In Maryland’s earliest days as a colony, a merchant, sea captain and farmer named Thomas Todd received a land grant of 1,150 acres from Lord Baltimore. Situated along Shallow Creek near the end of the North Point peninsula, this property remained in agricultural use for three centuries. The Todd family prospered on this large estate, and like many other wealthy Marylanders, they relied on the labor of enslaved African Americans to operate their farm. The 1790 census shows 27 slaves living on the property. Members of the Todd family remained on this land for nine generations. Though the Todds’ holdings had been reduced to five and a half acres, it remained one of the oldest family owned properties on the Western shore in the 20th century.
The farmhouse’s proximity to North Point, where the Patapsco River meets the Chesapeake Bay, made it strategically important during the War of 1812. The house served as the headquarters of Lieutenant Colonel William McDonald in the spring and summer of 1813. McDonald was tasked with preventing British raids on the Patapsco Neck.
According to local legend, in September 1814 owner Thomas B. Todd spotted the 4,760 British soldiers and sailors landing at North Point from the cupola of his home and rode to warn the American troops commanded by General John Stricker. In retaliation for his aid to the Americans, British troops burned the farmhouse to the ground as they retreated back to their ships. The family spent two years living in a granary or corn crib, until they—and the enslaved workers living with them—salvaged enough bricks to rebuild the house on its original foundations in 1816. The federal government issued the Todd family a payment of $4,315 in 1853 for the damage they incurred during the War of 1812.
The owners substantially remodeled the farmhouse in 1867. In the 20th century, the landscape surrounding the house faced an extraordinary transition. The family farms of the Patapsco Neck peninsula gave way to industrial factories as Baltimore became a hotbed of steel production. Bethlehem Steel transformed the area known as Sparrows Point into the world’s largest steel mill by the mid-20th century.