Pawley Stoneware Kiln (18BC88)

The Pawley Stoneware Kiln (18BC88) is a mid-19th century stoneware kiln and industrial structure in the Camden Yards area of downtown Baltimore.

Baltimore Block #925, in which the site is located, was annexed to the city in 1783. A 1792 survey of the area reveals that at least two dwellings occupied lots in the eastern and western halves of Block 925. During the early 19th century, five individuals owned portions of this block including several brick potters. An 1838 Tax Assessment lists James W. Pawley as the owner of a “brick pottery” on a lot at Russell and Cross Streets. Pawley’s operation produced primarily stoneware. Archival records suggest that it was typical of the small, individually owned, single kiln operations of the time, although it was one of only two kilns producing stoneware. The kiln at 18BC88 was a round structure of the “updraft” type. Mr. Pawley was a business man involved in import and retail sales of English ceramic and pottery wares. In an arrangement typical of the early stoneware industry, he owned but did not actually operate the kiln. He employed one or more unknown potters, craftsmen, and apprentices, who produced the stoneware for his retail operations.

By 1858, John and George Berry had acquired all of Block 925 except for Pawley’s lot and by the 1870s, the Berry’s enterprise dominated the entire block. The Pawley property was subdivided and developed during the middle and late 19th century. By 1845, the still intact lot contained a three story brick dwelling, but the stoneware and brick kiln was gone. During the next decade, the Pawley lot was subdivided further into six single residential lots, and a single larger commercial lot at 536 West Cross Street. The commercial lot first was used as a wood yard and later was converted to an automobile service facility. The remainder of Block 925 was developed as a residential neighborhood after the Berry Brick Company vacated the block between 1890 and 1901.

The site was first examined archaeologically in 1990. The excavations revealed a circular stoneware kiln foundation, 3 m in diameter. Archaeological deposits in the kiln mouth, firebox, and within the interior of the kiln included large quantities of kiln furniture, wasters (primarily stoneware), brick, and charcoal that overlay the brick floor of the kiln. On each side of the kiln mouth was a square post hole and mold. These posts may have supported a roof, to provide shelter near the mouth for loading, unloading, and cooling vessels.

The kiln contained such vast quantities of debris that only a sample of kiln furniture (containers, separators, and other objects used by the potter to support, separate, and protect the vessels while they are being fired in the kiln) was retained. The sample contained 8,664 pieces of kiln furniture, fifteen pieces of slag, 12 fragments of kiln brick, 103 bisque fired sherds, and 588 fragments of wasters were also collected.

Researchers returned to the site in 1996 to conduct Phase III data recovery. The remaining half of the ca. 3 m diameter kiln was hand excavated. The interior of the kiln was composed primarily of broken stoneware kiln furniture and vessel wasters.

The removal of overlying fill materials exposed a series of historic architectural and landscape features that included foundation walls, soil stains, post holes, and historic utility trenches. The investigation of these features revealed that the brick foundation walls were related to rowhouse construction along West Cross Street, after the operation of the kiln was discontinued. In addition, the related features were remnants of soil features and yard patterns related to the occupation and subsequent destruction of the rowhouses. These features contained a variety of materials related to kitchen activities, especially food preparation.

Further research reveals that after 1850, most of the residents of the immediate area of the Pawley property worked in a variety of industrial occupations, and rented their homes. Residents included both African-American and white residents. Whites primarily were first or second generation immigrants from Northern and Western Europe. The materials from the features and excavation units also reflected the economic nature of the neighborhood. These included a variety of glasswares and ceramic types typical for urban contexts in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The additional work within the kiln base and in areas immediately surrounding it revealed an extensive deposit of brick fragments adjacent to the west side of the kiln, and a series of post holes approximately 1 m west of the kiln base. The remnants of an additional fire box were found on the southwest side of the kiln base, within the rubble deposit.

Discarded brick fragments and kiln furniture filled the excavated pit and fire box. The kiln structure was identified as a brick bottle or updraft kiln, common to early urban potteries. The kiln was constructed with approximately the bottom two feet of the structure below ground, and two fire boxes on opposite sides. These apparently were closed with cast iron doors, and may have had some type of protective roof or covering supported by wooden posts.

Site 18BC88 was clearly a significant archaeological resource. The data recovery in 1996 and the preceding work adequately documented the site and resulted in the collection of a representative sample of material culture from the site. The construction of the Baltimore Ravens stadium resulted in the destruction of any remaining components of the site.

(Edited from the Maryland Historical Trust Synthesis Project)

References

  • Sanders, Suzanne, and Martha R. Williams
  • 1998. Archeological Mitigation of the J. S. Berry Brick Mill (18BC88) and Pawley Stoneware Kiln (18BC89), Baltimore, Maryland R. Christopher Goodwin and Associates, Inc.
  • 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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