After I stepped down as GM at Borders #043 and became a part-time drone, I often worked the Info Desk while crotchety old coot Roland manned the registers. I had no idea how important he was in Baltimore history. I talked to him about politics many times and he never tooted his own horn as a quite successful activist and influential preservationist. Successful, influential, and humble--go figure. His obituary:
H. Roland Read, 78, Fells Point preservationist
By Jacques Kelly
Originally published September 1, 2006
H. Roland Read, a Southeast Baltimore community activist who conceived the annual Fells Point Fun Festival as a means of fighting a highway proposed to run through the historic neighborhood, died of leukemia Wednesday at University of Maryland Medical Center. The Roland Park resident was 78.
Born in Philadelphia and raised in Short Hills, N.J., he earned a bachelor of arts degree at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, and served in the Army in Korea. Moving to Baltimore, he became a reporter for The Sun from 1951 to 1954, covering crime and court news. He was later a public relations adviser at the old Armco Steel Plant, and from 1970 to 1980 was director of the Maryland Kidney Foundation.
In the late 1960s, Mr. Read joined with other members of the Society for the Preservation of Federal Hill and Fells Point in what became a successful effort to prevent construction of an interstate highway along the Baltimore harbor and across the water.
"Fells Point would not have survived without Roland," said former state Sen. Julian L. Lapides, who is also a fellow preservationist. "He was a visionary and could see what the area would become. He looked past the derelict buildings and saw a brilliant future."
Mr. Read purchased several properties in Fells Point, including the former Port Mission on South Broadway. By owning property, he became a litigant in a citizens' lawsuit to block construction of the highway, which would have claimed many homes along Thames and Lancaster streets. Other properties in nearby Canton were condemned and demolished along the Boston Street corridor.
To help cover legal fees involved in the litigation, Mr. Read, who was president of the Preservation Society from 1973 to 1975, conceived the Fells Point Fun Festival as a fundraiser and public relations event.
"It was his idea," said Jean Hepner, an early Fells Point activist. "He was full of ideas and knew how to promote everything he did."
The annual fall event grew in the late 1970s and early 1980s, attracting nearly 100,000 people. It remains a major source of financial support for the preservation society, whose headquarters remains on South Ann Street in Fells Point. Mr. Read also sat on the boards of Baltimore Heritage and what is now the Baltimore Area Convention and Visitors Association.
A former Eagle Scout, he remained active in Boy Scouts through involvement with Troop 1000 at the Roman Catholic Cathedral of Mary Our Queen, 5300 N. Charles St., where a memorial Mass will be offered at 10 a.m. Tuesday. Survivors include his wife of 31 years, the former Kathleen Hickey; three sons, Patrick Read of Baltimore, Brian Read of Washington and Christopher Read of Chestertown; and a daughter, Bridget Read of Washington.