The Unique History of Our 121-Year Old Headquarters Building in Annapolis
This summer, the Alliance’s Headquarters office in Annapolis, MD went through a much needed facelift! We updated the exterior, painted the outside of the building, and added a new color trimming. We continued to work hard on our mission to bring together communities, companies, and conservationists to restore the lands and waters of the Chesapeake, even with the drilling noises and the windows covered (which made us slightly stir-crazy in the dark, loud cave that was our office). During the deconstruction of the outside of the building, Kate, our Executive Director, took some pictures that helped remind us of the uniqueness of the space. The picture below shows the gothic style windows that are from the 1900s, when the building was first constructed as the Eastport United Methodist Church.
With Kate’s picture reminding us of our sometimes forgotten history, we decided that we should dig deeper and learn more about the building where we spend so much of our time. My first step in getting started: research. I posted in the Eastport Neighborhood Forum asking for help in pulling together the history of the building. About 15 comments later, I was able to put together a rough timeline of the residents of the building.
Please note: This timeline is based off of research gathered through a public forum and conversations with Eastport neighbors, not formal research. We cannot confirm this to be 100% accurate.
After creating the timeline, I decided to start by digging in at the beginning: Eastport United Methodist Church. Chris Broadwell is the new pastor at the church’s current location on Bay Ridge Avenue in Annapolis. He reached out to me with material he was able to find from when the church looked into their own history for their 125th anniversary. Through this, I found the picture and information below.
According to church documents, Eastport United Methodist Church was first formed in 1887 and in October of 1897 the original building was constructed. Sixteen years later, during the summer of 1913, Eastport United Methodist Church moved the entire church from its first location on Third Street, to where the building sits now on Sixth and Chesapeake Ave (where the Alliance’s Headquarters is located). Moving the building took two weeks, however that did not stop services from happening. The Sundays during the move, services were held inside what congregation members called the “Church on Wheels.” According to information gathered by Eastport United Methodist, members recall being in the “Church on Wheels” for service and waving through the windows to passerby’s.
The Eastport United Methodist Church is also responsible for the severed steeple we have attached to our building. When the Church built a new building at its current location on Bay Ridge, they took the church bell and the top of the steeple with them. The last service held on Chesapeake and Sixth was on June 8th, 1958. Harriet Newquist, who works at the Alliance and was born and raised in Eastport, has been going to the Eastport United Methodist Church since she was a baby. She told me that her grandparents were a part of the parade that happened when they moved the church steeple and bell from the location on Sixth Street to its new location on Bay Ridge.
Upon moving to their new location, Eastport United Methodist Church sold the building to the Seventh Day Adventist Church. I wasn’t able to figure out exactly when they moved into the building and when they moved out, but it looks like they occupied it from around 1957 to 1966. Once the Seventh Day Adventist Church moved out, the lot and building were vacant for a period of time.
Based on information I was able to obtain from the Eastport Neighborhood Forum, I found out that after the Seventh Day Adventist Church left the building, Ulmer Sails eventually moved into 501 Sixth Street. Through some research I found out that Ulmer Sails is now known as “UK Sailmakers” – once Ulmer Sails, they transitioned to Ulmer Kolius Sailmakers. I reached out via the “Contact Us” email on the UK Sailmakers website, not really expecting a detailed response, but much to my surprise a couple days later I was contacted by Charles “Butch” Ulmer who says that he is the “only surviving sailmaking Ulmer.”
Ulmer Sails began in New York and was brought to Annapolis in 1952. “I remember the drive because it was prior to the New Jersey turnpike and also prior to the Bay Bridge. We took the ferry across the Bay from Kent Island,” Charles wrote in his email. He told me that the first Ulmer Sails loft in Annapolis was on the corner of Fourth Street and Chesapeake Avenue, and was run by Charle’s sister and brother-in law, Chuck Wiley. The loft then moved to 501 Sixth Street when the loft on Fourth Street was fire-bombed during a time of racial strife. Ulmer Sails then occupied our building for a couple of years before moving to Whitehall Road.
After Ulmer Sails moved out of the building, it appears that North Sails may have moved in, but I couldn’t confirm this. Then from around 1989 to 2009, Prudential Carruthers Realtors, which is now Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices PenFed Realty, took over the building. Then in 2009, the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay finally took residency!
The most interesting part of all of the information I learned, is that through the 121 years of history that the building has—it has been two churches, a loft for sailmaking, and an office space—it still has the original church features. Hanging on some of our walls, are some of the original stained glass windows from when the church was on Third Street and we still have the bottom half of the steeple, now with a cool sky light. By learning about the history of our building, it helped me grow an appreciation for preserving it’s church-like features and preserving the history.
On Sunday, October 20th from 9am-1pm, the Alliance will host an open house and welcomes anyone in the neighborhood to stop by and check out our building and to see the history for themselves!