A particularly bad anglicization
(kan-tón) for the Chinese
made by 18th century sea captains confusing the city with the province
in which it lay, Guangdong
In the late 18th Century
a certain Irish sea captain named John O'Donnell
earned a fortune by being the first person to establish trade between China
and the United States
. In 1785
, O'Donnell purchased a large estate
east of Baltimore
along the Northwest Branch
of the Patapsco
. He named the estate "Canton" (kán-tən) after the origin of the goods that
made him rich. His estate eventually stretched along the Patapsco from
all the way to Colgate Creek
In 1828, O'Donnell's son Columbus O'Donnell turned his father's estate
into a land development scheme, forming the "Canton Company" with two
other men. Their timing was good. The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad opened
the same year (the famous locomotive "Tom Thumb" was made in a foundry
on Canton Company property) and wharves and industrial concerns began to
spring up along the waterfront.
As the 19th Century progressed, immigrants from Eastern Europe moved
to Baltimore in greater numbers, and the western part of Canton filled
in with rowhouses, becoming continuous with Baltimore itself.
Meanwhile, industry began to fill in the eastern part of the property,
becoming one of the principal concentrations of industry in the city. The
Canton Company itself went into railroad ventures, building a tunnel1
linking East Baltimore with the city's national railroad links.
Around 1907, the last piece of undeveloped land in Canton was developed.
Around the same time, The Company formed another railroad, the Canton Railroad,
which distributed cargo from the main lines to specific industrial customers.
Several expansions of the city eventually put all of the Canton Company's
property inside the city of Baltimore. In the eastern portion, north-south
street names still carry the Company's original name designations, Baylis
St, Conkling St, Dean St, and so on, cycling through the alphabet twice
before ending at the city's eastern edge.
The 20th Century saw Canton evolving much like the rest of the City.
Very little housing in the residential area being replaced, and suburban
flight beginning in the 1950's turned Canton into an area of urban decay
much like the rest of inner-city Baltimore. However, the core area around
O'Donnell Street remained fairly stable. The industrial section of Canton
followed the century's booms and busts. Since 1980 this has been mostly
bust, with many of the city's most famous industrial names having fled
or gone out of business.
Throughout the 1990's, the western part of Canton has become a hotspot
for development. The factories along the waterfront have been razed and
replaced with high-rise apartments, townhouses, marinas, and nightspots.
A wide swath of land set aside for a never-built portion of I-83 has
been filled in with commerical and and residential development. Even the
more blighted areas of Canton have become a target for gentrification.
This, of course, is a mixed blessing, as higher rents force longtime
residents out of their homes, and waterfront development blocks a view
of the harbor that residents had taken for granted.
Several descendant businesses of The Canton Company exist to this day, the best-known being the Canton Railroad.
the Hoffman Street Tunnel, not the now-infamous Howard