The town of Rock Hall, they say, got it’s name from a mansion there by that name, made of white sandstone. There is a marker in front of the boat-tel that is supposed to be where the house stood 300 years ago – though I’m not finding much on the internet that substantiates the story. I like the idea though. It sort of takes that fine English tradition of naming your home Somethingoranother Hall to a different level. Has always made me want to christen my own house maybe, Dance Hall. The point is that I’ve always liked the community, starting with the origins of its name.
Rock Hall, when I moved to the Eastern Shore, was a rough and tumble town precariously pinned to the waterfront on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay. It is within sight of the impressive double span of the Bay Bridge, and about 10 miles by water from Baltimore. In the early 80’s (and to a lesser extent does so today) it was clinging to the remnants of an economy based on fishing – locally, those who make their living on the Bay are called watermen – and the waterfront was a jumble of docks and ice houses and equipment that served the needs of watermen bringing oysters and crabs and fish – blues and rocks, mostly, to market.
I was just learning the value of recording my travels with a camera in those days, I’m afraid, but Rock Hall was a town that drew me. It was a postcard of Americana – hard working people, a huge celebration and parade for the 4th of July and bars and music and dancing at the end of the working day. Miss Ginny made crab cakes at the American House and there was a wonderful restaurant down below Gratitude (and I will find someone who will remember the name…you used to sit out on the porch in rockers and watch the sun set over the western shore of the bay while you waited for your table and the most exquisite local cuisine…ah.
Today there are several new restaurants, most notably, for me, in the old bank building on Main Street – The Kitchen at Rock Hall. Still I miss old Rock Hall – the dancing with watermen in their white rubber boots and the mountains of crab pots at the main intersection…while a coffee house is nice, and the marinas are lovely, there are enough remnants around to leave you a little nostalgic.
It is after the season in Rock Hall and on a Wednesday, it would appear that the streets are pretty much rolled up except for the construction at the end of Main Street where they are industriously building what looks like a warren of small outlets for arts and crafts in the field where tents for festivals have always been pitched and a stage set up for visiting bands. That village green was always a nice addition, but on the other hand, I suppose it was real estate with too much value to leave as green space forever. The guy who is doing the new developing has a way of doing things right, so I’m going to guess that eventually it will seem like the right thing. Rock Hall is a place, like so many across the country, in transition. There are stubborn hold-outs, and there are those who embrace the new. The point is, I guess, that in change there is survival…
There is an attitude of holding on to who we are while we figure out who we will be…and it is the transitions now that make the place for me. Even as the watermen compete for docking space against the high end cruisers and sailboats – still Rock Hall remains. I guess what has kept
it whole for so long has been the fact that you have to want to go there – Rock Hall is on the way to no other place. Even with the proximity to Baltimore and Annapolis by water, it is an inconvenient place by land. That fact has allowed Rock Hall to linger just a little longer in another time.
I wonder if this one is still afloat?