Martin Wagner was born in 1849 in Baltimore, Maryland. After an apprenticship in a can factory he formed his own business in 1872 operating a small but very successful cannery in the Canton area of Baltimore on Luzerne Street. By 1890 the business had grown and incorporated and moved to expanded facilities at 2315-2317 Boston Street, an area that soon became known as cannery row. Within a few years further growth of his business prompted Wagner to move to a 50 acre tract of land he had bought across the Patapsco River on a point just above Curtis Creek in Anne Arundel County which was more accessible to steamers carrying produce from the Eastern Shore and to the truck farmers of northern Anne Arundel County. His enterprise attracted many recent Polish and some German immigrants seeking employment. On the new property, Wagner built 100 row houses which he owned and rented as apartments to his employees. Each house had a tree in front and each spring the trunks were whitewashed by employees of the Wagner company. The houses varied in size and houses got progressively smaller down the rows, reflecting the caste system of the plants’ employees. The workers lived in the smaller houses on Leo Street; the more affluent supervisors and managers lived on Fourth Avenue. The point of land on which this community existed soon became known as Wagner’s Point with it’s own post-office, fire engine company, public school, drug store, bakery, shoe store, restaurant, and grocery.
In 1907, the Company agreed that a church was necessary for the continual growth of the town and to the continued usefulness of the factory. The church was completed and named for St. Adalbert, the apostle of the Poles and was dedicated by Cardinal Gibbons in November, 1907. St. Adalbert’s Catholic Church was described as being typical the type of churches built in the Prussian section of Poland during the latter part of the XIX Century and the church bells were molded in the Prussian section. The church inside was simple with green hedges and lilac bushes outside and a garden of tulips in the shape of a cross. The parish hall was the focal point of all social activities, picnics, bazaars, strawberry festivals, carnivals, dances, Halloween parties and neighborhood beauty pageants.
On December 28, 1903, Martin Wagner died and the prime maritime location of Wagner’s Point soon made it attractive to industrial interests and the slow but insidious decline of the community had begun. The first oil company to locate on Wagner’s Point was the Ellis Company in1906. This was followed by the United States Asphalt Refining Company in 1911 and the Chesapeake and Curtis Bay Railroad Company in 1915. On June 13, 1913 fire destroyed the Martin Wagner Cannery but box and can production continued with the establishment of a corrugated and solid fiber box plant. In 1959 the box company, which had become the largest corrugated box plant in the State of Maryland, was sold and the Wagner Company ceased to exist in Wagner’s Point. After several changes in ownership the Wagner’s Point property was eventually acquired by the Delta Chemical Company. Oil, asphalt, and chemicals soon became the dominate industries that by now had totally surrounded the community encapsulating it in an increasingly adverse environment of industrial pollution.
The church was closed in September 1967 because of the deterioration of the building and heavy industrialization in the area that prompted many of its parishioners to move. Cardinal Lawrence Shehan offered a last Mass. The church and hall were finally demolished in January 1969. The post office and firehouse had already closed in 1952 when the City of Baltimore assumed responsibility of these services.
On April 01, 1999, legislation condemning the neighborhood went into effect and demolition began on March 13, 2001. Within three months the once thriving community was gone and today not a trace of the houses that occupied Leo Street and Fourth Avenue could be found. Scenes of St. Adaberts and the 3600 block of Leo Street are now exist only in the memories of those who lived there and the few photographs that can be found.