Site 18BC135 consists of the archaeological remains of six 19th-century rowhouses and an early 19th-century sugar refinery fronting on Hillen and Exeter Streets in downtown Baltimore, Maryland. These lots were originally developed for residential use around 1825, but prior to that, the area had been the site of a sugar refining complex operated by Augustus Shutt. By the beginning of the 19th century, the City of Baltimore had become the regional leader for the sugar refining industry, with 11 sugar refineries operating in Baltimore by 1825. In 1804, Augustus Shutt and John Tool acquired part of the property comprising Site 18BC135 under the terms of a 99 year lease. The 1804 Baltimore Directory listed the firm of Tool and Shutt as sugar bakers. In the following year, the refinery complex again expanded when Tool and Shutt acquired Lot #85, a parcel immediately south of their original property.

City directories continued to list Augustus Shutt as a sugar refiner through 1829. Shutt lived on the refinery property with his wife, Margaret, their 6 children, and 2 or 3 additional residents (probably sugar refinery workers). By 1820, the household also included a female African-American, probably a maid. Augustus Shutt died in July of 1829. Margaret Shutt subdivided and sold the refinery property between 1829 and 1846. Baltimore Tax Assessors’ notebooks for the latter year indicate that Margaret occupied only a brick house on a 38 X 80 ft lot. The remaining portions of the former sugar refinery had been divided into five lots.

The most intensive development within this area occurred during the second third of the 19th century, after the demise of the sugar factory. By the mid-19th century, the area was almost completely residential. The Exeter Street properties featured 2 and 3 story row houses with relatively deep and spacious rear yards. Census records and fire insurance maps indicated that these dwellings were occupied primarily by native-born Americans until the last quarter of the 19th century, when Russian and Italian garment factory workers moved in. Most of the dwellings retained their residential function through at least the first third of the 20th century. The properties along Hillen Street measured only 40 ft deep and 12 ft wide. As the 19th century progressed, these modest dwellings were increasingly occupied by skilled immigrant families from Russia, Italy, and Germany. Many of the dwellings assumed a semi-commercial function, as they were modified to accommodate stores or shops on the first floor and apartments for one or more families on the upper floors.

Site 18BC135 was first investigated beginning in 1996 as part of a combined Phase I, II, and III archaeological investigation undertaken at the site of a new Juvenile Justice Center in Baltimore, MD. In order to locate sites, fieldwork initially employed the mechanical removal of overlying modern features or surfaces. Mechanical stripping revealed a complex of six associated features, including an unmortared brick foundation enclosing a brick privy or well shaft, a brick walkway north of the privy, a concrete slab northeast of the privy, and three discrete brick wall segments. The topmost cultural strata of the privy exhibited a complex sequence of fill episodes. The artifact sub-assemblages recovered from this test unit contained typically domestic materials with termini post quem of 1890 or later.

During the initial stage of Phase III excavations an approximately 15 X 75 ft rectangular area was stripped to reveal a total of 11 features (including more of the rectangular well/privy shaft previously identified) and stratigraphically distinct surfaces that appeared to conform to property boundaries. This secondary exposed area included the rear yards of four rowhouses along North Exeter Street (#s 426-432) and two rowhouses that faced North Hillen Street (925-927 Hillen Street). This procedure exposed 26 additional features, including three additional privy shafts, brick foundations, a minimum of four barrel privies, and various post holes and utility trench lines. During the project, three of the privies were vandalized.

Investigation of the features across the back yards of the six lots comprising 18BC135 revealed structural elements related to four basic phases of development. Between 1804 and 1835, the entire property encompassed within the site boundaries was associated with the sugar bakery of Augustus Shutt and John Tool. At its height, the physical facilities associated with Shutt’s operation included the sugar house itself, a store, Shutt’s own dwelling, some housing for refinery workers, and probably other ancillary structures. Features that could be related to the sugar refinery period included two main structural walls of the refinery itself (foundation remnants), a square well or privy shaft used primarily for disposal of the broken sherds of sugar molds and their accompanying jars, a truncated barrel well/privy, and a vestigial fence line or shallow robber trench of unknown function in the southern part of the sugar refinery property. Both the debris deposits in the basement of the sugar factory and those associated with the earliest surviving deposits contained within the square privy/well shaft document the earliest type of sugar refining operation practiced in the United States. Shutt’s sugar bakery reflects an early technology that succeeded largely because of Baltimore’s position as a major port of entry for the Middle Atlantic region.

After Shutt’s death and the cessation of sugar refining on the site, the property was subdivided and developed as smaller residential properties. Margaret Shutt continued to occupy one dwelling in the area, but at least five other homes of the traditional Baltimore brick rowhouse design were constructed on the property. The rear walls of three dwellings (927 North Hillen, 432 and 428 North Exeter Streets) defined the perimeters of the backyard living spaces. Individual brick-lined privies were installed at the rear of all the Exeter Street lots except on the #430 North Exeter property. These privies defined the extreme rear of each property and butted an unnamed interior alley through which access to the back yards could be gained. In contrast, residents of the smaller dwellings and properties that were built along North Hillen Street lacked at least one amenity enjoyed by their neighbors: a separate privy. The adjacent properties at 925 and 927 North Hillen Street were served by a single brick-lined oval privy that probably was housed in a frame structure for which no features survive.

Documentation showed that after the Civil War, the formerly all residential properties became more intensively occupied and thereby more intensively utilized. Two aspects of the archaeological record seem to speak to the intensification and crowding within the site area. Scrutiny of the 1890 Sanborn map configuration of these lots did not suggest that more intensive utilization resulted in the construction of additional structures. However, census data for the years 1880 and 1920 indicate that the formerly single-family occupation pattern changed significantly. Moreover, commercialization of some of these properties may have necessitated the installation of separate “work” and “domestic” sanitary facilities.

Flotation samples were also collected from selected features, some of which produced ethnobotanical assemblages useful for interpretation. Within the brick-lined privy that contained all of the material related to sugar refining, samples from the upper layers of fill were quite different from those derived from lower levels of fill. The upper levels contained only one type of seed: raspberry/blackberry. This suggested that some elements of these upper strata may have been derived from privy fill. The lower strata, however, contained a very wide variety of botanical remains. A large proportion of the recovered remains included a large proportion of fruits such as paw-paw, watermelon, cherry, plum, and cultivated grapes. The difference here was so remarkable that it suggested that some other type of manufacturing, such as the production wines or brandies, might have been taking place at the sugar refinery (see above). The only other feature reported to produce relevant ethnobotanical materials was another brick-lined privy (circular in shape). It produced a few raspberry/blackberry and grape seeds.

(Edited from the Maryland Historical Trust Synthesis Project)


  • Williams, Martha R., Nora Shennan, and Suzanne Sanders
  • 2000. Archeological Investigations at the Juvenile Justice Center, Baltimore, Maryland. 4 vols. R. Christopher Goodwin and Associates, Inc.

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