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Transcription of Interview - East Towson


DG: East Towson, one of the oldest traced African American communities in Baltimore County, Maryland has been the home of generational family heritages and numerous historical artifacts for over two hundred years. East Towson, a small community surrounding downtown Towson, Maryland, houses residents of proud African American families whom boast with pride when asked about their tranquil and historic community.
MM: I was born in 1948, right here in this house on 441 B East Pennsylvania Avenue.” recalls, Michael Miller, Sr., a long time resident and neighborhood historian. “The neighborhood was quiet, well maintained and safe, that same way today; there are just not as many kids here as it was while I was growing up. It was not unusual for 40 to 50 kids to be in my backyard playing, we would run up and down the streets, play around the railroad station right there on Railroad Avenue (formerly known as the Ma and Pa Railroad Station which is no longer operating) where one can board a train and ride all the way to New York if they wanted to, and then on certain days we’d sit on the porch and read books. My brother would fix bicycles for the kids in the block, we’d spend many days outside playing, my mother would prepare lunch and feed every kid that [was] playing in our yard and it was basically a nice and safe community to be a kid, the neighbors basically looked out for one another.
DG: Like so many, just about every family within this close- knit quiet community, were either born in their current homes or raised by someone who originally settled there.
MM: Everyone in the neighborhood helped to raise each others kids,” recalls Jackie Hill, one of East Towson’s residents. “I felt the love and it felt safe to be a kid in East Towson. It was all about the family. Families always came first in this community.
DG: East Towson, once covered York Road and Bosley Avenue back in the early 1800s (an area formerly known as Sandy Bottom) which extended from North and West Towson. Many residents agreed that their neighborhoods once consisted of freed slaves from the historic Hampton Mansion plantation (also located in Towson, Md.) where many of their ancestors bought land and eventually built their homes.
MM: But umm, the East Towson community itself is over 200 years old. So as you can see on the sign out there, it goes back to 1802, so it is quite old. And umm, it has quite umm a few breaks in history where it had a struggle because of racial problems here, umm because of the large amounts of black people that lived here. People are still not aware of how many black people; I mean African Americans lived in this community and it was broken down between several. Unlike I said, Quaker bottom which was zoned out of existence back in the early 1960’s had black people on Providence, and up by Pots Spring Road, and down by what you what's called May Avenue and Swartz Avenue. You had a fairly large black population around here. Believe it or not, you had people coming from everywhere as far as out West. So, it was quite a sizeable amount of people living here and that is why you had the Carver School that was put here and you had kids coming from Long Green, Glen Arm, umm Overlea, o yes, it was a very large class.
DG: Wasn’t your grandmother the first valedictorian at this high school? Was it your grandmother?.
MM: My mother was valedictorian when it became the first black high school. So, you had two Carver high schools, that was the initial Carver High School on Lennox Avenue so this one on York and Fairmont which later became Carver Elementary School, that is the second Carver High School down on York Road, you had kids from all over the place. Like I said, it was changed in the early 1960s after the integration to Towsontown Junior High School.
DG: The Carver Building is still standing on Towsontown Blvd. and Lennox Avenue. It is considered to be one of the oldest standing buildings in East Towson. It is now used for community purposes such as a children’s day care site and a central location for the monthly community association meetings.

East Towson today, is a 33-acre, six block quiet residential community which extends from the areas surrounding East Pennsylvania Avenue, Towsontown Boulevard, East Fairmount Avenue and East Joppa Road which has easy accessibility off from I-695 taking the Providence Road (exit 28) and the east side of the community faces East Joppa and Providence Roads where you’ll find the headquarters of the Black and Decker Corporation which has been at this location for over one hundred years. East Towson is approximately 15 miles from Baltimore’s renowned Inner Harbor, Oriole Park at Camden Yards and the M & T Bank Ravens’ Stadium. Also, it is conveniently located within walking distance from one of Maryland’s largest shopping mall

(Towsontown Center), Towson’s movie theater (Towson Common), Towson’s main Library, numerous specialty shops, shopping centers, public transportation accessibility, restaurants, and nearby major colleges such as Goucher College, and Towson University.

There are over 90 homes that surround this commercial district in East Towson. Each house is architecturally structured in the Shot Gun style with wide frontal porches

Over the years, some of East Towson’s residents were forced to give up their homes in order for Baltimore County developers to make room for wider streets, more office spaces, and new court houses.

In February 2002, Baltimore County Executive Dutch Ruppersberger announced plans to revitalize and redevelop the remaining East Towson community. The revitalization would include several affordable newly built or rehabilitated homes to sell to potential homebuyers St. Ambrose Housing Aid Center, a Baltimore -based non - profit agency will be the main contractors under the direction of the Baltimore County Office of Community Conservation, which will build several single-family homes to accommodate within the financial guidelines for potential homebuyers. Other contributors to the revitalization and preservation project include: Black and Decker Corporation, Fannie Mae (the Nation’s largest source for financing home mortgages), federal and local grants, Key Bank and Trust, Neighborhood Housing Services (NHS) of Baltimore, North East Towson Improvement Association, and Sun Trust Community Development Corporation.

The community of East Towson celebrated along with Baltimore County executives and other State officials in a two-day community homebuilding ceremony in June 2003. During this time, construction had already begun and several new homeowners were able to move into their completed homes within months after the celebration. This was certainly good news for the residents of East Towson. The glimmer of hope has resurfaced for the East Towson community and the incentives were priceless.

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East Towson: One of the oldest traced African American communities in Baltimore County