A few weeks ago I was sitting on my couch watching the evening news on WBAL Channel 11 here in Baltimore and they were running down the list of the previous night’s shootings and they always throw up a graphic of the streets where the incidents took place and I’ll be damned if the map didn’t show that something nefarious went down on a piece of macadam called, Carberry Lane. CARBERRY LANE!! I was born and raised here and I have never heard of this thoroughfare that bears my last name.
I’m a bit of a geek, surprise, surprise, and I’ve been fascinated by how streets get their names, most in particular the streets of Baltimore. War heroes, city fathers, powerful business folk, geographic features and so many other factors go into how and why a street gets named what it gets named. Here’s an interesting tidbit; Redwood St. in downtown Baltimore was originally named, German St. to honor the German folk who settled in Baltimore way back in the day. A couple of World Wars convinced City Hall to change the name.
From 1988 to 1992, I worked at Sisson’s Restaurant and BrewPub and I thought it was so cool that there is a Sisson St. here in Baltimore. It is so named because the Sisson family owned a marble quarry that so many of Baltimore’s famed marble steps were cut out of. See! That’s a way you get a street named after you.
So let’s get back to the Carberry thing. I was able to find Carberry Lane on Google maps lets take a look at it, shall we?
Are you seeing what I’m seeing? Carberry Lane is literally a stone’s throw from Edgar Allan Poe’s house!! I have walked and driven passed the Poe house a whole bunch of times and I, once again, have never seen this Carberry Lane. I had to go back down there and look for it. I went last week. I couldn’t find it. I was confused. I then checked local news websites and the Baltimore Sun’s archives and could find nothing mentioning Carberry Lane and a shooting. I contacted the experts at the Enoch Pratt Free Library and they had no information. They directed me to the Maryland Historical Society-they haven’t gotten back to me either. I’ve asked the family and no one knows about “our” street.
So I studied the Google Maps images intently a second and third time and realized that Carberry Lane, at best, is an overgrown alley now. Yesterday, I ventured back down there and I verified that yes, that is all that Carberry Lane is and given it’s narrow structure, it was probably, even when it was built and named, not much more than an alley and a short one at that. It is possible to stand at the Eastern entry to Carberry lane and see the Poe house. Of course, this made my mind reel with thoughts of Edgar Allan Poe strolling and or stumbling past and down Carberry lane on the way to his house at 203 N. Amity street. It’s just amazing to think about. The ground next to Carberry lane is a vacant lot that also happens to have two broken down park benches on a concrete pad. At some point, Baltimore City, tried to make this more presentable but there is no indication that it isn’t just a place to do some nefarious things, like, drinking, drugging and yes, shooting-people and maybe heroin.
But it was oddly beautiful as I strolled up and down Carberry lane, imagining the lives of the Baltimoreans who lived here so many years ago and wondering just who Carberry lane was named for. From what I understand, my batch of Carberry’s didn’t arrive on these shores until 1919, so it definitely is no one that I am directly related to. My mind boggles at the possibilities. Here are those photos I mentioned.