Site of the Purvis Slave Pen

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.

James Franklin Purvis arrived in Baltimore around 1831 to act as an agent for his uncle, Isaac Franklin, whose firm was the largest purveyor of human beings in the country, Franklin & Armfield of Alexandria, VA. Purvis followed the same business methods the firm copied from another Baltimore slave trader, Austin Woolfolk: network of agents, saturation advertising, and building a jail to use as a holding area for the people being bought and sold.

Like Woolfolk, he started by placing advertisements in local newspapers to arrange meetings at local hotels, like Sinners’ Hotel or Whitman’s Eagle Hotel, where he purchased people to then sell South. It wasn’t long before Purvis was able to acquire a property at this location to build a slave jail. He also operated from an office at 2 S. Calvert Street near Baltimore Street, possibly choosing this location to be near the docks and the large Centre Market shopping area.