Located at Chilbury Point on the Bush River,
the Old Baltimore site represents the first County Seat of Baltimore
County. The Bush River was the
most heavily populated area of Baltimore County in the mid-seventeenth
century, so the site was relatively central and accessible for
the planters and merchants of the area. In 1674, the Maryland
Assembly authorized the construction of a Courthouse at the site,
and at least one ordinary was established to provide lodging for
individuals who traveled to the town when the court was in session.
By 1683, one such establishment was owned by James Phillips, a
wealthy planter who had acquired land in the town and was granted
the right to run an ordinary at his place of residence.
Baltimore Town, as it was then called, did not
last long as a center of government. As populations gradually
grew around the Patapsco River, pressure increased to move the
County Seat to a more convenient location. Although some renovations
were performed on the Baltimore Town Courthouse in the mid-1690s,
records indicate that the area was in decline. By 1712, the County
Seat had moved to Joppa Town, but Old Baltimore may have been
abandoned as a government center even earlier. In 1773, Baltimore
County was subdivided, and its former County Seat at Old Baltimore
became a part of Harford County.
Phase I and II excavations were undertaken at
Old Baltimore in 1999 by R. Christopher Goodwin & Associates.
The site is currently owned by the U.S. Army Garrison, Aberdeen
Proving Ground. As a result of the presence of some unexploded
ordnance from testing exercises, the survey was limited to a 14-acre
area. Fortunately, archaeology revealed that this parcel contained
one of the main structures of Baltimore Town; that of James Phillips’
Postholes and brick foundations indicated the
presence of an earth-fast structure with a brick fireplace. Several
pit features full of domestic debris were also located, though
more testing is needed to determine the original function of these
features. Artifacts present date the site to c. 1680-1710. This
coincides well with Phillips’ 1683 ordinary license and
the decline of the town. Artifacts also indicate debris from an
establishment that provided food and lodging; faunal remains,
pipes, ceramic vessels, and other domestic refuse were recovered
along with horse-stabling evidence such as harness hardware and
a carriage hub.
|Davis, Thomas W., Martha R. Williams, William
H. Lowthert, Andrew Madsen, S. Fiona Bessey, and Anthony Randolph
||Archeological investigations at the site of Old Baltimore,
Aberdeen Proving Ground, Harford Co., Md. Report on file with
the Maryland Historical Trust.
The Old Baltimore archaeological collection is owned by
the U.S. Army Garrison at Aberdeen Proving Ground and curated
at the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Laboratory.