History – Fell’s Point Streets; Then and Now
(Summary compiled by Nick Marulli)
In 1730 an English Quaker named William Fell purchased 100 acres on the northern banks of the Patapsco River and established a shipyard. In 1763 William’s son, Edward Fell, plotted out streets on the land and sold lots. Thus Fell’s Point was born.
In 1797 the tiny community was incorporated into Baltimore. Called the Debtor Hundred, Fell’s property included the land close to the harbor and higher ground to the north, then called Fells Prospect and known today as Upper Fell’s Point.
Edward Fell found inspiration for street names in his family members and his English heritage. Ann and Bond Streets were named for his wife, Ann Bond, while inspiration for Shakespeare and Thames Streets is obvious. Even the eastern portion of Thames Street, between Market Square and S. Wolfe Street was originally called George Street, after the King of England.
An 1822 map of Baltimore shows S. Broadway as S. Market Street and Eastern Avenue as Wilkes Street. Today’s E. Lombard Street was Pinkney Street, with its western terminus at a canal running from north to south. However, the map shows both E. Baltimore and E. Pratt Streets with bridges carrying them over the canal. This canal, called City Canal, runs under what today is Central Avenue, explaining why Central Avenue was formerly called Canal Street and why that street is so wide in an area where most streets are fairly narrow.
Then as now, at the western end of Thames Street, Philpot and Block Streets branched out and extended into the area that is currently being marketed as Harbor Point, on the site of the old Allied Chemical plant. The 1822 map shows a bridge carrying Block Street – originally called Queen Street – over the Jones Falls, connecting Fell’s Point to the Inner Harbor at Pier 5.
For some reason all of the narrow “alley streets” in Fell’s Point have been renamed since those early years: Dallas Street was Strawberry Alley, Bethel Street was Apple Alley, Regester Street was Argyle Alley, Durham Street was Happy Alley, and Chapel Street was Star Alley.
Nonetheless, the streets laid out by Edward Fell remain almost exactly as they did over 250 years ago. An 1878 map of Fell’s Point/Canton, which denotes today’s street names, would be so familiar to today’s inhabitants that they could find their way around using it!
Importantly, during the 1880’s Baltimore’s house numbers were changed due to the normalization of a citywide addressing system, with the intersection of Baltimore and Charles Streets being the geographical center address, zero. Be sure to keep this in mind if you decide to research the history of your house. With most houses in Upper Fells Point having been built prior to 1880, your house address was probably different when it was built, and the street name may have been different as well.