Historic Site Maps of the West Denton Waterfront

Warehouse

Land records and Sanborn maps indicate one or more warehouses occupied this site prior to the present warehouse structure. A 1901 Sanborn map indicates that a previous warehouse structure was located at the site . It was “L” shaped, 85’ running parallel to the river and fronting Dock Street, and 60’ running perpendicular to the river. The southwest section of the structure (30’X 25’ and adjacent to a scale on Dock Street) is designated as being a two-story structure and connected by a covered single-story storage area (20’X 25’ fronting Dock Street) to a single-story annex (20’X 30’ also fronting Dock Street).

1901 Sanborn Map

The 1901 map indicates that the riverfront was improved with a continuous bulkhead or wharf and is labeled as a “Steamboat Landing” with the structure labeled as “Freight Storage”.

1908 Sanborn Map

The 1908 Sanborn map indicates that the perpendicular projection of the “L” onto the riverfront is no longer in existence but the leg of the structure parallel to the river (20’ x 85’) is still intact . The map indicates that the 1908 structure consists of a two-story (20’ X 55’) freight structure with an attached one-story shed (20’X 30’). The shoreline is designated as being improved by a linear bulkhead or wharf.

1915 Sanborn Map

The 1915 Sanborn map indicates the size (20’X 85’) and use of the structure are identical to the 1908 map. The shoreline, however, is dramatically different suggesting that the shoreline improvements (i.e. bulkheading) have deteriorated and that the outboard limits of the shoreline have eroded by as much as twenty feet.

1920s and Later

By the end of this period, the maritime trade along the river began to decline. The end of the steamboat era was near. The flood of 1919, noted in the Denton Journal as being one of the most severe in Caroline County history, as well as other floods and natural erosion had altered the shoreline and damaged shoreline structures over the years. The upper Choptank River was threatened by shoaling, particularly at Pealiquor flats. The Army Corps of Engineers conducted a survey and prepared a report for proposed river dredging in 1927 in the vicinity of Pealiquor Landing at the mouth of Watts Creek.

The 1923 Sanborn map is the first that denotes the warehouse structure which survives today. The building is designated as “Ware Ho.” The irregular shoreline outline suggests that erosion has continued. Features such as landings, wharves and bulkheads are not labeled and most of the waterfront structures are designated as “vacant or “dilapidated”, a result of the decline of the canning industry. This decline also represented the beginning of the end for the steamboat era and the shoaling of the upper river further exacerbated the demise of the maritime trade.

The 40’ x 100’ portion of the present warehouse structure is again identified in the land records in 1936 as part of a survey prepared by Walter Moore, Surveyor. Additions to the north (40’X20’) and south (40’X40’) ends of the center structure are estimated to have been constructed in the 1940’s to increase storage space for fertilizer shipped up the river on barges. During this period all of the riverfront warehouses were either expanded or reconstructed. A large 8,000 square foot warehouse replaced the smaller steamboat freight warehouses to the north (Old Joppa Wharf) and the former H. A. Roe cannery warehouse to the south was expanded by the Royster Company for the South American guano fertilizer trade. These additions are identified in the 1954 Maryland State Roads Commission Plans for widening MD Rt. 328 (Tuckahoe Neck Rd.). These same plans denote the current structure in its present form; that is with the north and south additions

Scales

The 1901 Sanborn map indicates a scale was located on the west side of the warehouse. The scales were most likely associated with the use of the former structure as a granary.

Wharf

The warehouse had direct access to the Choptank River via bulkheads and wharves which ran along its entire frontage. The wharf and bulkhead construction consisted of oak piling, horizontal lagging for the bulkhead and timber planking for the wharf decking. Most of the bulkhead lagging has deteriorated but the pilings remain intact below the waterline  (See B&W Photo #11).

Cribbing

In several locations heavy timber cribbing can still be see at low tide. This construction technique utilized massive logs doweled with iron pins to form a bulkhead which was then filled to provide access to deeper water near the channel.

Wharf Fill Material

Fill materials used to backfill the cribbed sections of the wharf are readily evident along the shoreline during low tides where the wharves have deteriorated spilling out their contents. Most of this material is waste from assorted commercial activities which occurred in the late 19th and early 20th centuries including can cuts from the canning operations, drilled shells from a local button factory, stone ballast, oyster shells and assorted timer and concrete debris. A recorded 1875 lease (Caroline Land Records L38/152) required the tenants (White & Dunning ) to maintain the wharf by raising and draining the structure.

Shipway

At low tide, what appears to be shipway timbers or possibly a wharf extension into the river are visible along the shoreline just south of the structure. There are several land record and newspaper references to shipyards and shipbuilding in West Denton. A January 21, 1841 deed (LV, f. 18) references “the sloop President built on the River near Denton Bridge and now lying at said bridge.” The February 18, 1869 edition of the American Union Newspaper references a shipyard existing above the site where James G. Redden was proposing a new wharf and granary in West Denton. In addition, A list of Chesapeake Bay Vessels compiled by the Radcliffe Maritime Museum of the Maryland Historical Society (MS.2506) identifies three sloops and two schooners which were built at (West) Denton.

The sloops were

  • Elizabeth J. Wright (18 tons) built in 1795; the President built in 1841
  • Annie Jewell (6 tons) built  in 1870 by John Jewell

The schooners were

  • Garret P. Wright (98 tons) built in 1868
  • L.C. Sommers (66 tons) built in 1871.