Federal Reserve (18BC27)

The part of Baltimore that is home to the Federal Reserve site was settled in the late eighteenth century and occupied as a residential neighborhood until the early twentieth century. Growth was slow during the early nineteenth century, but by mid-century, both residential and business development had increased dramatically. Many of the lots along Sharpe Street north of Welcome Alley were residences of slave holding property owners, suggesting this area may have been more upscale than further south along the block. At the end of the century, homes for individuals who worked in the neighborhood were interspersed with saloons, general stores, stables, and a sash weight factory and pickle plant. By the early twentieth century, development south of Welcome Alley was all industrial and included a lime and cement plant, a cooper and a blacksmith shop. By the late 1920s, standing row houses were demolished for the expansion of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad’s Camden Yard terminal.

In 1980, Mid-Atlantic Archaeological Research, Inc. of Delaware conducted archaeological investigations in Baltimore at the future site of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond. The project encompassed three city blocks in the Otterbein neighborhood west of the Inner Harbor. The majority of the work occurred in a one block area bounded by Barre Street to the north, Lee Street to the south, Howard Street to the west, and Sharpe Street to the east. Welcome Alley bisected the block east to west.

With bank construction beginning almost simultaneously as the archaeological fieldwork, excavations were conducted in a rushed fashion. Since only a few weeks were allotted for the fieldwork, the project’s goal was to recover as many archaeological resources as possible before construction forced archaeologists to discontinue work. Most of the standing buildings had been demolished prior to the archaeological work and earthmoving equipment had mixed the soil, further complicating the process of interpretation and excavation.

Most of the archaeological excavation focused on the backyards of former residential properties that had once fronted on Sharpe Street and backhoes were used to isolate the locations of features such as building foundations, cellars, privies and wells. The excavations resulted in the discovery of 52 features in the project area. Artifacts recovered from the features were washed, but not catalogued as a part of the original project. Artifacts and records associated with the archaeological investigation were sent in 2006 to the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Laboratory at Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum in St. Leonard, Maryland for curation.

(Edited from Diagnostic Artifacts in Maryland, Small Finds)


  • McCarthy, John, and Ken Basalik
  • 1980. Summary Report of Archaeological Investigations, Federal Reserve Bank Site, Baltimore, Maryland MAAR Associates, Inc., Newark, Delaware.

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