H & S Bakery Site (18BC32)

The H & S Bakery Site (18BC32) consists of early 19th-century middens and privies, as well as other 19th-20th century rowhouse features in the Fells Point district of downtown Baltimore. The site was originally bounded by the H & S Bakery on the north, South Bond Street to the west, South Bethel Street to the east, and Aliceanna Street to the South. Today, the expanded H & S Bakery sits atop the site.

The site lies in one of the oldest areas of the city. The Fells Point area has been inhabited since the early 18th century and was the primary port facility of Baltimore even prior to its official incorporation in the city in 1773. The early decades of the 19th century brought prosperity to the area with an upsurge in grain shipment as a local industry. As the 19th century progressed, however, shipping activities began to concentrate in other parts of the harbor and commercial and light industry began to establish facilities in Fells Point (particularly the canning industry). By the end of the 19th century industrial interest had declined and warehousing became dominant.

Site 18BC32 lies in a block developed during the late 18th century. An examination of mid 19th century city directories shows the local residents to include a wide variety of ethnic (mostly German) and occupational types. Occupations included sea captains and sailors, coopers, carters, sailmakers, ships carpenters, other maritime trades, shoe makers, cigar makers, grocers and butchers. By the end of the 19th century the block was fully developed with a variety of non-residential structures including the Seamens’ Bethel Chapel and stables fronting on South Bond and Aliceanna Streets. The residents of the area in the late 19th century were mostly unskilled laborers and street vendors. The structural fabric of the block remained essentially unchanged from the 1890s until the demolition of the standing 19th- and 20th-century structures in the 1970s and 1980s.

The only documented archaeological work conducted at 18BC32 occurred in 1981 and 1982. At that time, the adjacent H & S Bakery was proposing to expand their facilities into the lot encompassing the site. Site 18BC32 was tested by excavating 8 trenches across the site with a backhoe. Ten subsurface features and numerous structural remains (i.e. brick and stone foundations) were encountered.

Three pit/shaft features were encountered in Trench 1. Feature 1 was a shallow refuse pit containing a large number of oyster shells, mammal and bird bones, and early 19th century ceramics. Feature 2 was an unlined shaft feature, probably a privy containing a large quantity of bone, early 19th-century ceramics, shell, cut nails, and glass. Feature 3 was another shallow pit containing brick and mortar fragments, mid-19th-century ceramics, and bone. Also discovered in Trench 1 was an artifact-bearing layer of dark brown soil that contained a large quantity of material, including ceramics related to the first half of the 19th century, glass, cut nails, bones, and shell. This deposit may be a sheet midden related to the occupation of the area.

In Trench 2 a roughly circular pit, Feature 4, was filled with white stones of recent origin. Three wall foundations were also encountered in Trench 2. It appeared to correspond well with a late 19th-century map. A mortared stone wall west of the above mentioned brick wall also appears to correspond to late 19th-century representations of the site. West of the stone wall an area of brick rubble was encountered. At the base of the rubble layer, and next to the stone wall, a small test window 1 ft square was excavated by hand. This test window revealed several different layers of soil. The bottom-most (and thinnest) layer contained ceramics and bottle glass dating to the second quarter of the 19th century. This layer ends at the same depth as the bottom of the stone wall. The deposit may be reflective of and early dirt-floor basement or cellar.

Two features, 5 and 6, and one stone wall were encountered in Trench 3: an early 20th-century pipe trench and a deep pit feature containing early 19th-century ceramics and window glass. At the southern end of Trench 3 the back wall and rubble-filled basement of the structure which once stood at 1606 Aliceanna Street was encountered. At the northern end of Trench 4 a brick-lined shaft roughly 5 ft square was found. The upper 3 ft of fill in this feature (Feature 7) contained ash and 19th-century glass and ceramics, as well as items of bone, metal, and stone.

No cultural remains were encountered in Trench 5. Trench 6 contained was a rectangular pit of ash and refuse (Feature 8) with artifacts from the first half of the 19th century. Feature 9 was a brick wall with a layer of highly organic soils to the south. The organic soil contained mid-19th-century ceramics, glass, and oyster shell and probably represented the remains of a disturbed privy.

Trench 7 exposed the remains of a brick wall and Feature 10. Feature 10 was a shallow ditch filled with broken brick and shell. It may have been the remnants of an old fence line. Trench 8 exposed the back wall of the Seamens’ Bethel Chapel building.

No inventory of artifacts is provided in the extant site report for 18BC32, but over 25,000 items were recovered during the 1981-1982 excavations. Based on the findings from 1981 and 1982, full data recovery was recommended, but did not occur. The expansion was constructed on a concrete slab that effectively preserved 18 of the 22 features beneath the present H & S Bakery building. The presence of intact features and middens dating to various stages in the 19th-century development of Baltimore suggests that the site is significant and retains research potential.

(Edited from the Maryland Historical Trust Synthesis Project)

References

  • Basalik, Ken, and Ted Payne
  • 1982. An intensive Archaeological Survey at the H. and S. Bakery Building Site: an Executive Summary Report Cultural Heritage Research Services, Inc., New Castle, Delaware.
  • Field Records
  • n.d.. Original Field Records for 18BC32.

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