- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
By PAT ULLBERG
Dorothy Gleason remembers many happy summers in Drum Point. Her parents bought a lot in the New Drum Point resort development in 1949, and built a cottage that was completed about 1952, the year Gleason turned 5 years old. She was born and grew up in Washington, D.C, but for years, her family spent every summer in their cottage at Drum Point.
Gleason has many fond memories of that cottage and the beach at Drum Point. Because she spent so much time in the county, she considers herself almost a Calvert native, or at least an adoptee. She was married at the Drum Point cottage in 1962. Gleason now lives in Colorado, but retains a strong affection for Calvert and the happy memories of those summers at Drum Point.
She remembered an old mansion in the area of her parents’ summer home that led to her interest in the history of the area.
“The history of the mansion led to the history of Drum Point,” Gleason said.
Gleason works as an abstractor, a professional researcher of real estate, so she knew how to wade through the often murky Drum Point history of land grants, property transfers, sales and deeds.
At the Calvert Historical Society’s June Brown Bag Luncheon, Gleason spoke and showed a PowerPoint presentation of the photos and her research. Her research, “a ton of information,” was too detailed and complex to make a book comprehensible to the general public, so she decided to edit her findings to make a shorter memoir for publication.
In 1662, the British Crown awarded a land patent to Edward Eltonhead, Gentleman of London, the largest patent awarded to an individual in Calvert County. A land patent is an exclusive grant made by a sovereign entity. The patent of Great Eltonhead Manor was 8,500 acres stretching from Cove Point to what is now Lusby. A portion of Great Eltonhead Manor were the two estates known as Rousby Hall and Mill Mount.
Gleason thinks the first Eltonhead Manor house was built at Cove Point, on what is now the airstrip. In 1693, Samuel Bourne Jr. inherited 2,000 acres of the Eltonhead Manor grant, and built a second manor house at Drum Point. Neither of these manor houses exists anymore, since they were likely constructed of logs. The records are sparse because the Calvert courthouse has burned down twice, Gleason said, most recently on March 3, 1882.
At one time, the Eltonhead manor house was in the Rousby Hall family, although Gleason couldn’t find definitive records about the family connection. During the War of 1812, the British burned Rousby Hall estate manor house and, most likely, all its property records, because its then owner, Maj. Fitzhugh, was supposed to be actively hostile to the British.
Because of the scarcity of records, Gleason’s account leaps forward to more recent verifiable historical fact. In 1850, two Peruvian brothers, Frederico and Filippo Barrita, moved to Drum Point to collect guano — seabird excrement — from an offshore island, and ship it to Peru. Guano is an excellent, very rich fertilizer, and the brothers rapidly grew a business worth $3 million — a very big business for that time and place.
As the Barritas’ business prospered, the brothers ordered a land survey of Drum Point in 1861 and, in 1866, bought a large portion of the original Eltonhead Manor acreage. Frederico Barrita became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1869 and moved to New York City, where he expanded his business interests and acted in a diplomatic capacity for the U.S. in dealings with Peru.
In 1870, Frederico moved back to Drum Point, bought out the estate from his brother, Filippo, including a farm, and built a three-story Italianate mansion, which he named Eltonhead Manor. This is the manor house Gleason remembers from her childhood. It is believed to be the first house built in Calvert with indoor plumbing, with water provided from a water tank installed on the third floor of the house. The 1925 Historic American Buildings Survey has photos of the house interior. This 1925 survey is available on the Library of Congress website.
Frederico later moved his family to San Francisco for his coffee business. They left the house and property in the care of his wife’s brother, but he was a poor manager and let it run down. Some cousins then tried to farm, but couldn’t make enough to keep it as a viable farming operation, so he sold the house and the property in 1918 for $45,000.
The U.S. Navy took over the property in the 1930s to use for training recruits. Gleason has heard stories that the large square cupola on the mansion roof was used for spying on ships, but believes this might be a local legend. The house gradually declined through the years, and was decrepit when it was torn down circa 1953.
The main focus of Gleason’s memoir is the development of Drum Point by Paul Kerman, as a family vacation destination. Kerman, a Russian immigrant who had a successful grocery business in the District, was looking for other investments in the late 1940s.
Shortly after World War II, he bought a farm in Prince Frederick, which he planned to develop, but he decided it wasn’t large enough to support the kind of development he envisioned. Louis Goldstein suggested the land at Drum Point, and they went together to look at it.
Kerman mortgaged his home in the District and bought the Drum Point property. He formed the Drum Point Development Corp. in 1946. He platted out the land in half-acre lots, which he then advertised heavily in the D.C., Annapolis and Baltimore papers as ideal family vacation sites within a reasonable distance from those cities. Each lot had a pier and waterfront access. Kerman’s corporation eventually sold 1,000 lots in the Drum Point development. Gleason’s parents bought their lot in 1949 for $495.
Kerman’s most ambitious Drum Point development project was the beach club he built in the marsh. His permit for this project was first denied, but by then, he had enough influence in Calvert business circles to go ahead and build anyway. He brought in loads of dirt from Calvert’s cliffs to fill in the marsh.
The Sun and Sand Club became a tourist destination in the 1950s, with many popular amusements of the time: dances with live bands on weekends, music announcers, bathing beauty contests, dining in the clubhouse and swimming in the large salt water pool.
In 1969, Kerman sold the property to the Chesapeake Beach Club. A rumor that a large amusement park was planned for the beach club worried many Ranch Club homeowners, so they grouped together and bought the old Sun and Sand Club building and land. This is now a private club for residents of the Ranch Club, now the Chesapeake Ranch Estates, and can be rented by outsiders for events.
Gleason’s memoir, “Drum Point Reflections: Where the River Meets the Bay,” a paperback book, includes many photos of Drum Point from earlier times to the present. Her book, a trade paperback, is available at the Calvert County Historical Society gift shop and at most online commercial booksellers.
The Calvert County Historical Society in Prince Frederick is open Tuesdays and Thursdays in the restored 1868 Linden house. Linden is worth a visit to see how an earlier generation lived in the county. The society’s collections are available for research and visits Tuesday and Thursdays. For more information, go to www.calverthistory.org.