Memorial Day is officially behind us and that means it’s summertime! I read recently that Maryland beaches are probably some of the best in the country, surrounded by water from both the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. There are so many vantage points throughout the state where one can see beautiful sunsets.
Last weekend, my hubby and I went on a “road trip” to the Eastern shore. We did not take our usual path across the Bay Bridge. Instead, we headed north to Chesapeake City in Cecil County and then drove directly south through the counties on the eastern shore along the Chesapeake Bay. I had a mission in mind, I wanted to see the infamous, Tolchester Beach, the place where many spent hot summer days in the late 19th and early 20th century. In its hey-day, Tolchester was a beach destination that had had hotels, restaurants, and games, picnics, horse-racing and an amusement park with a merry-go-round and a roller coaster. The steamship lines ran from 1877 through the early 1950’s to Tolchester until the construction of the Bay Bridge, enabling people to cross the Chesapeake by car.
I first heard about Tolchester Beach in one of the monologues of Ida Rehr, one of the JMM’s living history performances. According to Ida Rehr, you could only get to Tolchester in the early days by steamship ferries that crossed the Chesapeake Bay. Part of Ida’s story includes reminiscing about the picnic lunch that she took on the trip – fried chicken wrapped in waxed paper.
I asked my own relatives if they recalled going to Tolchester. My Aunt Naomi recalled that she along with my father and grandparents went to Tolchester many times. They would leave in the morning and come back home around dark. Aunt Naomi recalled my grandparents rushing in the car to get to the docks on Pratt Street, so not to miss the ferry. My grandmother loved the trip on the ferry and always prepared a picnic lunch for the day trip to the eastern shore. The trip took about an hour. My aunt recalled the sandy beaches, even though she was not allowed to go swimming. She also remembered that my grandmother broke her wrist when she slipped on the deck of the ferry because of the rain.
Today, Tolchester Beach is just a memory and there is nothing visible that would allow one to imagine the vibrant place that it was during the 19th and 20th centuries. . From the eastern shore, one can see the western shore’s skyline making Baltimore, Middle River and Dundalk seem like such a short distance away. Today, there is a marina at Tolchester along with a tiki bar. There were people on the beach enjoying the views. In fact, I was not the only person trying to imagine the place of yesteryear. I met a friend from high school (who I had not seen in 40 years). She and her hubby took their speedboat to Tolchester for the day. She had also heard about Tolchester back in its hey-day and was looking for sea glass, hoping to find some beautiful treasures along the eastern shores of the Chesapeake.
We had a great day trip we had and I loved seeing and learning about Tolchester Beach! Definitely worth the trip!
A blog post by Education Director Ilene Dackman-Alon. To read more posts by Ilene click HERE.