Levering Coffee Site (18BC51)

The Levering Coffee site (18BC51), more commonly known as Chase’s Wharf, contains late 18th- and 19th-century residential and commercial buildings and mid-to-late 19th-century warehouses at Fells Point in Baltimore. It is south of Thames Street along the Patapsco waterfront. Chase’s Wharf was one of many wharves located in this area since the early 18th century. A 1773 plat of Fells Point depicts it on Lots #53 and #54. Because of landfilling activities in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, Chase’s Wharf was extended a considerable distance into the Patapsco River. Therefore, the modern site rests partly on original land and partly on fill soils.

In 1767, Ann Fell sold Lot #53 and the west half of Lot #54 to Hercules Courtenay. He likely built a wharf and accompanying buildings there. In 1771, Fell leased the other half of Lot #54 to Abraham VanBibber, who conveyed it to Isaac VanBibber. VanBibber began filling the shoreline, and constructed a wharf. By the end of the 18th century, there were several dwellings on Lots #53 and #54. In 1798, Thorndick Chase bought a half interest in #53 and the west half of #54, and was living there by 1804. By 1816 he was also leasing the east half of #54. The properties stayed in the possession of the Chase family and their business interests until 1873, and Chase’s Wharf derives its name from them. During the Chase period of ownership, numerous brick or frame warehouses, a brick office, and brick dwellings were erected on the lots. A three-story brick warehouse, built between 1846 and 1848, still stands there today.

In 1873, the Chase’s Wharf property was sold to the B&O Railroad, and most of its buildings were used as coffee warehouses. The B&O razed a number of older structures, constructed at least one new one, and probably replaced a few existing warehouses. By 1890, the Levering Coffee Company occupied a warehouse there, and gave the site its “official” name. The B&O used Chase’s Wharf for unloading and storing coffee into the early 20th century. After 1914, it called the location “Chase’s Station.” But the coffee trade declined in the early 1900s, and by 1914 only two warehouses were still used for coffee. Over the next few decades, the warehouses stored lumber, ship supplies, rags, railroad materials, and other articles. By the early 1980s, Bond Street Associates had acquired a number of former industrial properties in Fells Point, including Chase’s Wharf.

Chase’s Wharf was excavated in 1984 as part of the Fells Point Project sponsored by the Maryland Historical Trust. 18BC51 and a number of other sites were investigated. The property owner, Bond Street Associates, funded the survey in advance of development. But they declared bankruptcy in 1987, so the development never occurred. As a result, no report was completed. However, in 2003 existing field records were examined to reconstruct the 1984 excavations.

In 1984, 18CV51 was first graded down to pre-1850 levels. Backhoe trenches were then excavated, along with at least 25 test units. Remains from three building phases were uncovered: 1) late 18th-/early 19th-century residential and mercantile establishments; 2) mid 19th-century warehouses; 3) 1860s-1880s warehouses. Artifacts included Rhenish stoneware, slipware, Chinese porcelain, creamware, pearlware, whiteware, wine bottles, and clay pipes. Dates ranged from 1750 to the 20th century. Numerous features associated with warehouses and other infrastructure were identified. Excavation records for the northwestern and extreme southern portions of the site are missing, although artifact catalogs for these areas are present. The oldest portions of the site, the northeast and center sections, were the most extensively excavated. The original shoreline and filled areas, along with associated bulkheads, were identified. The excavation documented the construction of several warehouses.

Monitoring of the site took place in 2004, when development by The Living Classrooms Foundation required the removal of an existing bulkhead and pier, as well as the construction of new facilities. The extant 19th-century coffee warehouse was also restored. The remains of timber cribs used to create the filled land of the site, two overlapping sets of railroad tracks, and a former water break were documented. While the lower set of railroad tracks was somewhat unexpected, no significant archaeological features were observed during monitoring.

(Edited from Diagnostic Artifacts in Maryland, Small Finds)

References

  • Jones, Lynne, and Katherine Farnham
  • 2003. Review of Documentation from the 1984 Archeological Investigation Chase's Wharf (18BC51), Fell's Point, Baltimore, Maryland John Milner and Associates, Alexandria, VA.

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