Ruth Saloon (18BC79)

The Ruth Saloon site (18BC79), in Property 1, consisted of a rowhouse foundation and a nineteenth-century privy at 406 West Conway Street in the Camden Yards area of Baltimore. The c. 1829-1837 privy fill was associated with a wealthy merchant’s widow, Frances Whittington, while fill associated with the rowhouse was dated to the early twentieth century and George Herman Ruth’s tenure as saloonkeeper. Property 1 encompassed all of Block 688 and part of Block 862. These blocks were bounded by West Conway Street on the south, Paca Street on the north, Little Paca Street on the east and Warner Street on the west. The two blocks were divided by Little Green Street. Both blocks were bisected by Burgundy Alley. Today, the site is covered by Camden Yards, the stadium for the Baltimore Orioles.

Development of this area began by the early 1820s, although the land was owned by three brickmakers by the late 18th century. Most early nineteenth-century residents of the general area were unskilled laborers or individual entrepreneurs like brickmakers, laborers, carpenters, bakers, grocers or innkeepers (Kuranda et al 1992:135). After death of George Warner, one of the brickmakers, in 1829, Blocks 688 and 862 were inherited by his daughter Dorothy and her husband Anthony Miltenberger, a cigar and tobacco manufacturer. After 1830, the tract was subdivided and lots sold to a number of individuals. The properties were mostly rented out to tenants, who used the properties as both homes and businesses. By 1837, lots in block 688 along South Paca Street had been developed as townhomes. Tenant and owner occupation was evenly divided and residents were, for the most part, upper middle class. Most structures in the 400 block of West Conway Street were residential, with most being 2.5 story brick buildings; some with stables, carriage houses or brick dwellings on Burgundy Alley. Residents were primarily middle and upper middle class entrepreneurs who owned businesses in other parts of the city. Several residents were tenants.

Between 1837 and 1858, the character of the neighborhood changed, with the establishment of several industries, including an iron foundry, a chemical factory, a lead works and a shot tower. Residents were more likely to be tenants and to include tavern keepers, saddlers, clerks, police and railroad workers. African American residents lived primarily along Burgundy Alley; by 1858 there were 22 small dwellings occupied by free blacks. Large scale commercial development began by the end of the nineteenth century, with stores, warehouses and manufacturers along the south side of Conway Street. The Burgundy Alley dwellings had also been converted or replaced for commercial uses. In the late nineteenth century, multi-family dwellings predominated, with residents (including Italian immigrants, second generation Irish and Germans, as well as African Americans) generally consisting on unskilled or semi-skilled laborers. By the turn of the twentieth century, Block 688 was largely commercial, with only twelve dwelling surviving by 1928. Block 862 remained almost entirely residential until its demolition; the block was characterized by multiple or extended family occupancy, mixed ethnic backgrounds, semi-skilled occupations and tenancy.

This site was examined as part of the larger Camden Yards project conducted by R. Christopher Goodwin and Associates between October 1989 and March of 1990. Four primary features of interest were discovered at this site: the brick foundation of a rowhouse that faced West Conway Street, a coal chute into this structure, a brick lined privy filled circa 1829-1837, and a brick wall/fence that separated the West Conway Street property from Burgundy Alley. The 1830 Census records show that the property was owned by Frances Whittington, widow of Thomas Whittington, an early nineteenth-century Baltimore merchant. Four females—Frances and three adolescents—lived at the two story brick dwelling. A total of 7,594 artifacts were removed from the privy fill, including approximately 502 ceramic vessels dating from the late eighteenth to the mid-nineteenth century. A later period of construction on top of the filled privy pit consisted of two barrel privies associated with the early twentieth-century Ruth occupation. There were no artifacts recovered from the two barrel privies. While no artifacts were retained from the rowhouse, excavation of a coal chute constructed along one side of the structure yielded almost 800 early twentieth-century artifacts associated with the Ruth occupation of the property.

(Written by Patricia Samford)

References

  • Kuranda, Kathryn, Elizabeth Pena, Suzanne Sanders, Martha R. Williams, David Landon, and Justine Woodard
  • 1992. Archeological and Architectural Investigations at Camden Yards, Baltimore, Maryland 2 vols. R. Christopher Goodwin and Associates, Inc.

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