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.
Historical Trust Synthesis Project)