Perhaps the only way that most visitors to Talbot County might remember the town of Bellevue is because it is one of two destinations using the famed Oxford-Bellevue ferry. For eight months out of the year, locals and tourists gather across from the Robert Morris Inn to take the brief crossing over the Tred Avon River to the tiny hamlet several times a day to take in some of the most iconic images of the Mid-Shore’s waterscapes and boat traffic. And while most passengers quickly jump back into their cars and drive off to St. Michaels, they do notice, at least for a few moments, that Bellevue has a real sense of place.
For Dr. Dennis De Shields, Bellevue is more than a brief encounter. It is the ancestral home of his father’s family. While Dr. De Shields, a self-described “army brat,” followed his father’s career as a high-ranking colonel, it always seemed to him that Bellevue was his family’s real home. With the free run of the town during long summer breaks and enjoying the almost endless extent of family relations and friendships, Dennis bonded with the town, its people, and culture as his own.
The proof is that devotion can be seen when De Shields, and his wife Mary, also a physician, decided to move their young family to Bellevue over a decade ago to provide their children with a real sense of place rather than the cold indifference of American suburbia. And since that time, Dennis has not only taken a leadership role in the community, he and his father have devoted countless volunteer hours preparing for a special African-American museum to be built in the heart of the town using his grandmother’s collection of artifacts, art, and images to tell the story of this remarkable place.
When the Spy published Dr. De Shields’ opinion piece expressing his concerns about a future housing development, we thought it would be a good time to chat with him about the special meaning and history of Bellevue, and its importance for the Black community of the Mid-Shore. In our interview from last week at the Water’s Edge Museum, where the artist Ruth Starr Rose’s painting of one of his ancestors playing the guitar in the background, Dennis talks about his unique history with the town and also his concerns and suggestions regarding plans for 14 new luxury homes to be built soon.
This video is approximately six minutes in length. In Part Two, which will be published on June 2, the Spy chats with architect Philip Logan about how sub-divisions can be designed to build on a town’s culture and community.