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Eastport: No pier pressure in this eclectic corner of Annapolis


Where We Live | Eastport in Anne Arundel County, Md.

A sailboat sails into the Eastport Yacht Center in the Eastport neighborhood of Annapolis, Md. The neighborhood of about 2,500 residents was settled in 1655 and annexed to Annapolis in 1951. (Craig Hudson/for The Washington Post)

Eastport, a peninsula neighborhood of Annapolis, had Charles Hernick at “ahoy.”

Hernick had strong ties to Arlington, where he lost a bid for a U.S. House seat in Virginia’s 8th Congressional District in 2016. He had hoped to persuade Pamela Demske, who is now his wife, to move there 3½ years ago.

“I had just run for Congress and knew everyone in the neighborhood,” he said. “She’s a teacher and I told her she’d get paid more there.”

But Pamela knew what mattered to Hernick. She told him if they moved to Eastport, he would be a 15-minute walk from his sailboat.

“So I live here now because I love my wife, but Eastport has grown on me,” said Hernick, who is vice president of policy and advocacy for Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions. He and Pamela are the parents of four children. “In D.C. and Arlington, people have their hobbies, but things trickle back to politics and the fast pace. Here the orientation is firmly on the bay, not in what you do for a job, but what you do for recreation.”

Layers of greenery and history in Alexandria’s Seminary Hill

The neighborhood of about 2,500 residents was settled in 1655 and annexed to Annapolis in 1951. It is bounded by Spa Creek, Back Creek and the Severn River at the entrance to the Chesapeake Bay, and by Hilltop Lane, Tyler Avenue and Warren Drive to the west.

Eastport started as a working-class neighborhood, with modest houses and narrow streets, to serve those who made their living on the water, but now it attracts high-end buyers. Styles range from the Hernicks’ 1920s Sears Roebuck kit house to a Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired, Prairie-style showplace designed architect Al Graf in 2009, to the 2010 waterfront home formerly owned by filmmaker Barry Levinson that sold for $5 million this year.

Water defines Eastport’s identity, from the waterfront along Spa Creek and Back Creek, to the 13 boating clubs and marinas located on the peninsula to the 3,428 registered boat owners in Zip code 21403. Even the elementary school embraces it. Eastport Elementary’s logo is a skipjack, an oystering boat. Residents talk about boats like urban dwellers talk about car traffic.

“We are anticipating so many boats on Back Creek on Labor Day that we wrote a story about boat etiquette,” says Molly Winans, managing editor of SpinSheet Magazine, a sailing magazine based in Eastport.

Mike Tomasini of the Eastport Business Association says that of its 70 members, a quarter are related to marine and maritime business such as boat rentals, charter boats and sailing tours and boat detailing and repair.

“If anyone doesn’t own a boat, they’re always welcome on mine,” says Hernick, who is both a recreational and competitive sailor. “Otherwise, I’m boating alone and that’s no fun.”

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Eastport is southeast of downtown Annapolis via the Spa Creek Drawbridge, a vital connection.

“The residents of Eastport respect their uniqueness so strongly that in 1998, when they felt their neighborhood would be hurt by the temporary closing of the Eastport bridge for repairs, there was tongue-in-cheek secession from the city,” according to the website of Maritime Republic of Eastport, a charitable organization that promotes the neighborhood. Today the good-natured rivalry continues with an annual tug of war held on opposing banks over the water.

Residents savor Eastport’s walkability and laid-back lifestyle.

“It’s like camp,” said Debra Dillon, who moved to Eastport from Rockville six years ago with her husband, John.

Their financial advisory firm is within walking distance of their home.

“When your worst problem is if the drawbridge is up going into downtown, it’s a good day,” she said.

Dillon is president of the Eastport Civic Association, a voluntary organization of 650 members paying $25 in annual dues that support an annual social event, quarterly guest speakers (on Zoom for now), welcome bags for new members, and a Neat Streets beautification program.

“It’s this tiny little jewel that you don’t really know about or appreciate unless you live here,” said Holly Foster, who moved to Eastport from Rockville six years ago when her husband, Ron, a Methodist minister, was assigned to Severna Park United Methodist Church. “It’s very much a neighborhood, very eclectic, with no cookie-cutter houses,” she says. “They’re old and renovated, and people do their own thing.”

Hernick describes his street as “one of the better streets in America. There’s a mix of black, white and Latino families. There are wealthy and middle-class people, and it makes a good sense of community.”

Residents say they worry about gentrification making some neighborhoods unaffordable.

“That’s not the way we want it,” said Vic Pascoe, a real estate agent with Keller Williams Select Realtors.

He and his wife, Catherine, live in a 1905 duplex with a rooftop deck and views of Annapolis and Chesapeake Bay. He said he cherishes the unpretentious character of Eastport.

“You can be sitting at the bar, and looking to your left and right, and have no idea of the person’s economic status,” Pascoe said. “It doesn’t matter; people don’t look at that.”

Living there: This year, 33 houses have sold, with an average price of $923,000, said Pascoe. The lowest-priced property was a two-bedroom, two-bathroom house built in 1935, for $230,000. The highest-priced was the $5 million Levinson home, with four bedrooms and five bathrooms. Six houses are on the market, ranging from a two-bedroom, two-bathroom house for $265,000 to a newly built, three-bedroom, four-bathroom house on the waterfront for $4.2 million.

Schools: Eastport Elementary, Annapolis Middle, Annapolis High.

Transit: Annapolis city buses serve Eastport on the Red, Green and Purple routes. The nearest Metro, MARC and Amtrak access is about a half hour away, at New Carrollton in Prince George’s County.