Eliza Dorsey Site (18BC90)

The Eliza Dorsey site (18BC90), also known as Property 15, consisted of 19th and 20th-century structural foundations for urban rowhouses in Blocks 926 and 927 of the Camden Yards area of Baltimore. Before the construction of the Parks Sausage Complex, Blocks 926 and 927 were bounded by Warner, Hamburg, Eutaw, and Cross Streets. Fremont Street (formerly Cove or Charles Street) bisected these blocks diagonally, and China Alley cut through the blocks mid-way between Warner and Eutaw Streets. Today, it is the site of the Baltimore Ravens’ football stadium (also known as M&T Bank Stadium). Soils mapped for the area are classified as “Urban Land”, meaning that 80% of the surface is covered either by buildings or by impervious surfaces such as asphalt or concrete.

Late eighteenth-century land ownership of these parcels was associated with the Howard's Timber Neck property, and possibly with the Dorsey family. However, the specifics of ownership are confused. A 1792 survey of the adjacent Ridgeley's Delight tract indicated that Corn Garetson controlled a tract of approximately 2 ac (4.94 ha) at the northwestern corner of the intersection of Charles Street and John's Street, a southern extension of Eutaw Street. The Warner and Hanna map depicted a structure on the Garetson property by 1801; a "Dorsey" residence was located on the opposite side of Cove/Fremont Street. Eliza Dorsey married Benjamin Berry in 1795, and may have moved out of the area sometime thereafter.

Knowledge of the Dorsey/Berry marriage explains why, in 1838, the lot at the southwestern corner of Hamburg and Eutaw Streets was listed in the tax assessors' records as the property of "Benjamin Berry Heirs," while a contiguous 66 x 155 ft lot on Eutaw Street was the property of John W. Berry, one of Benjamin Berry's children by his first wife, Eleanor Lane Forbes. The remainder of the block, at the intersection of Cross and Fremont Streets, had been sold to Henry Warfield and Charles Sherry, both of whom had improved their lots by constructing brick dwellings and other structures.

Very little additional development of these blocks had occurred by 1858, although some of the lots had changed hands. George C. Rosz, a shoemaker and grocery store proprietor, occupied a 29 x 70 ft lot at the northeastern corner of Hamburg and Eutaw Streets on land formerly assigned to Benjamin Berry's heirs. Rosz lived in a two-story brick dwelling with a two­ story rear ell. The unimproved mid-section of the Eutaw street frontage was owned by the estate of Colonel John Berry; this L-shaped section also fronted on West Hamburg Street. Asa Needham, a grocer and commission merchant living on South Charles Street, and Daniel Banks, president of the Union Manufacturing Company, owned the remaining two parcels near the intersection of Fremont and Eutaw Streets.

Intensive development of Blocks 926 and 927 began during the late 1870s and 1880s, as vacant parcels were subdivided into narrow townhouse lots (Tax Assessors Map 1876). From the beginning of this period of intensive development, the area was racially integrated. A "Colored Baptist Church" occupied a 33 x 87 ft lot near the corner of Eutaw and Fremont Street in 1876, suggesting that African Americans constituted a significant element of the community by that time. The 1880 Census listed five dwellings between 310 and 328 South Eutaw Street; one of these was a multi-family apartment unit occupied by three African American families from Virginia, while the remaining residents of the block were of German descent.

Commercial development in this area during the 1870s was relatively minor. Only one major industrial enterprise, the J. W. Wilson and Son Sash Factory, was located on the Warner Street side of Block 926. Retail stores, including a grocery, a notions and trimming shop, and a drugstore, lined Eutaw Street; the proprietors of these shops probably occupied the apartments above their establishments. Many of the remaining lots were vacant; two landowners, J. A. Rixey and C. Shipley, controlled these vacant lots.

However, by one decade later, these blocks had been developed. Land use appeared to have been divided approximately evenly between commercial/industrial and residential use. Stores with attached warehouses fronted Eutaw Street, while dwellings lined Hamburg and Fremont Streets. There were two small manufacturing establishments, a cigar box factory on China Alley and a fruit packer at Fremont Street and China Alley; the Wilson Sash Factory site had been replaced by the Church and Sunday School buildings of the Benefit Memorial Methodist Church. Approximately 80 per cent of the 52 residents living in the 1000 block of Eutaw Street in 1900 were African American.

Commercial space continued to displace residential areas throughout the twentieth century, and the quality of life for the blocks' remaining inhabitants deteriorated. Junk yards and shops, cotton and wool warehouses, and an automobile repair shop were located in the area by 1914; the expansion of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad's facilities also intruded into this area. Photographic files at the Enoch Pratt Library contain ca. 1911 photographs of the intersections of Eutaw Street at Cross and Hamburg Streets. These pictures clearly show the townhouses on the west side of Eutaw, with railroad tracks and service buildings occupying the other side.

Trenches 55 - 63 were located in the area of the Eliza Dorsey site (18BC90) in Property 15. The uppermost strata in each of these trenches were characterized by sandy clay fill containing modern or very late nineteenth- to early twentieth-century cultural refuse. However, the depositional sequence for cultural materials from some deeper trenches appeared to be stratigraphically intact. For example, Levels 1 and 2 of Trench 63A contained mixed nineteenth-century and modern artifacts, such as flow blue ceramics, part of a bakelite telephone receiver, and a ceramic insulator. Below those strata, Level 3 contained a machine made bottle with a terminus post quern of 1898. Level 4 dated from 1828 or later based on the presence of red transfer printed whiteware; Level 5 contained undecorated whiteware dating from at least 1820. In basal Level 6, the latest datable object was pearlware, which first was manufactured ca. 1780. Based on the location of several rowhouse foundations uncovered in additional excavation trenches (Features 5701, 5801, 5802, 63A01, and 6201), it is likely that Trench 63A was located in the former back lot of a rowhouse.

The other excavation trenches (T-52-63) at the Eliza Dorsey site contained similar artifacts, ranging from the first quarter of the nineteenth century to the beginning of the twentieth century. Few materials dated from the period of Eliza Dorsey's occupation, during the early nineteenth century.

While the potential for eighteenth- or early nineteenth-century occupation and activity levels was thought to be present within this block, the construction and demolition episodes of the 1870s apparently destroyed most archaeological vestiges of that occupation. The architectural features and cultural remains recovered from 18BC90, the Eliza Dorsey site, primarily represent occupations dating from the last quarter of the nineteenth century.

(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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