After several years buying and selling human beings, Joseph S. Donovan started operating a slave pen here at 13 Camden Street in 1846. He had been operating from a slave pen he purchased from Austin Woolfolk, but decided to move closer to the transportation available in the center of Baltimore. This proximity to transportation was information he started including in his advertisements to entice prospective sellers. He moved to his fourth and final location, Eutaw and Camden Streets, to take advantage of the new B&O Railroad station.
His trading accelerated in just a few years after purchasing the Woolfolk jail in 1843. While his business is not well documented earlier, it is likely he had been building it from his first base on Light Street beginning in the 1830s.