St. James African Union First Colored Methodist Protestant Church has been standing on Jefferson Avenue in Towson for the past 159 years.
Its history is linked indelibly to the Historic East Towson neighborhood in which it was erected: it is Towson’s oldest African-American church and second-oldest congregation, built by Black neighborhood residents who purchased the land after their worship for decades was relegated to each other’s homes, Nancy Goldring, president of the Northeast Towson Improvement Association, told a crowd of listeners on Tuesday afternoon.
Yes, East Towson residents know their history. Many, like Goldring, are descendants of the freed men once enslaved at the Hampton estate who purchased land and founded the neighborhood in the 1850s.
It is this history that East Towson residents say is being threatened by a planned affordable housing complex vehemently opposed by the community that would border it, a predominantly Black community that, some residents noted during the walking tour of East Towson, has historically been left out of the conversation as encroaching development over the decades eroded borders, which once spanned to York Road and Bosley Avenue, to just six blocks.
Goldring organized a tour of Historic East Towson on Tuesday — attended by about two dozen people — as part of a bolstered push to resist the Red Maple Place development.
The planned project would create 56 affordable apartment units — 22 one-bedroom units, 17 two-bedroom units and 17 three-bedroom units — on a 2.5-acre plot of land between East Pennsylvania Avenue and East Joppa Road, off Fairmount Avenue. It is bordered by the Harris Hills condominium complex and Historic East Towson.