Site of Donovan Eutaw St. Slave Jail

Site where the business of slavery once took place.

While nothing remains to indicate what once transpired here, we pinpoint this location to memorialize the victims of enslavement in America.

This was the fourth and last base of operations for Joseph S. Donovan, which he opened here in 1858 at the SW corner of Eutaw and Camden Streets. It is likely he chose this location because, across Eutaw Street, the B&O Railroad had recently opened a new passenger terminal and headquarters. (Camden Station was begun in 1856 and completed in 1865.) Like his previous operation a few blocks east on Camden Street, this location was near a transportation hub, a fact he could use in his advertisements to entice buyers and sellers for the convenience. He started operating as a slave trader from a location on Light Street before purchasing a slave pen from Austin Woolfolk at Pratt and Cove Streets.

The location of the pen was behind where the Babe Ruth Statue now stands between Camden Station and the baseball stadium. Looking at a photo of the area taken c. 1911 (see photo), one can see in the right-foreground a walled enclosure containing a yard and two long, low buildings with small windows near the roof line. That is the location of Donovan’s pen. Since this photo was taken in the early 20th century, it is conceivable that it is the actual jail repurposed for another use, but that is conjecture.

Donovan had sold thousands of people South by the time he died at his home on this location April 16, 1861, just a few days after the outbreak of the Civil War.

His widow, Caroline Donovan, used the money she inherited from her husband’s slave trade to build a fortune that enabled her to donate heavily to the fledgling Johns Hopkins University. The “Caroline Donovan Professorship in English Literature,” established in 1889, is the first endowed chair at JHU. Also, a room in McCoy Hall carries the Donovan name.