The Swann HouseSwann House

According to the Maryland Inventory of Historic Places, the Swann house was a small, two-story frame structure, three bays in length with two ground room floors. At one end stood an exterior chimney flanked by one story brick pents. A later shed roof extension was made to the rear wall. The structure was built on foundation walls of dressed stone, enclosing a full cellar. Nothing exists above ground today; however, the foundation of this house was discovered by the Port Tobacco Archaeological Project in 2009 (see below). The description above matches that which the excavation team found on the ground.

Swann House foundationJames Swann was an African-American man who kept a tavern/restaurant in Port Tobacco in the mid-1800s. He bought the property on which his house stood in the mid-1840s and ran his tavern until his death in 1871 when his wife then sold the property to pay off a debt. It is significant that an African-American run business was operating during the Civil War in a town with strong southern sympathies.

Free as early as the 1820s, James Swann began his career as an oysterman. Federal censuses variously list him as white and mulatto, but his wife and children were all considered to be black. These categories meant a great deal in Maryland of the 19th century and had important legal ramifications for individuals as "Jim Crow" laws--racially discriminating local, state and federal laws upheld by the US Supreme Court--were enacted in the State and across the country.