For almost two hundred years Canton has been a vital industrial community in southeast Baltimore. Today, the majority of the original industrial fabric in Canton has been replaced by modern residential neighborhoods and marinas.
The evolution of the industrial suburb of Canton began in 1828,when Columbus O'Donnell and William Patterson, prosperous Baltimore businessmen, approached Peter Cooper the manufacturer and financier, with a scheme to develop and improve a large tract of countryside along the Patapsco River, east of Fells Point in anticipation of the pending completion of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad and a boom in Baltimore seemed likely. They purchased the three thousand acre tract for $105,000.00 and formed what came to be known as the Canton Company. The majority of the property had been contained in the 2,500 acre estate of Colonel John O'Donnell, father of Columbus and the first trader to bring a shipload of goods from China to Baltimore. The estate, which O'Donnell established in 1785 was named Canton, in recognition of his profitable trading ventures with China.
Major David Stodder's shipyard on Harris Creek was another major feature of the Canton area. The U.S.F. Constellation was built at the Stodder shipyard between 1794 and 1797 and was launched September 7, 1797. Harris Creek flowed through Canton entering the Pataspco near what is now the 2500 block of Boston Street. Harris creek no longer exists and had been gradually filled and paved over by the late 19th century.
The Canton Company rapidly promoted industrial development of the area with the Boston street waterfront becoming the focus of a wide range of maritime activity and the need for labor. The chronology of the various nationalities arrivals can be inferred from the construction of Canton's various churches. The Welsh, who were among the first to arrive, had already moved from their first church to a new one in 1866. The Irish-Catholic congregation of St. Brigid's was founded in 1854. Churches for the German Methodists and the German Catholics were erected and the Polish erected their church, St. Casimir's in 1902. New industries in post Civil War Canton included oyster and fruit canneries and packing plants, machine shops, gas works, chemical works, sugar refineries and oil refineries, in addition to the iron and copper foundries , saw mills, and breweries.
In the latter half of the 20th century, however, the industrial properties of Canton began almost continuous change with the modernization and expansion of residential housing which has replaced nearly all of the factories along Boston Street. By 1969 the canneries that had previously occupied the 2200 to 2500 blocks of Boston street were long gone and those waterfront properties were vacant and riddled with abandoned boats and barges, however, a few factories and warehouses of historic interest still remained. In the background of this scene are some of the last survivors: The Edward Renneburg and Sons Company who manufactured machinery at Boston and Lakewood Streets in 1911; the J. S. Young Licorice Extract Co. plant founded in 1869 with docking facilities at 2701 Boston Street; and the Tin Decorating Company (Tindeco) building which began in1900 as a subsidiary of the American Tobacco Company manufacturing tins for tobacco products in.
Today most of these buildings are gone but some, as in the case of Tindeco, remain but have been converted to residential uses while retaining their historical significance.