David Jones was the first European settler to establish himself in Jonestown. He was a Quaker who moved to Baltimore to create a better
life for himself. In 1661, he paid Peter Carroll to survey two plots of land: Jones Chance (130 acres) and Jones Venture (250 acres). The plots together were called Jones
Range. David built his house on Jones Street (now Front Street) at the intersection of French Street (now Hillen Street). On the north and east side of David’s house the land
sloped, creating a deep valley. To the west across the stream, steep cliffs of red clay rose from the water, and to the south there were swamps and marshes filled with snipe,
woodcock, terrapin and malaria carrying-mosquitos. The fertile soil, created by the stream, made tobacco farming the main source of income for David as well as other
colonialists. David, because of his successful tobacco farming and social standing, became very wealthy in just a few years. In 1679, he purchased part of Cole Harbor
(now the Inner Harbor) from Sarah and Charles Cole, expanding his property. The harbor was crystal clear, filled with oysters, crabs, crustaceans and hundreds of species of
fish, making it a valuable property and a popular destination for colonists. In 1687, David Jones passed away and left a large plot of land to the city, which is now present
day Jonestown. David’s legacy is still prominent today: the Jones Falls Expressway, Jones Falls Stream and Jonestown are all named after him.
David Jones was one of the many colonists that settled into the Jonestown area. William Fell, a ship builder, settled east of the Jones Falls on a plot of land called “Corpus Harbor,” where he built a mansion on present day Lancaster Street. Thomas Cole, in 1668, received 300 acres of farmland where he farmed tobacco. As more colonists moved to the area, many tobacco plantations developed. Tobacco was a cash crop at the time and colonists depended on prosperous harvests to support their families. Tobacco was so prevalent that it became the currency, making tobacco production grow further. Farming tobacco, lead to the need for hard labor. In 1680, enslaved people from African countries began to be transported Baltimore to work on the tobacco farms. In addition, indentured servants--of both African and European origin--worked as laborers. By 1715, there were 3,000 people in Baltimore, one-fifth of them being of African descent.
In 1732, Jonestown was officially established by five commissioners: Major Thomas Sheredine, Captain Robert North, Thomas Todd, John Cockey and John Boring. They had ten acres of land, which they turned into a riverine town shaped like a parallelogram. The planning of Jonestown had a lot to do with the geography of the neighborhood. The marshes, harbor farms, streams and swamps were utilized to create natural drainage. The Jones Falls was used for transportation and mills. The streets followed the contours of the stream. The swamps were drained within the first couple years of the establishment, because of the malaria-carrying mosquitos and flooding issues. However, even after the swamps were drained, the area still had issues with flooding. By 1741, all the lots were sold in Jonestown and the neighborhood began to flourish.
Baltimore Town, originally called the "town to the east," and was settled in 1664 as a rival of Jonestown. It was officially established and recognized as a town on July 30th, 1729. The town was located on the west bank of the Jones Falls, separating the two towns. In addition, Steiger’s Meadow and Harrison’s Marsh added further separation. Baltimore town had much of the same geography of Jonestown. However, Baltimore Town severely suffered from flooding issues. The marshes were drained, harbor channels were deepened and storm sewers were constructed in response to the flooding issues. By 1741, its rival town had sold all their lots, but Baltimore Town had mostly vacancies. On September 28th, 1745, Jonestown and Baltimore Town merged to create "Old Town." However, the residents of the area referred to the neighborhood as "Jonestown." Following the new established town, the Gay Street Bridge was constructed, connecting the two towns together.
By 1750, the new town was booming with tobacco and wheat farming. The residents used their natural resources sparingly, creating a
stable economy. Because of this, more and more people began to immigrate to Baltimore in search of work, better living environments and an overall better future.
Between 1750 and 1800, the first large wave of immigrants settled in Jonestown. The immigrants were wealthy English colonists, German immigrants and Europeans seeking religious freedom. Jonestown had many ports and ship-docking stations where immigrants could stroll off the ship and immediately walk into jobs. Most immigrants worked as builders and hard laborers. Immigrants lived in brick colonial style row houses, two to three stories high and cramped with little lighting. For the wealthier homeowners, keystones accented their doorways complementing the ironwork and peaked roofs. Bay houses were also common at the time, where sea captains and sailors resided. The tobacco fields were soon paved over to build more houses and industrial buildings for the incoming immigrants. Because Jonestown was in the process of being developed, there was little to do for entertainment. Families as well as all types of citizens attended church, the main pastime. The German Reformed Congregation was established in 1795, located on the north side of Baltimore Street. In addition, the First Baptist Church was established in 1773 on the corner of Wapping Street (now Fayette Street). Immigrants would attend services and community activities for their enjoyment. Many of the early European colonists became extremely wealthy, because of their successful businesses and social standing. They participated in the local government and community organizations. One of the most well known affluent colonists was Charles Carroll.
Charles Carroll of Carrollton was born on September 19, 1737, in Annapolis, Maryland. His parents were English, and they immigrated to
Maryland a few years before Charles was born. Charles worked as a farm boy until his teens when he moved to England to receive a Catholic education. At this time in America,
Catholicism was illegal in many places and many Catholics faced harsh discrimination. In 1765, he returned to Baltimore, received a job in the local government and married a
woman named Mary Darnell. They soon built a family together, beginning the legacy of the Carroll Family in Baltimore. Though he travelled a lot, during the summers he spent
most of his time at the Carroll Mansion, located in Jonestown. On July 4th, 1776, he was elected to represent the Maryland Continental Congress. Because of his prestige and
higher education, Charles Carroll helped draft the Declaration of Independence and was the sole Catholic signer. He died on November 14th, 1832, the last to die among all
signers of the Declaration of Independence.
The Carroll Mansion was constructed between 1804 and 1808. Christopher Deshon owned the house from 1811-1818 and then sold the property to Richard Canton, the son in law of Charles Carroll. The Canton family lived in the house until 1856, when the house passed through inheritance to their daughter, Emily MacTavish. Emily deeded the house to the Sisters of Mercy, who rented the home to Irish immigrants. The first tenant was George Welter, who distributed alcohol and operated a distillery there. The second tenant was Charles Kaiser, who opened a saloon and restaurant. By 1890, the saloon had closed and the first floor was converted into a furniture store and the second floor was turned into to an immigrant home. The immigrants lived in small cramped rooms, with as many as fifteen people to a single room. At the turn of the century, most of the Irish immigrants had moved uptown and the Carroll Mansion was used as a sweatshop for an Italian tailoring business. By 1914, the sweatshop had shut down and the mansion was in dire need of repairs. In 1918, Baltimore City made efforts to restore the building. Once the restoration was completed a vocational school was opened. Arthur Bibbins founded the school and taught painting, electrical work, machine repair, car and automobile maintenance and printmaking. After ten years, the school closed and the Hampden Woodberry Neighborhood Association opened a recreational center in the mansion. The center served the children of Jonestown and the association made efforts to keep the children out of the slums. The City of Baltimore took over the center in 1940, eventually shutting it down due to needed repairs. In 1962, Mayor Theodore McKeldin planned to refurbish the mansion and by 1967 it was completed. Because of its historical significance, on January 11th, 1971 the mansion was officially named a Baltimore historical landmark. Now, the mansion is run by Carroll Museums, who offer tours and information sessions. The Carroll Mansion represents the ongoing changes Jonestown faced over the course of its history and the ever-changing communities moving in and out of Jonestown. The Carroll Mansion is one of the many buildings in Jonestown that was used in multiple ways to aid the citizens who lived in Jonestown.
In addition to the Carroll Mansion, the Old Town Friends Quaker Meeting House also exemplifies the ongoing community changes and
community organizations of Jonestown. The meetinghouse was built in 1781. The first Quaker congregation that worshiped there was known as the "Baltimore Meeting" or the
"Aisquith Street Meeting." Old Town Meeting is the oldest religious building in Baltimore City. The cost to build this place of worship was $4500, constructed by George
Matthews. The meetinghouse is two stories, with high vaulted ceilings. The interior is spacious with wooden pews and two balconies. Unlike many places of worship at the
time, women were allowed to attend meetings, although there were sex-segregated entrances. The meetinghouse originally had a burial ground, where many Quaker activists
were buried, one of whom was Johns Hopkins. In 1784, the Friends School of Baltimore built a small brick building on the east corner of the meeting's burial ground, making
this building the first school in Baltimore. The meeting and the school worked closely together, ensuring that the core Quaker values, such as integrity, equality,
stewardship, simplicity and peace, were appropriately integrated into the curriculum. By 1793, there were set monthly meetings and the congregation was recognized as an
independent religious community. During the next twenty years, tensions began to rise within the congregation due to the worldwide internal conflicts in the Quaker community.
In 1807, the congregation split into two meetings. One was the "Baltimore Monthly Meeting for the Eastern District" and the other was the "Baltimore Monthly Meeting for the
Western District." As tensions continued to rise, the western district meeting moved to Bolton Hill, then to Stoney Run in 1944, to join the Friends School of Baltimore at
its current location on Charles Street. The eastern district city meeting moved to a different location as well, naming themselves the “Lombard Meeting”. Due to the poverty
Jonestown was facing during the 1900s, the last community of worshipers moved out of the meetinghouse and by 1926 the building was officially abandoned. Although the building
was eventually sold to the City of Baltimore, due to the lack of funding the building was left abandoned until 1967 when private citizens, as well as the local government,
worked to restore the building, costing more than $50,000. Now, the meeting is managed by the McKim Community Board and is leased, in part, to an African American
One of the most well known landmarks in Jonestown is the Flag House, built in 1793. Mary Pickersgill, who helped sew the first American
flag, owned the house. Mary, as well as her mother, Rebecca Young, was a talented seamstress and flag maker. Commissioned by the mayor in 1812, Mary and her mother designed
what is now our nation's flag. The flag had to be large enough for the British to see from their ships far out at sea. In 1813, the masterpiece was hoisted above Fort McHenry,
Baltimore's defensive fort at the time. One year later, during the Battle of Baltimore, the flag was flown over the Fort, reflecting the success of the defense of Baltimore.
Francis Scott Key, a citizen of Baltimore, saw the large flag flying over the fort, which inspired him to write the "Star Spangled Banner," America’s national anthem. Today,
the original flag house still exists in Jonestown and is run by the Flag House and Star Spangled Banner Museum. Tours and information sessions are available during the week.
The McKim Free School was opened in 1833, funded by the McKim family. The school was established to teach immigrant children of any
religion. In 1891, the school was converted into a free kindergarten and a night school for boys, which continued to grow until the 1900s. The school then transitioned into a
community center to serve the Jonestown neighborhood. Then center held community meetings, activities for kids and outreach programs. Today, the center continues to support
the citizens of Jonestown, especially its youth.
The Front Street Theater was built in 1829, near Fayette Street. The theater was very large and was built in a Greek revival
style. People all over Maryland as well as other states, attended the theater. John Breckinridge of Kentucky was nominated for Presidency in 1860 and Abraham Lincoln was
nominated for his second term in 1864 in the theater. The theater served the community until the early 1900s.
From 1750 to 1800 the citizens of Jonestown organized, planned and developed their town. In a short amount of time, Jonestown
transitioned from an agricultural neighborhood, to a growing commercial neighborhood. With the newly established nation and the large influx of immigrants, it was clear that
Jonestown would soon be an industrial powerhouse.
Jonestown during the 1800s can be described in two words: industry and immigration. Because of its excellent geographic location, Jonestown had one of the highest populations of immigrants in Maryland. In fact, between 1820 and 1870 the population increased from 63,000 to 269,000 people.
The Industrial Revolution greatly impacted Jonestown. The streets, because of Jonestown’s central location, were constantly filled with wagons and people. In addition, the major turnpikes all ended at Jonestown, causing more congestion. Since then, Jonestown has continued to struggle with overcrowding issues in the streets.
Still, many of the famous buildings in Jonestown were built during this time, such as the Phoenix Shot Tower, McKim Free School and Front Street Theater. Jacob Wolfe built the Phoenix Shot Tower, also known as the “Old Baltimore Shot Tower,” in 1828. It took over one million bricks to complete the tower. The tower was used for shotgun pellet manufacturing. Molten lead was dropped from the top of the tower, through a sieve-like device, into a cold vat of water at the bottom of the tower. When the pellets were dry and hardened they were sorted into twenty-five pound bags and distributed all over Maryland. The tower was manufacturing pellets until the beginning of the 1900s.
Although the neighborhood prospered during this period, flooding continued to be a major issue. In 1837, a flood engulfed the area, sweeping away all city bridges, which were made of stone and wood. The bridges were soon rebuilt with iron. In 1867, another flood damaged Jonestown. Because of this, the government decided that the Falls had to be altered. This led to the reconstruction of the neighborhood, which began in 1873. The improvements consisted of widening the channels and building storm drains on the west side of the Jones Falls. Flooding was still an issue until 1896, when the entire stream was covered by streets and other urban improvements.