The Federal Reserve site consists of three city blocks bounded by Conway, Hill and Sharpe streets and the B&O railroad bed in Baltimore city.  Cultural deposits identified at the Federal Reserve site relate to domestic and commercial occupations spanning the early nineteenth century through late twentieth century.  The subsurface integrity of the site was significantly impacted by construction activities prior to archaeologist’s involvement in the project.

Archaeological Investigation

Archaeology by Mid-Atlantic Archaeological Research, Inc. (MAAR) was conducted in 1980, concurrent with the construction of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, Baltimore Branch.  Archaeological excavations were hampered by the activities of site demolition and new building.  Time for archaeology was short, and construction pressure limited the work significantly.  MAAR’s excavations identified a total of 54 cultural features dating from the early nineteenth century to the present.  Five distinct feature types were identified, with 45 percent of these being privies.  Wells, drainage features, cellars and other structural or construction features associated with domestic site use. 

Archaeological excavations were predominantly focused in the back yards of former residential properties.  Large-scale mechanical stripping allowed for the identification of cultural features, which were excavated and screened through ¼ inch mesh.

The Site 18BC27 collection is currently housed at the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Laboratory where artifacts are undergoing analysis.

Archeobotanical Studies

MAAR’s archaeological work included the collection of plant macro-remains – mostly uncarbonized - from three features recovered through the ¼ inch dry screening process.  A wide range of plant material types were identified, representing a rich variety of domestic and imported plant foods.

Six thousand, seven hundred thirty one botanical specimens from 41 individual Lots derived from three historic features were analyzed.   The assemblage included a vast array of native, imported, wild and cultivated seeds, nuts and fruits, along with scant wood charcoal, and wooden artifacts (n=2).  Table 01 provides a summary of recovered plant remains by cultural feature.  Table 02 offers a full inventory of results by Lot Number.  In addition to botanical remains, non-plant artifacts and ecofacts were included within some of the Feature 30 samples.  These remains are grossly described in Table 03.

Feature 16:  Seven Lots were analyzed from this privy feature, with a total of 457 plant artifacts identified (39.17 grams). Chestnuts, cherry, grape, watermelon, plum, peach, squash, persimmon and an unidentified nut/fruit type were documented.

Feature 30:  This capped privy feature produced a rich and abundant assemblage of plant artifacts.  Twenty-eight individual Lots were analyzed, and contained 6,263 archeobotanical specimens weighing 880.005 grams. Pine wood charcoal and a fragment of (unburned) worked wood were documented.  Nuts were well-represented within Feature 30.  Thick-walled hickory, chestnut, hazelnut, black walnut and English walnut were identified.  Seed remains were diverse, with 17 taxa identified. Grape, cherry, plum, watermelon, tomato, peach, apple, blackberry, cucumber or melon, coffee, peanut, persimmon, coconut, almond, date, strawberry and an unidentified nut/fruit type were present.

Feature 34:  Six Lots were studied from this collapsed cellar feature.  A total of 11 botanical specimens (47.64 grams) included a wooden ball (maple or birch), a black walnut, a coconut shell fragments and peach pit remains.

The floral assemblage recovered from three historic features (16, 30 and 34) at the Federal Reserve Site (18BC27) provides valuable information about urban ethnobotany in late eighteenth through late nineteenth century Maryland.  The assemblage derives from exceptionally well- preserved privy and cellar contexts, and uncarbonized plant artifacts were preserved with archaeological integrity.  Fruits and nuts overwhelmingly dominated the recovered assemblage.  A near dearth of wood and grain remains in conspicuous.  The assemblage contained an interesting mix of wild plant foods native to the Baltimore area (persimmon, black walnut, hickory), garden or orchard grown fruits and vegetables (i.e. watermelon, tomato, plum, peach, apple, grape, squash, cherry, cucumber/melon, strawberry, raspberry/blackberry), and exotic foods imported to the region (date, almond, coffee, coconut, peanut).  The assemblage exhibits a strong bias towards larger floral elements due to the field collection methods (screening through ¼ inch mesh) employed during feature excavation.  The probable importance of small seeds within the sampled features is indicated by the presence of small seeds (raspberry/blackberry, tomato, strawberry) adhering to other artifacts or in organic conglomerate.


Basalik, Kenneth J., and John P. McCarthy
1982 Archaeology at the Federal Reserve Bank:  A Glimpse of Otterbein’s Past.  MHT # BC 7B.
McCarthy, John P., and Kenneth Basalik
1980 Summary Report of Archaeolgocial Investigations, Federal Reserve Bank Site,Baltimore, Maryland.  MHT # 7A.
McKnight, Justine
2012 Identification of Floral Elements Recovered from Three Features Excavated at the Federal Reserve Site (18BC27). Report submitted to the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Laboratory.

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