Dames Quarter School: slipping off the Rosenwald list

2014 Dames Quarter Rosenwald 1If you search YouTube for Dames Quarter School, you will find a video of the abandoned school, a creepy video walk through the empty building.  The person who meandered through this school did not know that this was a Rosenwald School, one of the many African American schools built in the early 1900s through a fund established by Julius Rosenwald.  Susan Pearl, who a while back did an inventory of the Maryland Rosenwald schools had at first thought the Dames Quarter school no longer existed, but after one of my Sunday afternoon drives I located this school.  From this discovery it was confirmed to have been the Rosenwald School.  Expanded some time or another, and used as a daycare facility after it ceased being a public school, the structure is now abandoned.  My visit today shows the roof has damage and the front door is open.  With unattended roof damage, it’s only a matter of time when this building will disappear and slip off of the Rosenwald list.

But today after my Sunday afternoon drive again through this area, I got yet another revelation, after viewing the 1877 atlas image of Dames Quarter.  Today as you come up upon Dames Quarter, after driving through a panoramic view of the marsh swamp area, you come to what remains of Dames Quarter.  To the right, north of the main road, is the more populous area with splendid views of the water, an area where the Henry’s defied the then largely white area of Dames Quarter by purchasing property and creating Henry’s Beach, a popular summer beach resort for African Americans during a time when there were few resorts open to them.

But today, as you drive into the south side, you take Riley Roberts Road, it’s a lonely spooky drive.  After a turn, on the left is the school.  Then onward the road bends to the right where you will find the active Macedonia United Methodist Church, at the spot where there has long been an African American church, even shown on the 1877 Atlas.  Recently I watched a program on Maryland Public Television on the Blacks of the Chesapeake and one of the older watermen described having been from Dames Quarter.  Likely nearly everyone in Dames Quarter, as in nearby Chance and Deals Island, made there living one way or another from the water.  There is water everywhere.

But what I did not realize until after taking this drive is that Riley Roberts Road, with it’s few old and some decaying homes, was once the main drag through Dames Quarter, not the Deal Island Road with which we all use to rush through the area.  The 1877 atlas shows a large number of people living in the vicinity of the “colored” church, now Macedonia United Methodist Church.  There are still homes there, but the atlas shows this as the through road towards Chance and Deal Island and with what looks like a more thriving area.  It just goes to show you that what you see today may not be exactly what existed long ago.  Some things stayed the same, but many changed or disappeared.  I would love to know more about the history of Dames Quarter.

— Linda Duyer

The image below is of the 1877 Atlas and a current map of Dames Quarter.  The yellow is my highlighted approximation of today’s Deal Island Road. 

1877_2014 Dames Quarter 2

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