The Victualling Warehouse (18AP14)

The Victualling Warehouse Site (18AP14) is the archaeological remains associated with 18th- and 19th-century warehouses operating in the waterfront area of Annapolis, Maryland. The site is situated at 77 Main Street, at the corner of Main and Compromise Streets, directly opposite the historic city dockyard. Archival research reveals that the first recorded owner of the site area was Amos Garrett, a wealthy Annapolis merchant. In 1737, Amos Garrett’s heirs sold several lots of waterfront property (including this site) to Dr. Charles Carroll for £350.

The 1737 deed describes the warehouse as a tobacco “prize house”, quite probably named for the tobacco prise (or prize), a device used for packing tobacco into hogsheads prior to shipping. During the Revolutionary War, the waterfront warehouses were used as a Victualling Office to store and distribute supplies during the war. In 1784, Annapolis merchant William Wilkins advertised goods for sale at, “his store on the dock, where the victualling-office was lately kept”. In January of 1790, a fire destroyed the warehouse and several nearby buildings. By 1816, the new owner had built a new store on the wharf, probably the extant brick structure now standing at 77 Main Street, built mostly on the foundations of one of the burned-out buildings.

The first documented archaeological work to be conducted at 18AP14 occurred in 1971. The 1971 excavators removed the wood flooring on the interior of the building, and revealed a dirt surface 20-25 cm below the floor. The excavation revealed a chronological sequence of occupation and construction, seen in 3 distinct levels. Level I consisted of several layers of rubble fill associated with the construction, occupation, an alteration of the extant building. Again, the structure was built in the early 19th century. Level II consisted of a thick burn layer deposited over the interior, except in an area along the west wall, behind the remains of a fireplace. This is associated with the original warehouse structure which was destroyed in 1790 by a fire. Level III below the burn layer consisted of clean yellow sand, almost sterile. Below this, at approximately 61 cm below the surface, there was a dense layer of yellow marl clay sealing the water table.

The portions of the property behind the standing Victualling Warehouse structure were excavated in 1982 to 1984. A total of thirty-six excavation units or partial units were and ten features identified – most architectural in nature. Feature 5 was an articulated dog skeleton. Feature 7 was a deposit of 20th-century fill. Feature 1 was a 3-course wide wall and sandstone rubble foundation. Floor joists were visible in some areas of the feature. In two units, the joists rested on top of a stone foundation designated Feature 6 and thought to be the warehouse’s eastern exterior wall. In the southwest corner of the warehouse, the remains of five heavily charred boards were discovered in situ. These burnt boards and the other charred artifacts recovered within the area of the feature suggest that Feature 1 and Feature 6 were, in all probability, the remains of one of the 18th-century warehouses destroyed by fire in 1790.

Feature 2 was a cobble paving which was laid flush with the exterior south and west walls of the 18th-century building identified as Feature 1 and believed to be in place before the 1790 fire. Feature 3 was another pavement, this one made primarily of broken pieces and fragments of brick. It was bounded on the west by Feature 6. Several sherds of tin-glazed English earthenware were recovered beneath the feature (dating to the 1720s), suggesting that it may date to the construction of the first warehouses on the site. Feature 4 was a brick and mortar arch of uncertain function; perhaps the foundation for an outbuilding or the base for a set of stairs to the city waterfront. Also discovered were a large posthole intrusive through the Feature 3 brick pavement and possibly supporting a roof over the pavement, to protect goods being unloaded, or perhaps a clothes line. Feature 9 was a brick hearth and fireplace found at the southern end of the brick structure defined by Feature 1.

The archaeological investigations from 1982-1984 resulted in the excavation of more than 22,000 artifacts, the majority of which were ceramics (2,556), bottle and window glass (5682).

Based on these findings, Site 18AP14 is a significant archaeological resource. The current potential of the site is uncertain, since very large portions of the site have already been excavated.

(Edited from the Maryland Historical Trust Synthesis Project)

References

  • Pearson, Marlys J., and Constance A. Crosby
  • 1991. Archaeological Excavations at 18 AP 14: the Victualling Warehouse Site: 77 Main Street, Annapolis, Maryland, 1982-1984. Archaeology in Annapolis, Historic Annapolis Foundation and The University of Maryland, College Park.

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