Tucked away in the southeastern corner of Baltimore County, and separated from the rest of Sparrow’s Point by a creek, Turner Station is where many African American workers at Bethlehem Steel and nearby factories lived with their families from the 1800s up through the present.
New housing was constructed around World War I in Dundalk for white factory workers, but it excluded black workers. Partially as a result, African Americans focused on building their own community. According to local historian and cosmetologist Courtney Leigh Speed, Turner Station takes its name from Joshua Turner who first purchased the property in the 1800s:
“It started with a man named Joshua Turner who had purchased this land back in the 1800s and he had purchased it for guano, which is pigeon droppings, and this was [what] fertilized land... There was a lot of farmland near so the fertilizer was to be used for the different orchard farms. I understand there were apple farms and different vegetable farms not too far from here. So Joshua Turner, as I understand, from the records that we had read, had set up a station for the employees that were employed at Sparrows Point and thus this is how the name came about, Turner Station after Joshua Turner.”
While Bethlehem Steel built housing for white workers in Dundalk after WWI, they made no investments in housing for black workers in Turner Station. Instead, residents built their own homes and businesses, growing a community outside the oversight of company officials.
Beginning around 1920, development started in the neighborhoods of Steelton Park and Carnegie. Turner Station soon became one of the largest African American communities in Baltimore County. The town reached a peak around WWII when wartime workers at Bethlehem Steel moved to the area. According to local historian Louis Diggs, credit for the self-sufficient community’s development belongs largely to Mr. Anthony Thomas (1857-1931) and Dr. Joseph Thomas (1885-1963), Anthony Thomas’ son.