The table was laden with platters of fried chicken, homemade macaroni and cheese, shrimp cocktail, chinese noodle salad, ceasar salad, meatballs, stir fried vegetables, chicken, and rice, and lasagna. Depending on which moment in time you visited the table the selection kept changing. There were spare ribs on the table for a while. Then there was poached salmon, cole slaw, fresh tomatoes, and in the kitchen on another table sat brownies, pies, and cookies.
That’s the fun of a big potluck, the opportunity to taste lots of different things and the annual Murray Hill Picnic, hosted at the home of Brad and Lynn Davidson is really a very big potluck. When my children were younger, I used to bring a blanket. Now I sit on the steps of the lovely early 20th century home that the Davidsons generously open to the community each fall.
Here’s a little background history on the popular Annapolis neighborhood , encompassing almost 100 acres, subdivided in 1891.
The name Murray Hill is derived from James D. Murray who inherited Acton Place, a large Georgian estate built in the mid 18th century, from his father, also named James Murray. The Acton Place homestead and surrounding farmlands were originally surveyed by Richard Acton in 1656. He was granted one of the earliest land patents on the peninsula.
In an effort to raise money and clear family debts, James D. Murray contracted with an attorney named George Melvin to subdivide and develop 95.5 acres on behalf of himself and several relatives. Sales of the lots began on September 30, 1891. Initially many of the lots were offered for between $200 and $400. Comparable lots located in the downtown area were selling for between $1,000 and $1,500.
One of the first houses built was at 21 Southgate Avenue for the Reverend William Scott, Rector at St. Anne’s Episcopal Church. Scott bought several lots in the spring of 1892 and termed the Queen Anne style home he built a “cottage”. Located up on the top of a gently sloping hill, it was described by George Melvin as commanding “a magnificent stretch of water scenery”. At 30 Southgate Avenue, a relative of the Murray family built a beautiful Queen Anne home with an expansive front veranda in 1892. It is now known locally as the “Wisteria House”, to describe the draping lavender Wisteria which frames its front in the spring.
But to the disappointment of both Murray and Melvin, sales of the lots were slow. Potential buyers considered the neighborhood’s location too far away from the hustle and bustle of the downtown docks and marketplace. In the fall of 1892, the majority of lots were sold at public auction. According to advertisements, lots could be purchased by installment for as little as five to ten dollars a month. Gradually houses were built, a few at a time. To learn more about the Murray Hill Resident’s Association and upcoming activities and meeting go to:
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