Thursday, March 10, 2016

Sopping Wet Ghost Town

Now and then I drive past the spot where Baltimore's Memorial Stadium once stood in glory and triumph. But it was man who decided that the old brick lady was too old and dowdy, and so down she came, to be replaced by twin stadia downtown. It was different with Holland Island down in the Chesapeake; it was nature who took that body of land away, and it all happened gradually.

Holland Island was first settled in the 1600s and saw its population grow to around 350 persons by 1910, making it one of the most populated islands in the Chesapeake Bay. Most of the residents were fishermen, as you would expect, bringing in fish or oysters, and there they built their homes, a post office, a school and a church. 

So it was ironic that the water that provided their livelihoods (and probably a good deal of their food) was what took away their homes starting in 1910. The three hundred years of settlement began wearing away the soil of the island, and as the sea levels rose, erosion whittled away at the land, chiefly composed of silt and clay. It didn't take long before all the inhabitants were forced off; the last of them moved away in 1918.

The last house standing on the island sank in 2010 .

But at least the buildings, made of wood frame, could be disassembled and moved to the mainland for reconstruction. The church was moved to Fairmount, MD, in 1922, and houses received a similar second life with firmer ground beneath.
The yellow oval shows the location of the erstwhile Island.
But a curious thing happened as Holland Island went from terra firma to swampy marshland, or marshy swampland, if you will. One house, which ended up looking like something out of an Andrew Wyeth painting, stood against the ravages of nature until a storm in November, 2010, reduced it to rubble.

And by 2012, Holland Island was no more, just a dot in the old nautical map books. People who go out on the bay say you can't see the town down there in the water, but they know it's there - right where it used to be, just lower.

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