What’s in a Map? …. Salisbury

Never underestimate the power of maps.  When researching a neigHappy309_old407hborhood in Salisbury, Maryland, which is virtually gone, maps helped breathe life into that history.  The neighborhood researched was a place commonly called Georgetown, in Salisbury.

Two alleys existed next to one of the few remaining buildings, the John Wesley M.E. Church, now the Charles H. Chipman Cultural Center.  Those alleys Happy307_old405_cropwere called Happy Alley and Bowling Alley (sometimes named Bouldin Alley).  Those alleys are gone, now open space and a small playground park next to the cultural center.  It was hard to imagine the buildings, yet some of them existed up to 1976, the date of these houses photographed as part of an inventory of the historic district.

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Shown is a 1930’s Sanborn Fire Insurance Map showing the small buildings along Happy Alley and Bowling Alley.  The first two houses shown worse for wear in 1976 are highlighted on the map; so too, the third 1976 photograph of a home on Bowling Alley.  The age of these structures had been debated.  Some people did not believe they dated to the slavery period; however, a local historian, the Happy_Boulden_color_croplate Richard Cooper, believed some of the structures were either slave housing or freedmen housing.  The church was founded by five local freedmen.  The area is within a short distance of Poplar Hill Mansion which factors into the history of the neighborhood.

There are buildings shown on the two alleys on the 1901 birds eye drawing of Salisbury.  Many of the drawn structures are pretty accurate as determined by comparisons with existing or known buildings.

Finally, the 1877 atlas of the area shows structures at the locations of the two alleys.  Whether or not the circa 1877 structures survived to what we know existed in 1976 and later is not known.  It is known that the church survives (now the Chipman Cultural Center, the building dates to around 1837).  So maybe, just maybe, Richard Cooper was correct.

— Linda Duyer


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