South River Park (SRP) is located in Edgewater, Maryland along the South River, a 10-mile long major tributary to the Chesapeake Bay. The South River watershed is approximately 66 square miles with several creeks on both sides feeding into the river. The South River Park Community is located mid-way down the River on the south side and extends from the river’s edge along the southeastern shoreline of Warehouse Creek tributary.
Evidence has been found demonstrating the area was a known site of early native American activities and later, used as a hideout for pirates in the 1700’s. One creek to the east is the historic "lost town" called London Town (also known as Londontowne or Londontown), established on the south shore of the South River in 1683, and was once the county seat and a major port. It was located between Almshouse Creek and Glebe Bay, and across the river from Ferry Point. Before the bridges were built, ferries to Annapolis ran between London Town and Ferry Point. The farms along Warehouse Creek are said to have supplied tobacco and other agriculture products for trade at London Towne.
The current community of South River Park was not developed until the 1920’s, initially as a summer resort area. At that time, as people began to look for leisure time activities away from cities of Washington and Baltimore, visitors began arriving at the “coast” of the Chesapeake Bay to spend their family vacation time. Various attractions were developed in Anne Arundel County including bathing beaches, amusement parks and picnic areas.
In the late 1800’s to early 1900’s summer visitors to the county arrived via steamboat or on the Baltimore Annapolis Short Line Railroad. Road improvements were eventually made to extend to other shoreline locations. Maryland Route 2 through Edgewater was originally a gravel road built between 1905 and 1910. The gravel road was widened and the original South River swing draw bridge was built in 1933 further improving access to the Edgewater communities.
Initially, summer visitors stayed in resorts or in boarding houses in the county. But eventually developers saw the potential to market secluded summer experiences and began to sell subdivided land plots along and near the shoreline. South River Park was one of several areas around Edgewater advertised by developers with small lots for sale to build summer vacation cottages for families. Initial prices began at $93 a lot and included a bonus of a subscription to the Washington Post.
The South River Park Citizen’s Association, known as South River Park (SRP), was founded in 1921. Along with other popular waterfront communities, it quickly grew. The Baltimore Sun reported that in 1939, the county’s resident population of 64,000 quadrupled over the summer as Baltimoreans and Washingtonians settled into their vacation homes. By 1946, there were few vacancies left in the South River Park development.
In 1952 the first span of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge opened and with it came many changes, including access for leisure travel to Ocean City. As the population of the region grew, summer cottage communities like South River Park began to change into full time living homes for many families. To this day, there are several community residents who are descendants of the first property owners.
The early summer residents of SRP enjoyed access to the water for swimming, crabbing and fishing and boating. Photos from that time show dirt roads and very simple cottages only for summer living. The community was largely empty during the winter months. However, during the summers, regular parties and family events were the norm. Later, the community’s full-time residents enjoyed winter sledding and ice skating on the creek as well as summer swim team events, boating, crabbing and regular social gatherings at the community clubhouse or neighbor’s homes.
Edgewater Elementary School opened next to the community in 1953. With the new school, community children had easy access to a fine educational facility. The school is still in operation and is currently in the process of doubling its size with a major expansion and renovation. It continues to be one the outstanding elementary schools in the county. The adjacent dairy farm was purchased by the county in the 1960’s and developed into a recreation park with lighted fields for sports events.
Today South River Park has approximately 115 homes with residents from all walks of life. As an Anne Arundel County Special Community Benefit District, community fees are collected by the county and turned back to the community to maintain community properties and roads. The attractions of water access, a great location near historic Annapolis, and proximity to major highways leading to two major metropolitan areas make South River Park an ideal place to call home. Through the years of change, the community has maintained its natural environment and small town feel even in the midst of growth in the Edgewater area. It is happily still a “small waterside community of friends, neighbors and families”.
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