Moskal house 2-8-13
Photo by Lisa Doyle

Roland John Moskal, the present owner of 3408 Fait Ave. in Canton, can proudly say the entire maternal side of his family since 1904, have lived a substantial part of their lives in his house. Over the last 108 years, three generations have owned and occupied the property.

Roland John and his brother Arthur John are the last two living members of this Centennial Home Family. Both are graduates of Patterson Park High School, Arthur alumni of 1964 and Roland alumni of 1966. Arthur is presently retired and lives in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. He previously worked as a vault supervisor for Mercantile Bank, now PNC Bank. Roland graduated from the University of Baltimore in 1971 with a degree in Education. He taught 36 years in the Baltimore City school system from which he retired in 2007. He finished one career and started another in the hospitality industry, currently working as the Concierge at the Ritz Carlton in Baltimore.

Maggie Williams moves to Fait Avenue

In 1904, Roland Moskal’s maternal grandmother, Maggie Williams, a widow, purchased a newly constructed rowhouse at 3408 Fait Ave. in the neighborhood of Canton in Baltimore City. She paid off her mortgage 17 months later in 1905. Maggie Williams’ new rowhouse was one of fifteen on the north side of the 3400 block of Fait Ave. All the families on this block created such close ties to each other that they lived like an extended family for the many years to follow. One year after the north side houses were built, the older rowhouses directly across the street from them on the south side of Fait Ave. were torn down to build a school. The school construction was delayed for twenty years until finally in 1925 Canton Elementary was built, which was later renamed as Friendship Science Academy.

After 1905, Maggie Williams met Michael John Kafer, a divorcee with children from a previous marriage. By 1910, Maggie and Michael Kafer had their first daughter, Edna Ruby Louise Kafer and eleven years later, in 1921 they had a second daughter, Doris May Kafer, Roland and Arthur Moskal’s mother. Maggie died in 1928 leaving her youngest daughter only 7 years old to be raised by her father and 18 year old sister, Edna. In her early twenties Edna married Roland Orville Fisher and made an agreement with her widowed father to stay in the house with her husband to help raise her adolescent sister. By 1934 Edna and Roland had their only child, a daughter, Doris Lee Fisher, named after her young aunt, Doris May Kafer, by then 13 years old. This aunt, Doris May and niece, Doris Lee, shared the same roof like two sisters.

During the years of his life at 3408 Fait Ave., Michael John Kafer, had a two-story pigeon coup in the backyard near the outhouse where he raised Archangel pigeons. According to Roland Moskal, his grandson, the family story he recalls is – that Michael exchanged pigeons with Babe Ruth, Gov. Franklin D. Roosevelt of NY and U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Today, a beautiful wisteria bush grows near the same location in the backyard. Michael Kafer also was one of the founding members of Conkling Pleasure Club, a men’s club across from the National Brewery in Canton. On March 20, 1937 Michael J. Kafer left a Last Will and Testament recorded in the Baltimore City Office of the Register of Wills, stating that his his property at 3408 Fait Ave. be conveyed upon his death to both of his daughters. He died on April 28, 1940 and the property was conveyed according to his will to Edna and Doris May. Doris May was only 19 years old when her father passed and she continued to live at 3408 Fait Ave. with her sister’s family.

In her last year of high school, Doris May chose to go to work in Canton as a laborer at the Tin and Decorating Company factory on Boston St., today the Tindeco Wharf apartments. Some of the items the company produced were tins for bread boxes, decorative kitchen metal containers, cigarette cases and pill boxes. During WWII, the company participated in wartime production of military related products such as, machine gun links and ammunition boxes which Doris made. She kept an ammunition box at home with all of her important papers in it, like a safe deposit box. Roland, her son, still has this box that Doris May kept with the original deed to the house from 1904, signed by her mother, Maggie Williams, on January 16,1904, three weeks before the Baltimore Fire on Feb. 7, 1904. The deed was signed in the Fidelity Building at Charles and Lexington St., home of the Fidelity and Deposit Company of Maryland where Doris May’s first son, Arthur, worked from 1964-1970.

Doris May marries Joseph John Moskal

In her mid-twenties, Doris May married Joseph John Moskal on Jan. 2, 1946 and by the end of the year they had their first son, Arthur John in 1946. From the time they were married, Joseph John was a merchant marine seaman during WWII and into the 1950s. After the birth of his firstborn, Joseph John went back out to sea, fortunately his wife and child were safe in the care of her older sister and her husband.

Joseph John Moskal’s family was of Russian and Polish descent and had immigrated to the U.S. sometime between 1905-1910. He was born in 1912 and spoke fluent Russian and Polish. Roland Moskal recalls his father’s account that during his time as a merchant marine seaman during WWII, his ship was torpedoed by a Mitsubishi plane in the Bering Sea. The survivors were picked up by a Russian fishing troweler and taken to Vladivastok, Russia. Because of his fluency in Russian, Joseph John served as an interpreter and was eventually granted transport via the Transsiberian Railroad to St. Petersburg and from there he was granted transport via the Queen Mary ocean liner to New York City, NY and subsequently making his way back to Baltimore, MD.

Roland John Moskal is born

In 1948, a second son was born to Joseph and Doris Moskal, Roland John, named after his uncle Roland Orville Fisher. By this time, Doris May insisted Joseph stay on land and get a job as a laborer with the American Smelting &Refinery Co. (ASARCO), a coppermill, in the Baltimore neighborhood of Canton. He remained at this job until he retired in 1968.

Doris May Moskal continued to live at the only home she had known her entire life with her husband while raising her two sons. She was regarded by her family as a great cook and a great phone communicator. Due to medical injuries she remained housebound from the age of 45 until she died of a stroke in her home at the age of 63, in 1984. Joseph John Moskal continued to live with his son, Roland, at 3408 Fait Ave. until he died of a stroke in 1992, at the age of 80. From 1946-1960, both sisters, Edna and Doris were raising their families under the same roof. They shared the house by assigning floors to each family. The two sisters were so busy with their lives and raising children that it was not until twenty years later in 1960 that Edna decided to convey her half of the property to her sister, Doris May Moskal.

In 1960 Doris Lee Fisher was 26 years old, and was the first family member to relocate from 3408 Fait Ave. to 1818 Ellinwood Rd. in Rosedale, MD. She took her parents, Edna Ruby Louise and Roland Orville Fisher, to live with her as she dedicated herself to a 28-year teaching career in the Baltimore City school system. She remained as close as a sister to Arthur and Roland Moskal over the rest of her lifetime, and died at the age of 74 at Augsburg Lutheran Village Senior Community with leaving only her cousins, Arthur and Roland Moskal as next of kin.