Whitmore Park on Calvert Street in Downtown Annapolis has a new name and a new mission.
The park, located across from the Arundel Center, will now be called The People’s Park and is rededicated to the families of the Old Fourth Ward.
In 1968, 32 homes and halls stood on the block known as the Old Fourth Ward. “Homeowners were Black, Jewish and other immigrants,” says local historian Janice Hayes-Williams. “Family names included Alsop, Brown, Sharps and Tyler.”
Joe Alton, first Anne Arundel County Executive, led the effort to have the homes and halls moved so that a parking garage could be built.
“This was done under the guise of urban renewal,” Annapolis Mayor Gavin Buckley said during the dedication ceremony last week. “Any family that didn’t want to sell were told they would be pushed out under imminent domain.”
The park and nearby parking garage built where the homes once stood were named in honor of John Whitmore, the first county councilman of District 6.
“The land beneath us has seen history—some gruesome,” said Mayor Buckley. Between 1875 and 1911, at least five lynchings took place in Anne Arundel County. A memorial was installed in the park last year in honor of the victims.
“The memorial recognizes some of the worst parts of the history of this town,” Steuart Pittman, Anne Arundel County Executive said during the ceremony. “We had a lot of work at this park and still have a lot of work to do. I want to help all the families who were displaced.”
The last line on the memorial to the victims of the lynchings reads, “Memorializing these victims reminds us to remain persistent in the pursuit of justice for all.”
“I’m urging people to also remember this location because something very important happened here on August 23, 1963,” Carl Snowden, president of the Caucus of African American Leaders said during the rededication ceremony. “People gathered to board a bus to participate in the march in Washington, DC where Martin Luther King Jr, uttered those famous words, ‘I have a dream.’”
“This park is a place for people to gather who are trying to make change,” said Pittman.
Anne Arundel County Parks and Recreation took over management of the park in 2017.
“We had an open comment period for the name change,” Rick Anthony, director of Anne Arundel County Recreation and Parks said during the ceremony. “The top picks were The Old Fourth Ward Park, The People’s Park or to keep the name Whitmore’s Park.”
The department’s Recreation Advisory Board decided “change was not only appropriate, but the right thing to do,” said Anthony. “This name will remember the community that was here.”
Future plans for the park include more interpretive signage, special events and memorial plates on park benches.