When we first started looking for apartments in Frederick, all we really knew was that we wanted to be downtown and that we wanted more space than our previous tiny little apartment – visions of row houses danced in our heads. Overlooking a few obvious areas that hadn’t quite been gentrified, most of historic downtown looked equally appealing to us – the houses were charming, we felt safe, and by comparison, everything was walkable. But it started to become apparent that not everyone saw it quite like we did. I can remember being shown a beautiful house on All Saints and having the agent look at us, hesitate, and then sort of shrug and state in a hushed and conspiratorial tone, “I think it’s legal for me to say this, but this is what you might call a historically black neighborhood.” It was Sunday, and I looked at people walking back to their cars after church (there were 2 on the block) and glanced at the view of the creek and thought it seemed like a lovely neighborhood. Sure, I knew what she was trying to say, but I thought this reflected more on her character than that of the neighborhood.
In the end, we settled on a house on W. South Street, just a few blocks from where we’d been quietly advised against. It soon became apparent that, in fact, not all downtown neighborhoods are created equal; living south of Carroll Creek seems to be the equivalent of living on the wrong side of the tracks. Longtime Frederick residents would look at us with stunned surprise and raised eyebrows when we stated our address. There was invariably a pause before the conversation resumed, or a comment about something they’d read in the paper about a recent crime. Sure, we noticed some foot traffic that made us joke that we were “ghetto adjacent,” and I wouldn’t say that hanging around outside of Manny Mart is the safest or most intellectually stimulating way to pass the time. But, I believe that the time has come to set the record straight once and for all.
South Street is home to some of the nicest people I have met in Frederick and to the best neighbors that I’ve encountered in my 13 years of renting and moving.
I mentioned in a previous post that before the engine of the moving van had even cooled we’d met one of our neighbors and yet another brought over a welcome basket full of delicious edibles. But this doesn’t fully encompass the experience – there was a general sense of community to our little block. As soon as it was even remotely warm enough this spring we began to have our own version of block parties – lawn chairs propped up in the parking lot, basking in some much needed sun, and sharing drinks, gossip, and snacks. There was an impromptu St. Patrick’s Day party, a baseball opening day party, a Cinco de Mayo party, a bonfire (not on South Street), and an understanding that our doors were always open to a visit from a neighbor. People watched out for each other. If I was home alone and someone knocked on my door, I could call the neighbors across the street (who occasionally said goodnight via a laser pointer to our window) to see who was there. When someone knocked over a recycling bin late one night, everyone rushed out to clean up the mess. People looked after each other’s pets without being asked and once when the hubs was leaving for a business trip he ran into a neighbor who volunteered to “feed his wife” while he was away (and trust me, for the quality of food I received, I’ll take being equated with a pet any day).
Ages and life experiences varied as widely as you can imagine, but the heterogeneity of the life on South Street made living there more fun, not less. If you’ve been reading carefully, and I don’t blame you if you haven’t, you might have noticed that I’ve written this in the past tense. In a turn of life that is truly bittersweet, we’ve left our little community to become homeowners, and while we’ll still be in downtown Frederick, there’s just no place like our South Street home.