The city of Annapolis never fully restored its historic Joy Oil gas station to its 1931 design and finish. While the city has made some improvements, roughly three years after plans were first approved, the original gas pumps remain unlamented. The city is still charging drivers gas, but because there are no pumps they must pay cash, on top of the $5 (or in some cases, $10) a week to park in that dock parking space.
The Joy Oil gas station is far from the only Annapolis landmark to have fallen prey to neglect. That’s according to a two-year investigation by The AFRO, an independent local news organization based in Annapolis. The AFRO’s investigation, which was conducted by research and reporting intern Marianne Hellner and students Siara Itzhak and Hannah Kao, found nearly 20 buildings and landmarks which are in poor shape and in need of rehabilitation in the city. The report recommends steps the city can take to fix the problem.
“I want people to know this isn’t a ‘gotcha’ story,” Hellner says. “We got to the point where it was hard to ignore these buildings and bring people to the light that these structures are not adequate for today’s economy.”
The city recently started getting complaints about recent vandalism at the Sugar Hill station. The walls are chipped and asbestos is likely leaking through the ceiling and down the walls of the gas station, which is located on a busy but small portion of busy Easton Avenue.
The city contacted the adjacent station, Lagonya’s, owner Patrick Clark says. A series of letters have since gone between the two owners, but that’s the extent of the communication.
The little of communication the two gas stations have with each other goes like this: Representatives from the city entered the Sugar Hill station and provided a set of instructions as to how the front would be decorated and installed. That information was relayed to the owners of Lagonya’s, who did not respond to requests for comment.
When reached for comment, Annapolis’ manager of emergency preparedness, Brooke Byrd, said she had no previous knowledge of Lagonya’s’ current status. Byrd says the city takes enforcement of building safety very seriously.
Here are some of the city’s top priorities:
Challenging certificate of occupancy. Annapolis’ Code Enforcement Division considered issuing a cease and desist order for the Sugar Hill and Lagonya’s stations to stop operating until they were properly licensed. According to the city’s CEO, this is “one of our top priorities at this time.” Although the police department has not issued any citations, Byrd says that department also offers support in regards to multiple instances of building safety in Annapolis. When reached for comment, Clark and his tenant, owner Alberto Ramirez, did not respond to requests for comment. The AFRO also spoke with the owner of another gas station on Easton Avenue, which has received citations from code enforcement.
Taking in his townhouse. Summersberrys is a four-unit, low-income housing complex located in the 400 block of North Annapolis Street. Weeks before it was slated to be demolished to make way for a new townhouse project, several residents filed a petition to save their homes. According to the city, the development was at high risk of falling down and bringing down the entire building with it. The day Summersberrys was slated to be demolished, elected officials held a community meeting in an attempt to rescue the building. Before it was demolished, a small group of residents played a round of the state bird with a bird dog. A Housing Authority official told the AFRO that the decision not to bring Summersberrys back to its former glory was made to help the building’s long-term upkeep.
One of the AFRO’s biggest goals for the city this year is to put Annapolis back on the map. The next step is to lobby the city for resources that are needed to help protect and promote Annapolis’ heritage.
“There is a disconnect between historians and politicians,” Mary Farrell, president of the Historical Society of Anne Arundel County, says. “We have to take ownership of our past.”