Dad said, “Not today but I’m going to be here next Friday evening and I sure would like some then.” He put his hand in his pocket, pulled out a dollar, gave it to him, saying, “Bring me some then.” When we arrived the next week there was a farm wagon load of oysters in our driveway. We gave oysters to all the neighbors, ate all we could and finally ended up hauling wheelbarrows full back to the bay.

In 1930 there was no electricity available to the properties, no public water supply and no sewage or waste disposal. The roads bringing residents to the area were paved as close as the community of Bristol about ten miles away. I have found a record saying the roads were paved in 1933. The gravel roads were in different states of repair even though they were “State and County” roads. My dad called the roads “cow paths” because there was seldom one going a hundred yards in a straight line. When they were paved they followed the path of the original gravel road with a high crowned macadam covering on the original base. Where the base was sandy they broke down quickly.
Howard Ave, 1933Courtesy of T. Hudson

There was an artesian well, a spring, on the corner of the Wilson property. This supplied the water for Fairhaven. There was a drilled well on the Sasscer property which, with a hand pump, supplied some of the residents of the Cliffs. Others used natural artesian wells which were very sulfuric by smell. My mother told of how the men would gather with wheelbarrows and buckets on Sunday evening to bring the wash water to the homes for Monday’s wash. Cooking was done with kerosene two burner stoves with no oven. Ice boxes supplied refrigeration. I believe in the early days, ice was bought at Bristol. My dad had a little fence that went on the running board of his car to hold the ice. His car then was a Graham-Page which is seldom heard of today. Later Mr. Revell had an ice house at the general store. After dark lighting was with kerosene lamps. The original houses had “cesspool” facilities for human waste. Many kept these after installing septic systems for winter use after the water system was drained for the winter. During the summers of 1932 &1933 many places had shallow wells dug and hand pumps installed. This was the depths of the depression. Even the State & County and their contractors were moving slowly. I don’t believe we were electrified in 1933 because no one speaks of getting power restored after the hurricane. By 1935 almost everyone had installed electric pumps, electric stoves and refrigerators if they stayed all summer at Fairhaven.

The fact that business was improving in Washington, by then, made the summer residents of Fairhaven pull out of the depression early. 1934 and 1935 were very busy years for my father because he sold and installed all the IBM Data Processing Equipment for the beginning of the Social Security Program. Because the system got data from offices all over the country dad had to do lots of traveling. He got one of the first telephones in Fairhaven because he had to leave on short notice sometimes and needed to tell my mother his plan. (June 13, 2011)

Paul McDonald (2). Someone asked about the connection between my family and others at Fairhaven. In our case, it was mainly a Catholic connection. Bishop McNamara (the one the school is named after) was my grandfather's pastor. He was also a friend of Fr. O'Loughlan, pastor of St. Mary's, Upper Marlboro and its mission, St. Anthony's, North Beach. He told my grandfather and Bob Barrett about this beach being developed. They both bought lots, as did my father, and had houses built on them. The Cauliflowers and Veiths had a connection through Sacred Heart Church, and kids in its school.

Harry McCarthy, who built Beitzell's (never could spell that name), was a plumbing contractor and probably heard about it from Barrett who was a plumbing inspector for D.C. Gingel, Santmeyer and Clardy had connections through being architects or building contractors. The two Howards and Mrs. Watson on the Cliffs were connected to the D.C. Fire Dept. Another set of related people came from "The Old Soldiers' Home". Mr. Thompson, Mr. Beach, and Mr. Wilson were variously connected to that Institution.

The Rays, Wallaces and possibly the Shermans were connected by the Methodist Church at Georgia Avenue and Quackenbos St. in D.C. Others developed connections later through children (1/03/11)

Our early days at Fairhaven were in the midst of the depression, so money was a consideration. Most women were "stay-at-home moms" in those days and many of the men only came to Fairhaven on the weekends. There was no air conditioning at home or in the office and the city had a high rate of polio infection. It was very desirable to get the kids out of the city. (1/16/ 11)

The Halls who lived next to Barretts on the waterfront were possibly the first of the summer people to live at Fairhaven year-round. The father, Bill, was a carpenter on major construction. As a consequence he spent long periods away at remote construction sites and no one knew him well. His wife (I only knew her as Mrs. Hall) ran a taunt ship when he was away so Bill, Jr. and Evelyn, the kids, were good kids. They married young and Bill ran a small marina near Fairview.

There were an unusual number of guys from a small community who became doctors and dentists. My brother, Joe, was a pediatrician. Enos Ray was an OBGYN. Bob Ray was an Internist or General Practitioner. Wally Alden was a Pathologist. Bill Alden was a Dentist. Joe Veith was a Dentist. This was from a group of about fifteen guys around the same age. Ma Veith tried to aim Anthony to the priesthood and from it he became an excellent musician on the organ. Fritz, the youngest of her boys became a priest and pastor of St. Anthony's in North Beach. I met her on the bus one day at that time and she told me she didn't believe he was serious until he asked her to buy him a black suit. Mrs. Veith, a close friend of mine, spoke with a broad brogue. (1/51/01)

I don't remember meeting Mr. Owings even though my sister Chick and his daughter Elizabeth were good friends. Elizabeth and Henrietta Collinson came down to go swimming with Chick. --- (Dec 30, 2010)
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Owings Cliffs

R-L: Gingell, Watts, Veith, Scanlon.... Source: Gingell

Gertrude C. Gingell. [Our cottage was built] in 1927. Our first neighbors were Mr. and Mrs. Williams (left), Mr. and Mrs. Walton, Watts Sr. (right side), ownership continuing in same family. (Notes to Mary Kelly/Colby, 1975).

OCCA/Charlie Walton. Mustains had an army tent on Charlie's second lot. The first lot Charlie's mother Ethelind Santmeyer Walton bought. Charlie's maternal grandfather Willy Santmeyer was from Front Royal. Charlie's mother bought the original lot but the second lot cost $750. Charlie's mother had a house built but was added on to by the grandparents, Santmeyer. Mother bought about 1922-23. At that time Revell's store was not there. They went to Prouts store at the intersection of Fairhaven and Franklin Gibson Road. Franklin one family, Gibson the other. So in the flats Charlie remembers Capt'n John's house across from Hunts by the old trestle bridge, which eventually rusted away and was replaced in the 1930s, maybe 1930.

Mutt Ford's big house (Eversfield) belonged to the Jones. Owings Cliffs where we are was Jones' farm. Ford and Jones were related. They lived up in that house. There is a cave behind that house that was used in the underground railroad. Kids used to go there. Entrance was covered up in 1950s. It had two feet of water in it from underground spring. "Cold as hell" water. Eversfields are from Beltsville, bought the house next to Malloys. Octi, and his brother, came down in the summer to the little house. Vic's father bought the Ford house. He was known as Brother Eversfield.

So, in the 1920s, there was the store (Hunts), next door the McGonigles. Cap'n John was directly across from Hunts and Bough Revell's house was next to the hill where there is a well. Bough Revell and his wife eventually built the old store. Charlie Walton says that MGonigles lived in Charlie Crye's house (Vic Eversfield's). The old store, Charlie recalls, was used for real-estate transactions. It was more or less vacant. All the counters were intact. Originally it may have been Prout's store? Charlie's mother signed the papers to buy the lots there.
McGonnigal/Crye (L) and Hunt (R) housescirca 1920s, courtesy of F. Wright

The Cove Club was built after the storm in 1932. Originally, Charlie remembers the old pier which was rebuilt just about a month before the storm took it away. The old pier was condemned. Old Man Wilkinson (Harry Wilkinson) was caretaker, and ran everybody off. The Weems Steamship Company owned the pier. Charlie remembers steamboats coming up. They would drive cattle out onto the pier. They had holding pens for the cattle. They would take the cattle to Baltimore for slaughter. A lumber boat came in regularly. Charlie used to be called "Billy Whiskers" by Old Man Wilkinson.

Ed Becke. I have a picture of myself on the beach in Fairhaven that was taken in 1925 when I was two-and-a-half years. My little cousin, Dorothy Baldwin, whose father built the house where I live, is also in the picture. The first people who brought me down were the Gibsons. That was Hatcher Gibson's mother and father. (February 26, 2008)

Frank Wright. My own memories of the Bay and Fairhaven begin from the time I was about four years old, in the mid-1930s, but in a sense my association goes back further than that, because my mother and father left from Hunt's old house at Fairhaven to be married in September, 1930. Mrs. Hunt packed a picnic basket for the happy couple, and they climbed up into a borrowed model-A Ford and drove to Annapolis to take the ferry to the Eastern Shore. They were married at Christ Episcopal Church in Easton, Maryland.

A part of every August of my childhood was spent at the Hunt's old house, just around the bend at Herring Cove. As a small boy, I was almost sick with anticipation when I realized that the 31-mile journey to Fairhaven was imminent. The scratchy wool bathing suits were pulled out of the cedar chest and the car was stuffed with provisions for the long trip over gravel roads through Upper Marlboro to Fairhaven at Herring Cove.

The Hunt house was the epitome of rural Americana. Decorated with crab nets and oars, with curls of sticky orange fly-paper dangling over the dinner talbe, it had a wood stove for cooking, kerosene lamps for light and large galvanized buckets that performed double-duty: to hold the water fetched from Cap'n John Revell's well and to serve as receptacles for the water that leaked through the roof. The white-washed privy could be reached by a few wide-oak planks that extended out into the marsh....

I have my own hose now around the bend from Herring Cove, at Owings Cliffs, which also serves as a subject of my paintings. It is a converted beach cottage which my mother and father bought when I was 12, and it still servies as home after 54 years. (from Frank Wright, Annapolis and the Bay, Paintings 1989-1996, Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts, September 11-October 17, 1998.)

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Gingell house, August 1933. Source: Gingell

Maude Gingell's sister Emma on crest of Revel Rd. Source: Gingell

Looking down Revel Rd. toward Lake. Source: Gingell