Most of us probably pick up a loaf of bread from the supermarket when we purchase our other weekly grocery supplies. But before large commercial bakeries began to appear in the late 19th century, most baked goods were produced and sold from small family-run bakery shops (what we would probably call “artisanal” bakeries in today’s parlance). Because they were smaller operations producing baked goods at a neighborhood scale, there were many commercial bakers spread throughout large urban areas. The City of Baltimore boasted 48 bakeries in its 1803 business directory, a number that had risen to 94 in mid 1830s. By that date, Baltimore was the second largest city in the United States.
From around 1780 to 1807, Henry Dukehart operated a small bakery from a building at 13 Baltimore Street that served as both his home and his business. The main baking operations occurred in the street-front rowhouse, but the building’s rear yard was also a workspace. Archaeological excavations in this yard found evidence of a paved work surface containing an ash-filled brick pit that may have been part of a small oven. While too small to serve as the primary bake oven, it could have been used for drying flour or in the final drying and crisping process for hard breads like biscuits or zwieback (Weaver 1990). Another possibility is that the pit was associated with a still for making fruit brandies or flavored extracts. Continue reading