Gibson Island, Maryland

Wikipedia 🌐 Gibson Island, Maryland

Pre-1800 History

"The 1,000-acre island, steeped in history and first sighted by Europeans when Capt. John Smith sailed up the Chesapeake in the early 1600s,...." [ ]

"Once a farm, [the Gibson Island] namesake was John Gibson who owned the island from 1793 to 1819." [ ]

John Gibson was a "notable Talbot County businessman and legislator." [HB002Y][GDrive] John Gibson was "a relative by marriage of the mid-18th century Maryland governor, Samuel Ogle; and a business associate of Charles Carroll of Carrollton. (Wikipedia: " [HG0039][GDrive]

"Gibson's son William Gibson (1788-1868) was an early American surgeon whose groundbreaking surgical techniques and experimentation paved the way for advances which would revolutionize surgery by the Civil War. He [...] has ties to St. John's College in Annapolis, Princeton, and served as the Chair of the Surgery Department at the University of Pennsylvania from 1819 until he retired in 1855." ( [HX000Q][GDrive] / Full book at [HX000P][GDrive] )

"The [..] farm [on Gibson Island that John Gibson owned was] at [Gibson Island's] Sandy Point". John Gibson's] business associate of Charles Carroll of Carrollton, in fact, "held a mortgage on the property during the Gibson ownership. No records have been located to indicate if Gibson maintained (c.1816) a farm at Sandy Point, although he resided elsewhere.. " [HG0039][GDrive] . It is not clear if there was any farmhouse on the island while John Gibson owned the island. "The first clear evidence of the existence of the Sandy Point Farm House appears in the records of settlement of Henry Mayer's estate (1833)." [HG0039][GDrive]

"The [next] owner of the farm at [Gibson Island's] Sandy Point [was] Henry E. Mayer ( -1831). At his death, Mayer left the Farm House, a barn, Negro slave quarters, seventeen slaves, a carriage house, a stable, a wooden granary, and a personal inventory worth $4,173.90. Mayer's executor sold the farm to Baptist Mezick in 1833. Mezick and his son Thomas Mezick continued to operate farm through the 19th century. They supplemented their income with rents from property they owned in Baltimore City." ( [HG0039][GDrive] )

1858 - Sandy Point Lighthouse

"The original Sandy Point Lighthouse, a brick keeper's dwelling with a lantern room placed on the roof, was built onshore at Sandy Point in 1858. Like Smith Point and Thomas Point Shoals, the onshore station was replaced by offshore lighthouses to more adequately mark offshore shoals. On August 3, 1854 Congress appropriated $8,000 to build a lighthouse at Sandy Point near the present site of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. Approximately two acres of land located about 600 feet north of the point and a right-of- way was purchased from Baptist Mezick and his wife Mary for $526. A contract was let to W.J. Humes to built a 12-story 31.5- by 18.5-foot brick keeper's quarters with an integral tower and lantern room surmounted on the roof. The tower was painted red, and the lantern was fitted with a fifth-order Fresnel lens exhibiting a fixed white flashing light. The dwelling had four rooms, an attached kitchen, and a cellar. The main entrance through one of the gable ends was decorated along the roofline with Victorian sawn work. Nearby was a brick cistern 5 feet across and 5 feet deep. " (see [2018-uscg-historian-office-sandy-point-light-stattion-nrhp.pdf ][GDrive] )

1863 - Baptist Mezuck died

Was a banker -


Suspicious death ...


MEZICK. On July 6, 1920, at the resi dence or her sister, Airs, cnanes u. Ridout, Eastport, Md., LILLIE CORNER MEZICK, beloved wife of the Rev. Frank Meziek, of Arrington, Va., and daughter of the late Capt. Theodore and Rachael Corner, of Annapolis. Funeral services at St. Margaret's Church Thursday morning at 10 o'clock. Interment in Greenmount Cemetery, Baltimore. 7e

Source : [HG003A][GDrive]

The Gibson Island development was the idea of Baltimore judge and businessman Stuart Symington. Tradition recalls Symington's principal motivation for developing a private summer community was his displeasure over the quality of and the long delays at Baltimore area golf courses.

Apparently, others shared the same frustration and Symington soon persuaded approximately forty-five friends and colleagues to join him in creating a new club. In 1921, after a year of inquiry, Symington purchased Gibson Island for $165,000. Here Symington was inspired to create what he called " a club within reasonable distance of the city, where attractive people of moderate means could enjoy summer events such as yachting, bathing, golf and tennis." The Gibson Island enterprise, to use Symington's words, was "not a stock company, not a land development scheme, not a business venture in any sense of the word. It [was] a purely social club, in which membership [could] be had only by invitation. ""

Gibson Island was promoted as a community designed to appeal to "attractive persons of moderate means." Initial membership was selected from an elite demographic and included.wealthy businessmen, socialites and politicians from Baltimore, and to a lesser degree, Wilmington, Philadelphia, and New York. Newspapers, with some degree of hyperbole, touted the new private resort community as "The Newport of the South." While the architecture of Gibson Island lacks the ostentation of the Newport homes built by the Vanderbilts, Rockefellers, an Dukes, Gibson Island's plan and architecture clearly displays the taste and social pursuits of the well-to-do in the 2nd quarter of the th 20 century.

Resorts and recreational communities such as Gibson Island, as well religious and intellectual counterparts such as camp meetings and later chatauquas, began to appear in earnest following the Civil War. The expanded network of railroads made such destinations physically and economically realizable to a larger number of people. Furthermore, the "back to the land" movement, spawned in reaction to the perceived degenerative qualities of life in the Industrial Revolution, provided philosophical underpinnings, and promoted nature's salubrious effect of on mind, body, and spirit.

This increased popularity of public resorts and private summer communities reflects the economic and social dynamics of the state and nation in the period between the Civil War and Great Depression. Locally Baltimore, like many industrial-based urban centers, experienced rapid economic expansion. Growth crescendoed in the 20th century. Baltimore entrepreneurs created 103 new businesses during the 1920s alone, and the steel industry and import-export trade flourished. This led to the observation that "There is no place in the United States so susceptible [as Baltimore]of successful industrial development."

Increased industrialization in combination with a continued influx of job-seeking immigrants exacerbated urban problems and fueled the wealthy and middle-class's demand for suburban housing and rural retreats. It is in this overarching socioeconomic context that Gibson Island (as well as other such Anne Arundel County resort communities as Sherwood Forest, Bay Ridge and Calvert County's North Beach and Chesapeake Beach) came into being.

Symington communicated frequently with the Olmsted Brothers, impressing upon them his ideas for the island. In one correspondence he relays his vision of "summer residences amid spacious, beautiful, restful surrounds, where refreshing breezes prevail, where the usual summer past times of the country are to be had, and at a distance from Baltimore, but not so great as to make it prohibitive for a business man to go back and forth daily when his affairs require daily attendance, and yet great enough to ensure that going out there will be going into the country and not merely moving to another part of the suburbs."

The social tenor of the club community, and its emphasis on family is captured in an undated brochure, titled Gibson Island Port of Homes. Following is an extended excerpt: "Two men were talking the other day about their families. "How well do you know your children one asked?" "I don 't know them at all " was the reply " ... it's a fanny age. Home life, as far as I can see it will soon be as extinct as Henry Ford's plan to get the bovs out of the trenches by Christmas. "

"Sway out! Had this man known about Gibson Island, had he observed even casually what is being done there to create the ideals of American home life that meet 20th century conditions, I believe he would have thought twice about making such a statement. Gibson Island is in no sense a "community" development. It does not tolerate for an instant any of the characteristics (such as the haphazard jumbling together of various groups, like as not antagonistic in type, custom and tradition) which makes that sort of thing unendurable, if not actually odious to discriminating people ... The list of people who may build on Gibson Island or become members is carefully supervised, though not with any gesture of snobbishness, nor with the establishment of false social values in mind. There is nothing to suggest in the slightest the more spectacular phase of modem life, for you would have to travel far indeed to discover such a complete lack of show. Unconventionality of the offensive sort and the laxity of conduct that passes sometimes even in exclusive circles these days is frowned upon. Yet there is a total absence of formality of anything like a feeling of constraint."

Lot purchase was controlled by the Symington family and was linked to membership in the club from which Jews and African Americans were excluded. This restriction did not extend to club employees, and while in law school Thoroughood Marshall, later the first African-American to be appointed a justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, worked as a busboy at the Gibson Island Club House. During the late 1920s, club membership and residence on the island was practically confined to those listed in the Baltimore Social Register. A 1925 Sunday American Newspaper article substantiates and suports this in the following observation. "Folk who have never been fortunate enough to have their names grace the Social Register or the Blue Book have been trying without success to purchase property on the Island. The Island's governors wisely have discouraged all such applications."

Initially Stuart Symington and his New York financier brother, Thomas, personally carried the financial burden of the project. To meet the expected $800,000 financial obligation the club's target membership was placed at 1000 and divided into three classes (a) house owners (b) seasonal tenants of club cottages or club rooms ( c) short-

term non-residents. By 1922 club membership was at 600 and "all of the very best social class and current receipts were inadequate to meet the already accumulated $627 ,628 financial commitment. The Symington brothers responded by forming the Gibson Island Land Company and moved forward with development using bank loans. This marked the beginning of what became the Symington's continuing financial woes.

The Olmsted plan called for 423 residential lots and two eighteen-hole golf courses, but financial constraint affected the plans execution. The idea of a second golf course was abandoned, and against the Olmsted's strenuous objections, additional trees were cut to increase the number of premium water-view lots. While the financial concern, the Gibson Island Land Company, continued to struggle, the social aspect, the Gibson Island Club, was the success its creators envisioned.

The Gibson Island Land Company undertook construction of the community club house, soon followed by the building of "summer cottages" by individual members. A large number of the Gibson Island Club's original members maintained a permanent residence in ·the Olmsted-designed, Baltimore neighborhood of Roland Park and a number of architects associated with Roland Park houses accepted commissions on Gibson Island, including Parker, Thomas & Rice; Edward Palmer, jr.; and Palmer, Willis & Lamdin. Gibson Island architecture, as well as membership, has always been regulated. Promotional material from the 1920s states that plans for every house and other improvement must be approved by the Company's architectural committee, which is composed of leading architects.

In his letters Stuart Symington promotes the Gibson Island Club and community as a place of relaxation for persons of moderate means, however many of the founding members had considerable wealth. Prosperity is relative and to those familiar with the ostentation of resort communities such as Newport, Rhode Island; Jeakell Island, Georgia; or Palm Beach, Florida, the life-style of Gibson Islanders was restrained. A more suiting comparison is the Yeamans Hall Club community located outside Charleston South Carolina.

The Olmsted Brothers designed Yeamans Hall Club two years after completing work at Gibson Island. In contrast to Gibson Island, Yeamans was winter golfing and sporting resort. However, like Gibson Island, the plan was laid out to preserve natural areas of bauty and featured a club house surrounded by private "cottages". Furthermore, Yeamans Hall Club displays the same size and type of architecture as that found at Gibson Island. Exploring further parallels between Gibson Island, Yeamans Hall Club, and other Olmsted Brothers' communities is a very worthy avenue of research.

The "cottage style" architecture of Gibson Island is representative of early 20th century taste. French Eclectic , Spanish Eclectic and Tudor Revival architecture were especially common in suburban communities during the period between the two World Wars. The popularity of these historically imprecise styles has been characterized by some a backlash against the then dominant Colonial Revival style, and also the result of a renewed interest in European-inspired architecture popularized by servicemen returning from abroad following World War I. With the approach of World War II these styles went out of favor as American taste began to reject foreign influences.

During the 1920s and 1930s, however buildings evocative of rural England, France, Italy, etc., were very much in vogue. A Gibson Island promotional package from the 1920s depicts a number of Gibson Island's oldest and finest homes that are representative of this genre. This promotional material is copied and included in the attachments.

Sally Symington Henderson, the granddaughter of Thomas Symington, recalls that the [XX]play of money was frowned upon and never discussed. The modem trend toward "mansionizing" and elaborate landscaping is definitely a trend among the new generation. Perhaps it is more accurate to describe Gibson Island as a private community aimed at the moderately wealthy. It seems founding members either did not view themselves as rich or, given the fact that membership included members of the DuPont family, refused to present it.

Despite conscious restraint, Gibson Island summer life was not without a certain [X}arefied air. When Mrs. Henderson was asked where residents took most of their meals, she replied that the popular conception that families usually ate at the club was incorrect. Most meals, she reports were taken at home-prepared by the family cook. Mrs. Henderson also recalls that many houses were originally equipped with servant quarters, most of which, in this post-servant society, have been removed.

Early advertisements and oral tradition emphasize the importance of family and organized activities and instruction for children were widely available. Golf, tennis and sailing were available for members, and instruction in these activities provided for their children. Golf may be the initial motivation behind the creation of the Gibson Island Club, but it is sailing for which it is renown. Throughout its history, the Gibson Island Yacht Squadron has been the sponsor of nationally-recognized regattas, most notably the Gibson Island to New London race, and many prominent sailors started their career at Gibson Island. 1 Members of the Gibson Island Garden Club for ladies also achieved national distinction.

As expected, the stock market crash of 1929 and the subsequent Great Depression adversely impacted members and significantly curtailed new construction. The Gibson Island project was also set back due to circumstances involving the Gibson Island project's principle backers, specifically the death of Stuart Symington and the bankruptcy of Thomas Symington. Sally Symington Henderson said economic hardship forced a number of families to relinquish their summer homes, and others including Thomas Symington, gave up their city homes and took up year-round residence on the island. Hardship, like wealth proved relative, and despite financial retrenchment, sailing, golf tournaments continued. Gibson Island society life persevered through World War II, however charity drives, fund-raisers and bandage wrapping parties were as much a part of the summer social calendar as swimming and sailing.

In the post-war era Gibson Island began an earnest transformation away from a summer resort to a year-round community. Long-time resident, Jimmy Wolfe, revealed in an interview that Gibson Island culture began a subtle shift at this time. The number of out of state members decreased and somewhat diminished the club's cosmopolitan reputation. In addition, during the early years members usually had business or personal associations with each other outside of Gibson Island, a situation that became less typical in the post-World War II era. The increased proportion of year-round residents precipitated renovations and expansions of what were once "summer cottages" as well as new construction. The increased number of year-round residents prompted the establishment of the Gibson Island Country School. This elementary school, located on the mainland near the gate house, first opened in 1956 and maintains a very solid reputation.

In the approximately seventy-five years since the Gibson Island Corporation and Gibson Island Club were inaugurated, significant changes have taken place in response to changing lifestyles. However, Stuart Symington's vision of a private, professional class community where members are able to enjoy a full variety of recreational activities, within close proximity of the city, remains fully intact.

1977 Baltimore Sun special on Gibson Island

Read "The Disappearing Islands of the Chesapeake"

The following is pages 33 to 37 is captured here : [HB002X][GDrive]

OCRAt the mouth of the Magothy River, Gibson Island’s nine hundred acres encompass a well-sheltered harbor, Otter and Cooley Ponds, and a very private community. Accessible by a single road and causeway that are closed to the pub‐ lic, the island community is guarded by a s t o n e gatehouse that is manned twenty-four hours a day. The island’s 180 or so property owners make up the Gibson Island Corporation, which manages the island. At the heart of this wealthy community is the exclusive Gibson Island Club. Members not only may par‐ take of clubhouse activities but also may enjoy agolfcourse‐eighteen holes if you play one nine in reverse-a pool, marina, and skeet-shooting range. How‐ ever, members of the venerable Gibson Island Yacht Squadron and students at the Gibson Island Country School are not required to be island residents. Gibson Island has had a long history of occupation. Artifacts and a large shell midden on the bay side of the island tell of Indian inhabitants who gathered oysters and other foods from the Chesapeake. These Indians were probably of Algonquian stock, pushed south by fierce Susquehannocks. First patented in 1667, the island had four owners and contained approximately 1,200 acres. By 1771 William Worthington owned what was then known simply as “the great island,” and in 1792 he advertised it for sale: “The land is remarkably valuable for the Fertility of its soil, and Conveniency of its situation to Baltimore, Annapolis, and other Markets . . . It abounds with Plenty of Tim‐ bet and Wood. And has the advantage of productive Fisheries, and Variety of wild Fowl. It is adapted to every Species of Country-Produce. There are several dif‐ ferent Tenements on i t , with some useful Improvements,and it produces the greatest Plenty of Grass for Stock.” In 1793 John Gibson, an Annapolis attorney, bought the island, which was part of the more than 2,000 acres of land he owned between the Magothy and Bodkin Creek. Subsequent owners divided the island into farms, but the hilly, sometimes rugged landscape did nor lend itself well to agriculture. Although during the Civil War its well-hidden harbor sheltered pro-Southern blockade runners, Gibson Island failed to attract later development. It was popular with deer and duck hunters, however. Finally, in 1921 Judge W. Stewart Symington Ir.headed a group of wealthy Baltimoreans who bought the - for $165,000. They brought in the nation’s foremost land‐ scape f1rm, the Olmsted brorhers, who devised a plan for an elaborate summer colony with cottages organized around an eighteen-hole golf course. It was “Baltimore’s newest playground,” declared a 1923 article in the Baltimore American. Mostly woods and open space, the island was still a favorite with hunters, but Symington envisioned much more. He organized the Gibson Island Club and had plans for the Yacht Squadron before his death in 1926. Today, a tall Celtic cross near the island’s e n t r a n c e honors his memory. Following the Great Depression, real estate development made more economic sense than a golf-centered community, and the eighteen-hole course was reduced to nine holes. Gibson Island was too remote for year-round living, and development in the 1930s consisted of summer cottages. By the 1940s, however, families were taking up permanent residence on the island. The community experienced another spurt of development after World War II, and the increase in the number of young children on the island led to the creation of the Gibson Island Country School. Located outside the island gate, the school was accessible and open to children of non-islanders, who now make up most of the enrollees. Since the 1920s the Gibson Island Yacht Squadron has flourished and earned wide acclaim. In 1929 J. Graham and C. Lowndes Johnson won the Star‐Class Internationals, making the Gibson Island Yacht Squadron the host for the championship races the following year. During World War II, a number of Gibson Island yachts served with the volunteer “Corsair Fleet” on Atlantic Coast antisubmarine patrol. Gibson Island resident Corrin Strong's cutter Narada was sunk offCape Henry while on this duty.Gibson Island’s yacht squadron continued to host regattas and long-distance races for decades and offered a number of stellar sailing events. One involved the popular Star boats. An Olympic racing class of identical boats a little under twenty-three feet long, the Star boats attracted generations of good sailors, among them squadron member James Allsopp, who won the Star-Class World Cup in 1976. In 1990 the squadron hosted the 1-22 World ChampionshipRegatta, in which local sailor and author John Sherwood w o n first place. The squadron has continued to be active in racing and has grown to more than t w o hundred yachts. Some fifty ‐ I‐ land children crew a junior fleet of Opti‐ mists, Lasers, and 4.205. A third generation of luxury homes appmred on the - during the area‐ widerealestateboomof the19803,and properties began to change hands, a thing that seldom happened previously. Nevertheless,residentsattemptedto up‐ hold their unwritten policy of exclusiv‐ ity. Although property ownership brings with it shares in the a a Cor‐ poration,clubmembershipisnotauto‐ matic, which is especially hard on ‐ children ban'ed from the pool, sailing, and other facilities. In 1991the issue erupted in a legal battle when several property owners who were denied ‘‐son nu Club membership took the corporation to c o u r t . The final settle‐ m e n t granted all landowners use of the club’s facilities but n 0 t club member‐ ship. While admitting no wrongdoing, the corporation did pay the plaintiff‘s’ $40,000 lawyer’s fee. Disruption of the status quo came from a different quarter in the mid‐1980s. Hunting on the island had ended before World War II, and some time later, it became a bird sanctuary. Along with the birds, deer also flourished, eventually overrunning the lush Gibson Island neighborhoods. In 1984, the islanders requested that the state’s forestry ofiicials organize a deer hunt. Immedi‐ ately pickctcrs appeared at the gate to protest. They succeeded in postponing but could n o t stop the hunt. which is now an annual event, not only on Gibson Island but at Sandy Point State Park and similar sanctuaries.


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