The Journey Through Hallowed Ground

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Frederick Historic District

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The District is significant for its role as the seat of Frederick County and as a regional market and industrial center in Maryland's Piedmont area from the 18th century to the mid 20th century.

During the Civil War, both Union and Confederate armies passed through this city on their way to Antietam in 1862; and parts of the Union army went north through here on the way to Gettysburg in 1863. Confederate Gen. Jubal Early extorted a $200,000 ransom from the city before fighting near the Monocacy River just south. Large numbers of wounded soldiers were brought to the city following the large battles fought nearby.

All Saints Street in the City of Frederick was once the vibrant center of community life for African Americans in Frederick County. Two churches anchored the block, both given over to black members of their congregations during the Civil War: First Missionary Baptist Church (#141) and Asbury United Methodist Church (#101). The current Asbury church dates to 1921, and the Baptist congregation moved to another building. Quinn Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church, although blocks away, was also important to the community.

During the decades after the Civil War, as the population grew and segregation policies hardened, All Saints Street developed into a black business district. By the early twentieth century, African Americans from the city and surrounding county went there for banking, grocery stores, barbershops and beauty parlors, shoe repair, restaurants, and medical care. They could borrow books from the Free Colored Men’s Library or enjoy social events and entertainment such as movies at Pythian Castle (#111-114) or (after 1928) the Mountain City Elks Lodge. On Friday nights and Saturdays the street was especially lively, as people converged downtown for shopping, business, cultural events, and socializing.

The Shab Row neighborhood on North East Street was a center of black residential life. Children played in a small vacant lot with trees and wildflowers, or along East Street, ever mindful of the trolley that periodically rumbled down the center of the road. Although residents were sometimes teased and called “Cross Track People,” the neighbors were close; they watched out for one another and minded the children. After integration, residents moved to other neighborhoods. Some houses were torn down; those remaining have been restored and are now part of an upscale shopping district. Former Shab Row residents periodically hold reunions.

Some notable African American residents of Frederick include Alice Palmer Freeman, housekeeper for Eleanor Roosevelt; William H. Grinage, artist; Esther Grinage, educator and kindergarten founder; Lord D. Nickens, decorated World War II veteran and NAACP president; and William O. Lee, educator/administrator, local historian and city alderman.

Resources

  • Tourism Council of Frederick County. “African American Heritage Sites” Brochure. 2001. Available online [PDF]

Ulysses Grant Bourne (1873-1956)
Dr. Ulysses G. Bourne uplifted his community. Originally from Calvert County, Maryland, Bourne obtained a medical degree from Leonard Medical College in North Carolina in 1902 and established his practice on All Saints Street in Frederick, Maryland, in 1903. While most patients visited him there, he also used a horse and buggy to make house calls. He delivered 2,600 babies before he retired in 1953. He accepted meat and produce from patients without the money to pay his fees. Initially, black patients were not admitted to the hospital in Frederick, so in 1919, he and another African American physician, Charles Brooks, opened a hospital at 173 All Saints Street. It operated until 1928 when the Frederick City Hospital opened a new wing for black patients. He became the first black doctor permitted to practice there. A leader in his profession statewide, Dr. Bourne founded the Maryland Negro Medical Society in 1931.

Bourne also led the community in civic affairs. In 1934 he co-founded the Frederick County Branch of the NAACP and served as its president for twenty years. At a time when African Americans were barred from attending the Opera House, he was instrumental in building the stately hall that later became known as Pythian Castle. He worked behind-the-scenes for local political candidates and ran himself on the Republican ticket for the Maryland House of Delegates.

Ulysses and his wife Grace Bourne had three children, Ulysses Jr., Grace, and Isabella Blanche. Blanche followed in her father’s footsteps and earned a medical degree—the first Frederick County woman to do so. Dr. I. Blanche Bourne-Tyree, as she is now known, established a scholarship in her father’s name for others wishing to pursue a medical career.

Resources
Tourism Council of Frederick County. “African American Heritage Sites” Brochure. 2001. Available online [PDF]

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