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.
Letters to Editor
Michael Callahan says
Very well done.
Mary Byrnes Bollinger says
I rented a home in Neavtte and would come from Baltimore on weekends. My first stop would always be Bellvue and the charming shop near the fairy . i am fortunate to still have two treasures purchased there. They are two paintings by a gentleman named Bill Harper who managed to capture the delightful images is this wonderful town . I believed it was in the early 90’s and I was told he had no formal training it his paintings are my treasures .
One was called “ Wild Swans in Oak Creek “ and the other is of Canda Gueese swimming in a creek in front of a small red house . His use of color and proportions of the scene is so peaceful. I was told that artist still lived Belluve but di not paint any longer . I would go to the shop searching each time I was there but never found anymore paintings.
My heart was broken when the shop changed and never went back .
I live back in Baltimore now but still miss the old days of simple beauty and peace which I found in Bellvue . I thank all of you for sharing this joy with me .
Mary Byrnes Bollinger
Brooke Myers says
Very nice .. I hope the feelings of the community are respected.
Rowena De Shields says
Thank you for this wonderful article and interview! Bellevue is a place of such social and historical importance. It’s very important to preserve and recognize the heritage of the village and it’s residents. It’s encouraging to see more information about it and the push for its preservation.
Kimberly Brice says
My son and his wife along with their newborn at the time had the fortunate opportunity to rent a beautiful historic home in Bellevue. They felt welcomed and safe from the first day they were there. They could enjoy the beach and the park as time allowed. They could walk down the side streets with their son for evening strolls. Neighbors would walk over when they were sitting outside and visit and we knew in our hearts they were looking out for this young family.
I am thankful to Drs Dennis and Mary De Shields for the love they showed them as they were starting out as a new family in Bellevue. I am also thankful for the commitment that they have to this beautiful community. I look forward to the second series!
Eva M. Smorzaniuk, MD says
Thank you Dennis for sharing your memories. Perhaps your oral history and that of other Bellevue families could be part of your grandmother’s museum! It is clear that Bellevue residents have a strong sense of place, and that any development should be approached mindfully.
Olivia Brice says
What an inspiring perspective and commitment to preserving such a magical town. I have recently relocated from DC to Talbot County and had the opportunity to spend time in Bellevue with my brother, his wife and my nephew. I have visited the aforementioned museum and it is truly remarkable! I am proud to know Drs Dennis and Mary De Shields and this an example of true foresight to sustaining the beauty of history.
Brent Beerley says
Great interview. Loved hearing the stories from Dr. DeShields. We hope Bellevue’s special history is respected and preserved.
Eddie Roberts says
I am very inspired by Dr. Dennis’s commentary on the preservation of such a small historical little community. Being a native of the Eastern Shore and the child of the 60s I to have some historical memories of different areas and some family ties to some of that history. I feel it is of the upmost importance to preserve as much of the history as possible . I am not opposed to growth but I think the developers need to be considerate and respect the preservation portion of history.