BNHA Canton

Interpretive Framework

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

Resource Type

Historic Neighborhoods

Today, Canton is known for its dining and nightlife, much of it located around Canton Square.  Its history is just as vibrant: the neighborhood is one of the oldest industrial development communities in the United States. In 1828 New York capitalist Peter Cooper purchased three thousand acres along the shoreline near Fells Point (Canton) for $105,000. Large companies, primarily in the canning, packing, and fertilizing industries, migrated here throughout the 19th century.

A unique relationship developed between Canton's industries and the residential areas that grew up around the industries. Many of the industries built workers’ housing and provided for the social welfare and recreational needs of their workers. This relationship was maintained until the growth of trade unions in the early 20th century.

Canton is also associated with the growth of Baltimore’s ethnic communities. A community of Welsh copper workers developed here as early as 1850. Germans and Irishmen settled in Canton in the latter half of the 20th century. By the turn of the century a large Polish community developed. These groups have all played an important role in the development of Canton and Baltimore’s maritime industries.