Introduction

The archaeological site (18BC132) at 826-830 Mechanics Court in downtown Baltimore, Maryland includes foundations and backyard features related to three 19th-century alley dwellings with strong African-American associations.

Archaeological Investigations

Phase I, II, and III archival and archaeological studies within the construction area of Baltimore’s Juvenile Justice Center were conducted between October 1996 and November 1999 by R. Christopher Goodwin and Associates, Inc. Nine historic sites were identified and investigated during the project. Of these, four, including 18BC132, were assessed as National Register-eligible resources and were subjected to Phase III data recovery.

A total of 22 features were exposed and mapped at 18BC132. The most significant of these included all or parts of the truncated and robbed brick foundations of three row houses, numbered from 826 to 830 Mechanics Court; two privies, one of which served the two households at 828 and 830 Mechanics Court; and an array of posthole/postmold and remnant foundation features that delineated property and building boundaries. Additional features consisted of a variety of debris-filled pits and trenches, and one remnant sheet midden.

The site represents three early 19th-century brick row houses in an African-American community. Tax records suggest a construction date of 1837 or earlier. Domestic occupation of theses structures was terminated within the first two decades of the 20th century.

Archeobotanical Studies

Six 2-liter flotation samples were secured from Feature 12A, a privy. Organic remains were exceptionally well-preserved, with abundant non-carbonized food seeds and woven textile fragments enduring in the archaeological record.

Flotation of 12 liters of privy fill yielded 6.21 grams of plant material (primarily unburned). Samples were flotation-processed using a modified SMAP-type machine at the Frederick offices of R. Christopher Goodwin & Associates. Botanical remains were analyzed by Justine McKnight. A total of 3,299 non-carbonized seeds were recovered (6.2 grams). Raspberry or blackberry was the most common seed type encountered, with 2,661 specimens identified. Grape (467 seeds), clover (119 seeds), tomato (29 seeds) squash (C. maxima) (2 seeds), squash family (1 seed), bean family (1 seed), and nightshade (2 seeds) were also identified. Seventeen seeds were unidentifiable. Six fragments of wood charcoal were recovered in two samples from Stratum 7 within the feature. Woven textile fragments were documented from the top portion of Level 2.

References

McKnight, Justine
2000 Studies of Ethnobotanical Analyses. Appendix III. In Phase I, II and III Archeological Investigations at the Juvenile Justice Center, Baltimore, Maryland. R. Christopher Goodwin & Associates, Inc. for the Maryland Department of General Services, Baltimore. MHT # BC 128.
 
Williams, Martha, Nora Sheehan and Suzanne Sanders
2000 Phase I, II and III Archeological Investigations at the Juvenile Justice Center, Baltimore, Maryland. R. Christopher Goodwin & Associates, Inc. for the Maryland Department of General Services, Baltimore. MHT # BC 128.
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