Robert Long House (18BC17)

The Robert Long House (18BC17) consists of a mid-18th-19th-century brick house and 20th-century commercial building on S. Ann Street in downtown Baltimore. Site 18BC17 is situated within City Lot 145, which was later subdivided into multiple properties.

The lot was platted to John Bond and Edward Fell in 1763 and leased in 1765 to merchant Robert Long. Long soon built himself a house on Lot 145, as well as a wharf and a brick warehouse on nearby Lot 76. During the Revolutionary War, Robert Long appears to have been involved with the Continental cause. Long partnered with Fells Point businessman, General Mordecai Gist, to purchase properties that had been confiscated from Tory sympathizers. In 1781, Gist and Long bought 1,106 acres of confiscated property that had been part of the Principio Iron Company. Robert Long then sold his house on Ann Street and moved to another property in Baltimore County. On 10 November, 1781, Robert Long assigned the eastern third of Lot 144 and all of Lot 145 to William Travers and in early 1784 William Travers sold the former Robert Long house to Matthew and Henry Travers.

Sanborn fire insurance maps as well as Baltimore city directories from the late 19th through the 20th century suggest that the Robert Long House was used for both residential and commercial activities at varying points over the decades. In 1973, Cigarette Service, Inc. sold the property to the Society for the Preservation of Federal Hill and the house was restored to its original appearance and became the society’s headquarters.

The Robert Long House (18BC17) was excavated in the late 1970s and early 1980s by members of the Archaeological Society of Maryland (ASM). No formal report was ever written for these excavations. The work in the 1970s and 1980s entailed excavation both within the Robert Long House, as well as within the rear yard and garden of the house as well as in the basement of the house itself. It is uncertain whether the garden north of the house was ever excavated.

Excavations in the basement of the house were conducted by the Archaeological Society of Maryland, Central Chapter. The basement was divided into 91 cm (3 ft) test squares, numbered on a grid system. The deep fill discovered in the Robert Long House is evidence of the long history of adding fill to basements in Fells Point. In the late 18th century and all through the 19th century, the residents of Fells Point were advised to fill their basements. Most of the basements and cellars in Fells Point had water leakage problems and were very damp, conditions thought to cause yellow fever. The fill recovered in the basements in Fells Point are secondary deposits. This fill may have been re-deposited sheet midden from the yards around the houses or from vacant lots nearby. Because one cannot be sure where the fill came from, one cannot attribute the artifacts recovered to the families that lived in the house. An ASM newsletter stated that in 1976 the ASM excavated 7 ft down into the fill and had encountered two layers of brick floor in the basement. The artifacts found inside the basement of the Robert Long House are typical of 18th and early 19th century sites and represent a number of different activities.

Excavations by the ASM were also conducted in the yard behind the Robert Long House in an attempt to uncover evidence of outbuildings. One of the features found was a barrel privy that dated to ca. 1900. There is no evidence the remains of any other outbuildings were found.

This property and the yard to the north (810 S. Ann Street) have been used for domestic and commercial purposes since the late 18th century. The kinds of archaeological resources that may exist include evidence of outbuildings associated with the occupation of the Robert Long House, such as an additional privy, a well, or a shed for keeping animals. The yard to the north had been the location of a blacksmith shop and a brass working facility.

(Edited from the Maryland Historical Trust Synthesis Project)

References

  • Farnham, Katherine, and Lynn D. Jones
  • 2002. Documentary Research for the Fell's Point Properties, Baltimore, Maryland. John Milner and Associates, Alexandria, VA.

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