Location: Fourth Street and Spa Creek, overlooking Annapolis Harbor
Imagine a bustling shopping district here with two grocery stores, two barbers, three bars, a shoe repair, a post office and even a police station. Find out why this street was once so important to the community, why its prominence faded away, and how it’s making a renaissance.
The historic buildings you can see from Site 2 date back to before 1900, when the first bridge to Annapolis connected to the end of Fourth Street. In those days, Fourth Street was the bustling commercial heart of Eastport. Anything you wanted from groceries to hardware, from lunch to a haircut, and even the latest gossip could be found here.
The photo above shows Lou's Restaurant, originally known as Sam's Corner. Sam's was a popular neighborhood restaurant, especially for the workers at the nearby Trumpy Yacht Yard. The photo to the right shows Sam Lewnes at the counter in his dapper white jacket and bow tie, sometime in the 1930s. The site is now home to Lewnes' Steakhouse, owned by Sam's grandson, Charlie.
After the bridge was moved to Sixth Street in 1947, many local businesses closed and the neighborhood remained undeveloped for decades. Ironically, these circumstances helped preserve the historic charm you see today.
The Annapolis City Marina on the left at Site 2 was once the site of Mason’s Boat Yard, created under the guidance of Harvey Mason in 1918.
Mason teamed up with Charles Owens (pictured at left), who owned Owens’ Yacht Yard located up the creek on the other side of the Eastport bridge. Together, they built a fleet of Owens-designed 26-foot sailboats for the newly formed U. S. Naval Academy Sailing Program. In later years, these sailboats became known as the “Knockabouts.”
By 1933, the Mason Boat Yard was also building custom wooden motor yachts. After World War II, Mason acquired a piece of property at the foot of Fourth Street and Spa Creek where they built boats even more graceful and elegant than the earlier boats crafted in the 1930s. One of these, the Sally II was built in 1946. With Bill Mason at the helm, she won the stock cruiser race at the President’s Cup in Washington.
By the late 1960s, the wooden boat building operation had ceased and the yard became a marina serving the owners of fiberglass boats. In the early 1970s, the property was sold to a group of developers who transformed this part of the Eastport waterfront into the Annapolis City Marina you see today.
Looking up Fourth Street, the next block was the commercial heart of the community from the 1870s to the 1950s. It was also the social center of Eastport until well after World War II, with its two grocery stores, two barbers, three bars, a shoe repair, a post office and even a police station.
On any given Saturday during the 1930s and 1940s, Fourth Street between Spa Creek and Chesapeake Avenue was alive with neighbors doing their shopping or stopping to swap the news of the week. As a circle of men gathered on the corner, their wives and children strolled along the street window shopping.
At that time, the bridge from Annapolis connected here at Fourth Street. What’s now Lewnes’ Steak House on the corner was originally Sam’s Corner. It has remained in the Lewnes family for generations. At the start of World War II, it was the last stop for many young men heading off to war. Enlistees would drop in for a beer before presenting themselves to the recruiting station in Baltimore. Their buddies and families would wave them across the bridge.
Sam’s brother, Louie, turned the building into Lou’s Restaurant in the 1950s. It was closed for some years and in the early 1990s, Sam’s son, Charlie, opened a neighborhood breakfast and lunch counter before expanding to the fine restaurant it is today. The Lewnes family also owned Spiro’s on the corner of Sixth Street and Severn Avenue before leasing the building to other restaurateurs.
The next four buildings up Fourth Street from Lewnes’ were built at the turn of the century — a rare collection in Eastport. Up near Chesapeake Avenue, Jacob Wolfe owned a furniture refinishing business. Both of his sons became barbers. Izzy bought his shop in the late 1920s and Leon opened his shop in 1933. Leon operated his shop until 2003, when he was in his 80s. His shop was the place to gather on Saturday mornings to talk about the news of the day and tales of times past. Leon was so popular, he was known as the “Mayor of Eastport.”
The post-war era brought prosperity to Fourth Street businesses. Men and women returned from the services and found new opportunities, primarily in maritime-related industries. By the 1970s, the business climate had changed here. The bridge was moved from here to Sixth Street and competition from shopping centers in other parts of Annapolis eventually caused the failure of many businesses along Fourth Street. Only in the last decade have Eastport businesses experienced a renaissance.
The unique character of the Fourth Street corridor remains today. It is a source of pride in this community. Many remnants of the past are still apparent as you stroll along the sidewalks between Severn and Chesapeake avenues.