From the Record (Havre de Grace) . . .
The Maryland Municipal League, which is essentially the lobbying organization for town governments in the state, says Port Deposit is one of 157 incorporated towns and cities in the Old Line State.
(So are Aberdeen, Havre de Grace and Perryville, for that matter, but this isn’t about those communities, it’s about Port.)
While much of Maryland and many of its small towns and cities have been experiencing growing pains over the years, Port Deposit has been having the opposite problem. It’s been shrinking.
It may be hard for some folks to believe, but Port was a hopping place, what with the Bainbridge Naval Training Center operating at the top of the cliff, and the Wiley’s shipbuilding operation employing hundreds of people on the bank of the Susquehanna River.
Years ago — actually decades ago at this point — I was a young reporter covering Port Deposit as the change from little big town to backwater was beginning to take place. The Navy had long since moved out of Bainbridge and the federal government was using the facility for its Chesapeake JobCorps, which fell into such disarray that it seemed to be little more than a training center for burgeoning arsonists.
The last job at Wiley’s was the construction of the tubes for the Fort McHenry Tunnel. After that, the ship building facility went dormant, though massive cranes remained in place for years.
Thanks to Port Deposit being a town of 1,000 or fewer people, and Wiley’s and Bainbridge being major economic forces — Wiley’s in particular paying a lot of town taxes — the town government was in a financial position to have a police department and any number of other amenities more typical of a town of five or 10 times the population.
When the economic engines went away, though, Port was reluctant to react in kind.