The bridge to Annapolis has always been an essential part of Eastport life. Take a peek into the past and learn about the various bridges that spanned the harbor and how they helped shape the community.
The first wooden bridge, built in 1868, connected at Site 3 at the end of Fourth Street. It served pedestrians and horse-drawn wagons. Forty years later, a larger steel bridge was built in the same location for cars and trucks. The bridge tender lived on the bridge and opened a pivoting central span by hand-crank whenever a boat needed to pass through. On hot days, the steel expanded, preventing the span from closing properly until a fire truck was called to hose it down with cold water. The drawbridge you see today, connecting Sixth Street two blocks to the left of Site 3, was built in 1947 with heavy weights to counter-balance the center spans. If you hear a horn from Site 3, watch how the bridge opens to let a sailboat through.
Before the drawbridge was built on Sixth Street in 1949, there were two prior bridges that came here to Fourth Street. The first was a wooden bridge built in 1870 by the Mutual Building Association.
Despite its narrow passage, the bridge provided easy access for horse, wagon and foot traffic from what is now Fourth Street in Eastport to Duke of Glouscester Street in Annapolis. The only alternative was to take a boat across the harbor or a rough, three-mile road around the headwaters of Spa Creek.
The second bridge was built in 1907. You can still see a reminder it from Site 3. Look for the steel post down to the right as you face the water. The new bridge accommodated cars and trucks traveling to and from Eastport. The span was designed with a turnstile at its center to allow boat traffic access to the headwaters of Spa Creek. A small house at the middle of the bridge was the home of Bill Branzeli, the bridge tender. He lived there for more than 25 years.
This second bridge was the doorway to the Eastport peninsula and the main corridor to the Bay Ridge community, just a few miles away. While the first bridge was a “convenience” for Eastporters, the new bridge was a necessity — the linkage with Annapolis had been established.
The passage over Spa Creek bore many rivals in the 1940s, when young Eastporters met “Hell Pointers” from the other side, midway on the bridge to exchange bantering and other enticements to lure their counterparts to “their side.” These encounters often led to one or more of the rivals swimming the rest of the way home.
The bridge was razed in 1949, and a new bridge arose in a new location at Sixth Street in Eastport connecting to Compromise Street in Annapolis. Featuring a faster lift mechanism than the old turn bridge, this bridge allowed quicker response to the increased boat traffic and accommodated the ever growing number of automobiles traveling between Eastport and Annapolis.
The house on the left from Site 3, on the water, was the Rosetti house. It sits in front of the Tecumseh condominiums. In the late 1800s, Rosetti’s was an active coal yard. By the 1960s, it became the site of Lewis’ Boatyard.
Harry Lewis, better known as “Plug,” was born in Annapolis in 1875 on what old-timers called “Priest’s Row” near St. Mary’s Church.
Plug and his brother, Will, built a marine railway and serviced mainly boats brought in by local watermen. Plug built a fleet of boats and leased them to watermen too poor to own their own boats. It took him nine summers to build nine oyster boats, each named for one of his children.
The boatyard continued on after Plug died in 1937, but when his widow passed away in 1960, the property was sold to a group of developers. They wanted to build a high-rise hotel on the Eastport waterfront to serve a new industry in Annapolis — tourism. But that was not to be. Instead, the Tecumseh Condominium rose up, the first high-rise residential waterfront condominium in the State of Maryland. The working boatyard was gone forever.