Privy 19A01 Site (18BC80)

The Privy 19A01 site (18BC80), occupying the western portion of Property 1, consisted of a circa 1880s to c. 1940 privy associated with 503 or 505 Burgundy Alley or with a dwelling on Conway Street in the Camden Yards area of Baltimore. 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. In its nineteenth century street configuration, Site 18BC80 was located in the half block bounded by Burgundy Alley to the north, West Conway Street on the south, Little Green Street on the east, and Warner Street to the West.

Development of the Property 1 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. Residents of the southeastern quadrant of the block where the privy was located were racially and ethnically mixed. African Americans lived in small alley dwellings and whites on the main streets, a pattern that persisted into the twentieth century. Heads of household on West Conway Street were primarily first and second generation German and Irish immigrants in semi-skilled and clerical positions. The residents of Burgundy Alley were African Americans in the first decades of the twentieth century were mainly semi-skilled workers such as teamsters, dock workers, oyster shuckers. Employed females worked as laundresses.

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. The 6.56 ft. x 3.12 ft. rectangular privy was brick lined and had an associated brick walkway (also given the designation Feature 19A01). The privy was manually excavated and contained 5,743 artifacts dating primarily to the 1880s to 1940s period. The privy was stratified and there was good temporal distinction between the layers, with the later layers sealing strata containing earlier artifacts. The lowest levels of the privy represented a late nineteenth-century occupation. The assemblage included decorative items like urns and figurines, a nice-sized assemblage of toys, over 100 buttons, and eight complete pipe bowls, as well as a number of machine-made medicine and beverage bottles.

The physical location of the privy feature made it unclear whether the privy was associated with the late nineteenth- to early twentieth-century occupation of Burgundy Alley by African Americans, or the occupation of a dwelling along West Conway Street, since these properties share common lot lines. West Conway Street was occupied primarily by first and second generation Irish and Germans at this time period. The presence of an Irish “Home Rule” pipe suggests that the privy fill was associated with West Conway street dwelling, but the physical location is better placed for a Burgundy Alley occupation (Kuranda 1992:207).

(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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