BNHA Barron and Craig Shipyard

Interpretive Framework

Seeking Prosperity on the Chesapeake: Baltimore History from Colonial Times through the 1800s

Upholding Independence: Baltimore and the War of 1812

Star Attractions

Historic Fell’s Point Trail

Resource Type

Points of Interest

S Wolfe St & Lancaster St

Baltimore, Maryland 21231

Today the piers are long forgotten, but Barron v. the Mayor and City Council of Baltimore lives on as a landmark case of American constitutional law. In the early 1800s, John Barron and John Craig’s wharf had the “deepest water in the harbor.” However, in paving and re-grading streets from 1815 to 1821, Baltimore diverted a stream from its natural channels. The resulting deposits of sand and gravel in the basin lessened the depth of the water at the Barron and Craig wharf. A jury found that the city’s action had materially impaired the value of the wharf and awarded Barron $4,700 on the authority of the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. In 1833 the jury verdict was overturned by the Supreme Court, which held that the provision of the Fifth Amendment declaring “…private property [shall not] be taken… without just compensation” was solely a limitation on the exercise of power by the government of the United States and not a limitation on the exercise of power by state or local governments.

Site summary courtesy of the Preservation Society of Federal Hill and Fell’s Point