CHESTERTOWN — The Queen Anne’s Bowling Alley and Entertainment Center on Church Hill Road has closed its doors.
The business was owned by Franklin T. Hogans Sr., who died in December. The decision to close it was made this summer, his son Franklin T. Hogans Jr. said in a phone interview Monday.
The bowling alley closed for the summer in May, and was scheduled to reopen this month. However, the younger Hogans wrote in an email Aug. 18, “I am sad to report that the business will not be reopening. This is due to financial considerations. The Estate wishes to thank all the bowlers who have supported the bowling alley over the years.”
The reaction from patrons showed how much of an institution the bowling alley had been. Tom Hollidge of Betterton, who bowled at Queen Anne’s for 20 years, said, “It’s a disaster for some of the old people.” He said there were many high school- and college-age bowlers among the patrons, as well.
One longtime user was Jeffrey Ferrand of Salisbury, who bowled at the lane since 1988, when his local duckpin lanes closed. “It took me as long to drive up there as it did for the league games,” he said in a phone interview Tuesday. A member of the duckpin professional tour since 1948, he participated in local leagues on Sunday and Tuesday nights at Queen Anne’s, and was secretary/treasurer of the Tuesday league. Now, Ferrand said, the closest duckpin lane is in Severna Park. There is a tenpin lane in Middletown, Del. that some of the Queen Anne’s regulars are now bowling at, he said.
Ferrand said there were 12 teams in the Tuesday league when he began coming to Queen Anne’s, with another four or five on the waiting list. Participation gradually fell off, he said, and the last few years the league had eight teams with three members each instead of the usual four. A Saturday junior league has been gone for several years, he said.
Ferrand wasn’t the only patron who came a long distance to bowl at Queen Anne’s. He said the man who drove him came from his job in Ocean City to participate in the Tuesday league games.
Nancy Miller of Chestertown said she had been bowling at the Queen Anne’s alley since it opened in 1962. “I started with tenpins and went to duckpins,” she said. She made the change because her other family members were bowling duckpins. “It’s a good way to meet people,” she said of bowling.
Miller said she enjoyed bowling with the three-man teams in the Tuesday league as well as with the Wednesday women’s league. She said she learned of the closing in an Aug. 15 email from Ferrand cancelling the organizational meeting for the leagues.
“A lot of women from Rock Hall would like to go back to bowling,” Miller said. She said most of them weren’t interested in going to Severna Park to bowl because of the long drive. “I hope somebody buys it and opens it up again,” she said of the Queen Anne’s lanes.
There had been a general decline in the business’s cash flow over the last several years, Hogans said. He speculated that video games, the internet and other activities appealing to young people may be partly responsible. He said a new owner might be able to revive the business by recasting it as a sports bar appealing to a young demographic, with bowling as one of the attractions. “It has a liquor license and a restaurant,” he said. He said the business would probably benefit from an actively involved owner.
On the bowling alley’s website, it is advertised as “only duckpin facility on the Eastern Shore.” The website describes duckpins as “almost the same as ten pin bowling, except the ball and pins are smaller.” Because of the smaller ball, its easier for children to learn, the website says. The game retains a regional following around Baltimore and in parts of New England, but never gained popularity outside those areas.
The late Louisa Carpenter, a Du Pont heiress with a strong local presence, bought the property at 6401 Church Hill Road in early 1962 from Thomas Rogers. Construction of the bowling alley began almost immediately, and the opening of Colonial Queen Anne’s Bowling Lanes was announced in the sports section of the Kent County News Sept. 26, 1962.
The article — as much a promotional piece as a news story — included photos of the managing director, former baseball star Bill “Swish” Nicholson, and the promotional director, John Benjamin.
The story emphasized the new business’s “plush” amenities, including the large parking lot, the glass doors and walls, the snack bar, the nursery, wall-to-wall caprepting and air conditioning, even the PA system. The snack bar was operated by Rob Graham, owner of the Tastee-Freez on Washington Avenue north of Chestertown.
The article noted that several bowling leagues, for both tenpins and duckpins, were already organized. However, Nicholson promised there would always be lanes kept available for open bowling.
Over the years, the bowling alley featured promotions such as ladies’ nights, special prices for birthdays, charity events and moonlight bowling. It also hosted a Sunday flea market and cornhole tournaments.
In the same issue of the paper was an ad for the Chestertown Bowling Center at 101 Cannon St., until then the only bowling alley in the area. Allen Harte, the owner and manager, must have seen the writing on the wall when he learned the new lanes were about to open, with a local celebrity at the helm and the Carpenter money behind it. His worries were justified; in 1965, the Cannon Street property was foreclosed by the bank, while the Queen Anne’s bowling alley has remained in business until now.
Hogans said the Queen Anne’s Bowling Alley has been on the market for sale or lease for “a couple of years,” but with the decision not ro reopen it, selling it has become a higher priority.
The online property listing says the business has 24 lanes, a snack bar and a license to sell beer and wine. In addition to the bowling lanes, there are arcade games, a pool room and miniature golf. The property consists of 3.25 commercially zoned acres with room for other uses and a possible subdivision, the listing says.
The property is listed for $950,000. For information on buying or leasing the business, contact email@example.com or call 410-778-7070.