In this excerpt from a chapter about Annapolis in new book published by Johns Hopkins University Press, "Maryland Lost and Found: People and Places from Chesapeake to Appalachia," Washington Post staff writer Eugene L. Meyer crosses Spa Creek to talk to residents of Eastport. That section of the state capital, while worlds apart from the government-dominated center of town, has been the scene of rising land values and, at the same time, attracted a new working class: pleasure boat sail crews.
The old downtown area here around the City Dock, once known as Hell Point, had long lost its rough edges, but the Eastport community, across Spa Creek, still seemed to be fighting a losing battle to keep its working-class character.
Annexed to the city in 1951, Eastport was in the grip of a double-edged "renaissance," its real estate rocketing, its poorer people leaving. It was, for now, beyond the pale of the city's historic district ordinance, which meant high-rise hotels and condominiums could sprout alongside the restored homes the architects referred to as "Annapolis vernacular."
"Everyone says, 'What's in Eastport?' You'd be surprised," noted Pat Kohlhepp, a spokeswoman for Historic Annapolis, a group that has helped restore old properties in the state capital while keeping developers at bay. She described the houses of Eastport as "modest but charming."
The watermen who used to keep their boats at the City Dock were living there, but in dwindling numbers, as sailboat marinas and yacht yards took over the Spa and Back Creek waterfronts that define the Eastport peninsula.
Among the Eastporters most strongly bemoaning the changes were relative newcomers from elsewhere who, by reason of their residence dating back 10 or 15 years, qualified almost as old-timers in the community.
I found a few of them at the home of Erik Dennard, an artist, and his potter wife, Kimi Nyland, who lived opposite a church on Chesapeake Avenue (but have since moved to the Eastern Shore).
"The boats are a large part of what's happened," said Dennard, a jovial, 40-ish Texan whose accent had been muted over the years.
"Eastport used to build boats. Now it just holds them, he said.
"Simple little seafood places where you could buy fresh food now have to support themselves with a good restaurant. Housing prices here have doubled, tripled, quadrupled or more in eight years. It seems like a lot of upper-middle-class people are getting houses to be near their boats, part time. Billions of dollars in boats surround this peninsula."
Dennard had come to Annapolis in 1965 after living in Europe.
It was an era ago, Dennard said, when the state capital was a small town.
"There were skipjacks at the dock. You could buy a dozen oysters from them and a 15-cent beer nearby. Fleet Street, from the dock to State Circle, was mostly poor people. It would take two hours to walk up Main Street because you knew everybody you saw," he recalled.
"Now, it takes 10 minutes. It's sort of been taken out of the hands of Annapolitans. Annapolitans don't go downtown much, unless they work there."
Don Quick, a bartender turned psychiatric worker, said he automatically ruled out downtown for lunch because of the prices and crowds. "I'll drive all the way out to Parole, or go to the Eastport shopping center," he said.
"Everybody's from out of town," complained Quick, a native of Long Island. "All the businesses, one by one, they dropped out. The shoe store. The jeweler. You don't even know these new people."
Mary Crawford, another of Dennard's circle of friends, sold real estate here in Eastport, where she had paid $55,000 for her own home in the early 1980s. She estimated that it had since tripled in worth.
Eastport had become popular with Washington area residents, she said, and a number of the newcomers were boat owners who once commuted here on weekends.
Now, "maybe 25 or 30 percent of those living in Eastport are Annapolitans," she said. As for herself, why, she'd come here 20 years ago, from North Carolina.
"The kids of Eastport are gone," Eric Dennard said. "This used to be a complete community of poor to upper income. The poor can't afford to live here anymore. They can get a good price for their houses and then move to nicer homes on the outskirts of town."
To Dennard, a recovering alcoholic, Annapolis was "the best place in the world to get drunk in, and the best place in the world to get sober."
He had once frequented Marmaduke's, an Eastport bar that mirrored the changes in town.
Dennard recalled that it used to be "a rowdy bar with morning-drinker types. Watermen hung out there a lot, to swap lies and fishing stories. Nobody spoke more than two-syllable words, and drinks were cheap. Now, it's the blow-dry crew."
The patrons of Marmaduke's were still men and women who worked on the water, but they were a new breed of sophisticated pleasure sailors. "We get a lot in here, all they do is crew out," the bartender said. "Some race for the owners. They're jockeys, walkers and trainers, all in one. Other guys rig boats or scrape them. We also get sail makers and yacht brokers. In winter, they're all gone, to Florida, where they do the same thing."
A special feature at Marmaduke's during the season was Wednesday night video showings of the afternoon's sailboat races.
Another was the bulletin board, plastered with help-wanted and job-wanted ads, often scrawled on napkins.
And around the bar, the talk was of sailing towns on the California coast.