Dr. Parlett Moore's cottage was the last remaining piece of undeveloped property from historic Elktonia and Carr's beaches. Image: City of Annapolis/YouTube

Annapolis Acquires Final Piece of Historic Black Beach Resort Property

It doesn’t look like much today, this 1940s era Chesapeake Bay beachfront cottage with the asbestos siding, but it once was the summer retreat of Dr. Parlett Moore, an early president of Coppin State University. And it sits on the last undeveloped piece of property that was part of a thriving Black beach resort in the days of Jim Crow segregation.

Now, the city of Annapolis owns the slightly more than two-thirds of an acre parcel, purchased from Moore’s grandchildren for about $1.7 million. The city paid for it with the help of contributions from the state, Anne Arundel County, the Conservation Fund, Blacks of the Chesapeake—which promotes the history of African Americans who have worked and continue to work in the Bay’s maritime industries—the Chesapeake Conservancy and private donors.

Annapolis Mayor Gavin Buckley said the city has plans to shore up the eroding beach on the parcel at the end of a dirt lane off Bembe Beach Road and turn it into a visitors’ center, waterfront park and headquarters for Blacks of the Chesapeake.

“There’s so much history in Annapolis,” he said at the announcement ceremony. “But I always feel that we tell just one set of history from one perspective. This is our opportunity to tell another set of history, an amazing set of history.”

This cottage, once owned by Coppin State University President Dr. Parlett Moore, was a gathering spot for wealthy African Americans to enjoy the music from the nearby resorts. Photo: Joel McCord

The purchase “set a land speed record” for government action, he joked. It was in January of 2022 that they first walked the beach. “And here we are at the beginning of 24 and we own the property. We have some great designs to replenish the beach already and that beach is going to be beautiful and enjoyable.”

The property adjoins Elktonia Beach, a 5-acre tract Annapolis acquired in August 2022. That was the last piece of a 180-acre stretch of Bay beach front purchased in 1902 by Frederick and Mary Wells and that two of their daughters, Elizabeth Carr Smith and Florence Carr Sparrow, turned into beach resorts in the 1920s. By the 1950s and 60s, Carr’s beach had become part of the touring performances where jazz legends Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaugh, Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington and Count Basie played to sold out audiences. And later came soul artists James Brown, the Drifters, Ray Charles and the Temptations.

Vince Leggett, president of Blacks of the Chesapeake, called the Moore property “the skybox” where wealthier Blacks like Dr. Moore and Willie Adams, the former Baltimore numbers runner turned businessman and philanthropist, could enjoy the music from afar.

But with the end of segregation and other factors, those businesses declined, and others began taking over the Bay front properties. In 1971, Anne Arundel County condemned 35.5 acres of Sparrows Beach to build the Annapolis Water Reclamation Facility. The remains of Elktonia Beach and the Moore property are now squeezed between two condominium developments.

That’s why this purchase is important, Leggett said. “This complex is more than just a push pin on a map or a dot on a map. We’ve been able to preserve the fan, the beach and the water and the dirt and tell the story of black life on the Chesapeake Bay.”