by Dylan Reynolds
September 20, 2019
On Sunday, community members in Annapolis, Md. will gather to celebrate the unveiling of the Eastport 150th Historical Mural. Eastport, the quaint maritime district in Maryland’s capital, is located just across Spa Creek from the city’s bustling downtown. However, those visiting Eastport will find that the neighborhood has an identity all its own.
“For several decades, [Eastport] was a rough-and tumble, blue collar, working neighborhood,” said local artist Cindy Fletcher-Holden, who was the primary painter behind the mural. Fletcher-Holden, who has been coming to Eastport her entire life, said she was inspired by how much the neighborhood’s identity has changed over time.
The Eastport peninsula, which was first settled in 1665, was a pivotal encampment in the Revolutionary War and in the War of 1812. The peninsula was then used for farmland and as a breeding ground for racehorses until the mid-1800s, when it was developed into an industrial boatyard. In 1868, the Eastport district in Annapolis was officially founded. Many of the neighborhood’s early residents were craftsmen, working on boats or at the Naval Academy as builders, woodworkers, watermen, glass blowers or oyster farmers.
The expansive mural tracks Eastport’s entire journey, from its days as a pastoral horse farm to the flourishing waterfront community it has since become. Horseshoes, woodworking tools and a variety of boats fill the mural. In one scene, buckets overflow with blue crabs and oysters, recalling Eastport’s well-established love of seafood. Flags and logos throughout the mural honor some of Eastport’s most notable businesses, as well as the bars and yacht clubs at the center of Eastport’s social scene.
Today, Eastport finds itself at the epicenter of the Chesapeake’s Bay restoration, continuing its legacy as a Bay-focused community. The maritime district is home to environmental organizations including the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, Chesapeake Bay Program, Chesapeake Bay Trust, Chesapeake Legal Alliance and University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science. It is also the site of numerous projects that are beneficial to the Bay, from rain gardens to the large-scale restoration of St. Luke's Episcopal Church.
Eastport prides itself on maintaining its own sense of identity, separate from Annapolis’ more political environment. Every year, a tug of war is held between the City of Annapolis and the so-called “micro-nation” of the Maritime Republic of Eastport. The contest, which takes place over Spa Creek, playfully symbolizes Eastport’s geographical and cultural independence from Annapolis. Careful observers will find that a rope can be spotted throughout the mural, honoring the decades-old tradition.
Fletcher-Holden says that the mural is as much about Eastport’s future as it is about its past. The final scene in the mural shows three sailboats setting off into the horizon. “The sailboats are heading away from Eastport,” says Fletcher-Holden. “They’re going into a future unknown.”