Elktonia-Carr’s Beach Heritage Park

New! A Public Waterfront Park to Share

the Chesapeake’s Black History

Black History, Recreation & Public Access

Elktonia Beach, a 5-acre waterfront parcel on the Chesapeake Bay, is the last remnant of the original 180-acre property purchased by freedman, Frederick Carr, in 1902. Carr’s and Sparrow’s Beaches were privately owned and operated by Frederick Carr’s daughters, Elizabeth Carr Smith and Florence Carr Sparrow. “The Beaches” (1930s-1970s), as they were called, represented the heart of entertainment throughout the mid-Atlantic region and welcomed Blacks during a time of segregation. It has been a nearly 20-year goal of Blacks of the Chesapeake Foundation (BOCF) to preserve the remaining 5 acres of The Beaches

After years of advocacy and fundraising, in 2022, the City of Annapolis, BOCF, Chesapeake Conservancy and the state of Maryland entered into an agreement with The Conservation Fund to acquire the property through a patchwork of funding including federal, state and city Program Open Space funds. Additional support was provided by Governor Larry Hogan and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, and federal appropriations were secured by U.S. Senator Ben Cardin. BOCF also received a Parks & Playgrounds Infrastructure Grant through the efforts of State Senator Sarah Elfreth. In August 2022, a signing ceremony took place, transferring the property to the City of Annapolis and creating a new city park with beach access, Elktonia-Carr’s Beach Heritage Park.

Park Expansion

In February 2024, an adjacent 0.67-acre-property once owned by Dr. Parlett Moore, a former president of Coppin State University, was acquired, expanding the park. This was made possible thanks to City funding as well as funding from Anne Arundel County, The Conservation Fund, Blacks of the Chesapeake, Chesapeake Conservancy, Maryland Heritage Area Authority and hundreds of private donors, including Merrill Family Foundation, France-Merrick Foundation and the William L. and Victorine Q. Adams Foundation, Inc. Park planners are envisioning a future interpretive center and headquarters for the Blacks of the Chesapeake Foundation.

Vince Leggett, president and founder of Blacks of the Chesapeake said the expansion “represents another historic milestone of achievement for the 20-year Odyssey to preserve the last vestiges of African American land situated directly on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay. The historic locations of the Carr’s, Sparrow’s, Elktonia Beaches, and now the Parlett Moore family cottage, represent the ‘Black Coast’ of the Bay.”

“This special place connects us together with its nature and cultural history. The past and future of Elktonia-Carr’s Beach will fuel the wisdom and compassion our community needs,” said Chesapeake Conservancy President & CEO Joel Dunn. “Thanks to Mayor Buckley’s leadership, partners and generous donors, current and future generations will learn about the Chesapeake’s Black history at this welcoming park on the shores of the Bay.”

The City of Annapolis welcomes visitors to Elktonia-Carr’s Beach Heritage Park during the property improvement process. Access to Elktonia Park and Carr’s Beach is along a quarter mile interpreted walking path across the street from the Annapolis Maritime Museum Park Campus located at 7300 Edgewood Road, Annapolis MD.

Black History

During the intense era of Jim Crow laws and forced racial segregation, Blacks were prohibited from visiting beaches like Ocean City or Atlantic City. In response, Carr’s Beach, Sparrow’s Beach and neighboring Elktonia Beach were vacation getaways and prominent venues that welcomed Blacks and hosted renowned Black musicians, including Billie Holiday, Count Basie, James Brown, Ray Charles, Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding and Little Richard. The route these and many other Black musicians traveled became known as the “Chitlin Circuit.”

Elktonia-Carr’s Beach Heritage Park is the last remaining vestige of the original iconic property. Preservation of Elktonia Beach as a heritage park and interpreting its history for the public will ensure its legacy is fully recognized. As a public park, now all people can visit, experience and enjoy the natural and cultural resources of the Chesapeake Bay.

Precious Memories Linger On….
Carr’s, Sparrow’s & Elktonia Beach

“Sea Shells do talk, and they hold precious memories. When I clutch an ocean-worn mollusk’s shell to my ear, I can still hear the sounds of the waves, the music, laughter and tears.

“Unless one walks the site of the iconic African American beaches you can never fully understand what happened there.

“Unless one learns the stories of the heroes, you can never fully appreciate how their sacrifice gave us the freedoms we enjoy today. And unless you and I pass on the appreciation of these sites and why they are important, we cannot ensure the same freedom for our children and grandchildren.”

-Vince Leggett
“Admiral of the Chesapeake”
Founder & President
Blacks of the Chesapeake

“When Anne Arundel County was segregated, there was a place called Carr’s Beach (now Chesapeake Harbor), a summer haven for African Americans where the coolest people on the planet in music came: soul musicians Little Richard and James Brown, jazz legend Billie Holiday. Carr’s Beach was a major stop for these legendary artists.”

– Annapolis Mayor Gavin Buckley